A Welcome Face at The Village of Aspen Lake

Trudy Klein filled a void in her life with regular volunteering

By Kristian Partington

The second time Trudy Klein came into The Village of Aspen Lake as a volunteer she overheard a resident say something along the lines of: ‘I don’t want to go to thisprogram, I want to go to Trudy’s program.’   

Trudy sitting in the greenhouse snipping the stem of a flower
Trudy Klein has been a steady volunteer at Aspen Lake for the past three
years. "I always go home with more than I have given," she says.

“Trudy’s program!” she repeats with a laugh. “I didn’t have a program, all I did was sit there and they would come.”

Trudy began visiting Aspen Lake about three years ago at the suggestion of her daughter, village horticultural therapist Christina Klein. This was in the time after her husband passed away; Trudy recalls the emptiness that became part of her life in those months. “I was feeling sorry for myself,” she says, but the village and the residents who make their home there changed much of that.

“The first time I came, I sat in the green house and we started planting flowers and it didn’t take long at all to have a rapport with the residents,” Trudy says. “I would sit there and they would come; it was a magical experience.”

Once people begin talking about plants and gardens, all sorts of memories come to mind, she says, and it makes for pleasant conversation in the warm light of the greenhouse.

Eventually, Trudy and Christina helped get a vegetable garden growing and together with the residents they shared the harvest. It brings such joy to the residents, Trudy says, noting that the feeling is mutual.

“It seems like, even with someone who doesn’t respond, all you have to do is sit there, hold their hand, and before you know it you have a smile on their face,” Trudy says. “I look forward to coming . . . and I always go home with more than I have given.”

Perhaps it’s the fact that Trudy is very much a peer to most of the village residents that she’s able to bond quickly and deeply with them, but her friendly demeanor certainly helps as well.

On top of horticultural therapy Trudy can often be found helping with The Java Music Club, which is a mutual support program offered throughout Schlegel Villages to help bring residents together over their shared experiences. Trudy is a natural fit for the program because of her easy connections with the residents and the fact that she has so much in common with them.

For three years now, Trudy’s has been a welcomed face in the village. The younger people who volunteer and work there lovingly refer to her as Oma, and the residents who live there, who’ve done so much to fill a void her life, know her simply as a friend.