Old Scrapbook Brings Stories to Life at Heritage Health Services

Heritage Health Services uncovered buried treasure, but not in the form of gold bars or expensive jewels.

Maintenance Director Dustin Steelman was in the center’s basement, doing his routine walk-around inspection, when he noticed an old binder on top of a cart. Steelman immediately showed it to Executive Director Geoffrey Minarik, who was surprised to find photos of residents and staff dating back to 1969!

Residents celebrating Valentine’s Day in 1980.

The pages were a little frayed and tape had worn off some pictures, but the images were still very much preserved.  All of the pages had handwritten notes detailing the activity and date they occurred, up until 1980. Every page you turned gave a glimpse into Heritage’s culture, including resident and staff holiday parties, special musical performances, volunteer appreciation events, and summer luaus with grass skirts and red punch. Nurses donned all white outfits – starched dresses, caps, nylons, and shoes – instead of the colorful print-patterned scrubs of today’s times.   

Beyond culture, the scrapbook shows structurally how the building has changed over the years. Built in the 1950s, photos show wood-paneled walls and a huge green outdoor space that was used for events. Now, that outdoor space is Heritage’s therapy gym. A current employee who has worked at Heritage since 1971 told Minarik she remembers how the building used to look and some of the staff and residents who are pictured in the scrapbook.

A resident holds her prize after guessing the closet number of beans in a jar at a 1979 outdoor gathering.

Minarik said what impressed him the most is that the activities showcased in the scrapbook are still reminiscent of Heritage today. Residents remain engaged with each other and staff, participate in crafts and social events, and are active, smiling, and having a good time.

“You can see the life enrichment that was going on here in this scrapbook,” Minarik said. “I think this scrapbook shows there is value in capturing the moments our residents have in this stage of their life at a nursing home. You are not necessarily in your home and you may not have all of the things you were comfortable with, but you can still make memories and you can still have fun.”

Sometimes, there is a negative and untrue stigma associated with being admitted or voluntarily choosing to stay at a nursing home, Minarik said. People think one life of their chapter is ending, but really, a new era is beginning. Sure, residents may need more help with certain tasks, but they can still be part of a thriving community.

“I think that the person who made this scrapbook was trying to capture that life doesn’t have to stop because you move into a nursing home – it just changes,” Minarik said. “You can still dress up for Halloween. You can still get Christmas presents. You can still sit together outside and congregate with your friends.”