Warm Hearth Village Blog

Keep informed about what is happening at Warm Hearth Village.


Cheryl Micahs Meals

The Warm Hearth Foundation, Sodexo and The Campus Kitchen at Virginia Tech (VT) are working together to reclaim excess food from the dining room at the Kroontje Health Care Center (KHCC) and the dining halls at VT to serve to seniors who live on low, fixed incomes at North and South Trollinger and New River House apartments at Warm Hearth Village.

Starting Wednesday, December 5, and then the first Wednesday of each month, a complimentary Noon meal will be provided at Karr Activity Center on Warm Hearth’s campus. Residents can dine in or have a meal delivered. Fifty-five  people turned out for the first offering and organizers are hoping to see that number grow as they estimate there are more than 150 seniors who could benefit from the program. “The soup was really good, and the servers were so gracious,” said resident Kathy Westfall. “As word gets out more and more people will come and I think this will be a real success.” 

The idea originated with Steve Watkins, Sodexo Dining Manager at KHCC and, with the help of staff in other areas, soon became part of the many offerings under the Micah’s umbrella for seniors at the Blacksburg-based retirement community. 

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skipThe Community Foundation awarded two grants to The Warm Hearth Foundation to help fund two new programs for seniors at the Blacksburg retirement community.

One grant will help with the costs associated with bringing The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) for low-income residents to Warm Hearth. The Warm Hearth Foundation and Feeding America Southwest Virginia are partners in this program to improve the health of low-income seniors, ages 60 and over, by supplementing their diets with nutritional foods from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Once a month, 83 eligible residents receive a 30-lb. package containing dry milk, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, rice, healthy grains and proteins. While the packages do not constitute a complete diet, they do help provide nutrients beneficiaries may be lacking. The grant money will pay for food transportation and storage, and annual membership with Feeding America for five years.

The second grant will go toward the Seniors & Kids In Play (SKIP) Program formerly known as Foster Grandparents and help with the costs of  museum staff, program development, admission, transportation and supplies. The Children’s Museum of Blacksburg and Warm Hearth Village expanded the existing program to work together on this intergenerational collaborative endeavor that also includes Head Start children from Blacksburg and Christiansburg. Village residents and children from Head Start meet at the museum, and all benefit from the social engagement through creative play, crafting, and games.

Amy Webb, Associate Director of Development says,  “We are thrilled and grateful to receive this funding from the Community Foundation. The programs these grants will help to support provide enrichment to our residents in ways that far exceed the associated costs.”

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EllenEllen Rorrer, Marketing Consultant for independent living, recently received her Seniors Real Estate Specialist (SRES) certification through the National Association of Realtors. The SRES certification provides unique skills when working with older adults (50+) who wish to sell or purchase properties.

Rorrer, who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Radford University, has more than twenty-seven years of experience working with older adults. She has been working at Warm Hearth Village in marketing and sales for the last 12 years. Ellen has been a real estate agent with Graham and David Real Estate since 2015.

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In addition to other spiritual opportunities on campus, Warm Hearth Village (WHV) is hosting Hope Chapel Blacksburg for non-denominational services on Sundays from 10:30am to 11:30am in Karr Activity Center.

Senior Pastor Joseph Volpi, ordained pastor, said the chapel is an interdenominational independent Jesus Christ-centered church.  In addition to Sunday service, the church offers coaching, mentoring, pastoral counseling, connections, fellowship, Bible studies, and prayer meetings.

Mardy Baker, Life Enrichment Director at the village, contacted Volpi and suggested moving the three-year old church from the Lyric Theater and a college-age community to WHV’s senior community. Volpi agreed and explained, “In general the American Church has a challenge with the elderly, especially as the body struggles with physical aging. Many find their old places of community don't have ways for them to continue to participate.  In addition, generations tend to segregate, fighting over musical style, or doctrine, or personal values, further creating cliques and hurting unity.”  Volpi wants to bridge generations, economic categories, and cultures. This goal synchronizes with Warm Hearth Village’s mission and vision.

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alz walkWarm Hearth Village and its employees work hard to support our community in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

On September 29, at 9:30 am, a Warm Hearth Village team of 26 is walking in the New River Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s. To date the team has raised $1,210 to further the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer's Association. 

Warm Hearth Village is also pleased to launch the Memory Café — an opportunity for seniors with early-stage memory loss to engage with peers in a relaxed social setting.  The Memory Café, our Alzheimer’s Support Group and residential options are just a few ways we work to support seniors and their families affected by Alzheimer’s and related dementia.

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Feeding America Post

The Warm Hearth Foundation and Feeding America Southwest Virginia have partnered to offer The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) to low-income residents at Warm Hearth Village. This new Virginia program aims to improve the health of low-income seniors, ages 60 and over, by supplementing their diets with nutritional foods from the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA).  One hundred and nine residents are eligible for the program and fifty-six percent have enrolled to date. Cindy Wiley-Lamb, Resident Services Coordinator for Warm Hearth Village said she expects more residents to register for the program after the first delivery.

August 8, local electrical distributor, Capitol Tri-State delivered 61 packages from the Feeding America Southwest Virginia warehouse in Salem to Warm Hearth Village in Blacksburg. Kevin Beard, Area Operations Manager for Capital Tri-State said, “We are pleased to have the opportunity to partner with Warm Hearth Village and Feeding America to help seniors in need in our community.” Subsequent deliveries will be the second Wednesday of each month.

Warm Hearth Village staff members from departments across the retirement community went door-to-door delivering the 30-pound packages containing dry milk, canned vegetables, canned fruit, cereal, rice, healthy grains and proteins. While the packages do not constitute a complete diet, they do help provide nutrients beneficiaries may be lacking.

Recipients showed their appreciation with many thank-you’s and hugs. Warm Hearth Village resident Arnold Naff said this assistance would help him and his wife with their monthly grocery budget by providing many of the items they already purchase.

Feeding America Southwest Virginia began offering the program in May 2018 and currently has 3 sites operating in their service area, with planned expansion in the coming months.  Warm Hearth Village is the first agency, and its residents are the first recipients, of a distribution in the New River Valley.

The Warm Hearth Foundation is the charitable fundraising entity for Warm Hearth Village and operates a range of programs that help low-income seniors on campus. Karen Nelson, Associate Director of Development for the Foundation said, “Six years ago we partnered with St. Michael Lutheran Church in Blacksburg to offer programs to help low-income seniors in our community. This partnership created the Micah’s Soup for Seniors program to provides shelf-stable grocery items once a month. Since then the Warm Hearth Foundation has expanded its programs to help our residents meet basic needs.”

Last year the Micah’s Soup for Seniors, Garden, and Personal Care Items programs provided over $48,000 in charitable assistance to approximately 100 seniors living at Warm Hearth Village. In 2018 the Warm Hearth Foundation added a pet program in addition to the CSFP expansion. None of these programs could have been established and sustained without many generous contributions from donors throughout the community.

To learn more about the Warm Hearth Foundation and how you can become involved in helping seniors in need, contact Karen Nelson, Associate Director of Development at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 540-443-3406. For information about Feeding America Southwest Virginia or the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, contact Amanda Allen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at (540) 342-3011. 

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David Jones 1033 pp 1

Warm Hearth Village is pleased to announce that David Jones, Licensed Assisted Living Administrator (ALF), has been chosen as the new Administrator for Showalter Center. He will fill the position vacated by William Lester as he was promoted within the organization. Jones has been with Showalter Center Assisted Living residence for nine years. He started as the Activities Director and has been the Assistant Administrator for two years. Jones has a Bachelor’s of Music in Music Education and a Master of Fine Arts Degree, Organ Performance from Radford University. Jones lives in Christiansburg and in his free time he enjoys playing the organ and piano. “I look forward to continuing my career with Warm Hearth Village and feel this is a wonderful step in that direction. I am currently completing the Leadership Training Academy through the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce which will aid in my leadership abilities at Showalter,” he says.

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Warm Hearth Village is proud to announce it will be the first senior living community in the state to offer a new fitness program designed specifically for individuals battling Parkinson’s Disease.  This innovative program, being offered in partnership with Rock Steady Boxing, is planned to officially launch at the Warm Hearth Village Fitness Center on September 10, 2018.

Thanks to Jim Craig and his wife, Lois who brought the idea to us and small group of interested donors from throughout the community, the Warm Hearth Foundation was able to raise funds to cover the start-up costs and bring Rock Steady Boxing to the Village.  The new program will be led by Director of Fitness, Kenny Harrah and relies on exercises such as stretching, running, jumping rope, push-ups, balancing and lots of noncontact boxing.  Harrah successfully completed the Rock Steady Boxing Training Camp this year, certifying the fitness center and its staff to offer classes to residents and the community.  “Training with the Rock Steady Boxing athletes has been a profoundly moving and inspiring experience,” says Harrah.  “We feel very grateful and proud to be able to bring this program to the New River Valley and Virginia.”

Rock Steady Boxing is a unique exercise program based upon training used by professional boxers to help alleviate the symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Disease.  Rock Steady Boxing, Inc. is a nonprofit organization founded in Indianapolis in 2006 that has grown profoundly.  In 2012, the training camp was launched as a means of sharing the method with people around the world who are fighting back against Parkinson’s.

Recent studies, most notably at Cleveland Clinic, focus on the concept of intense, “forced” exercise and have begun to suggest that certain kinds of exercise may be neuro-protective, i.e., actually slow disease progression.  It is estimated that approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease every year.  The chronic and progressive neurological condition is the second most common neurodegenerative gaining disorder after Alzheimer’s Disease.

The fitness center at Warm Hearth Village is open to individuals from the greater community who are 55 and older.  Amenities include a heated, saltwater pool, strength training room, fitness studio with comprehensive class schedule and personal training.  To learn more about opportunities or to sign up for the Rock Steady Boxing program, call Kenny Harrah at 443-3474.


Photo: Amy Webb, Associate Director of Development; Kenny Harrah, Director of Fitness and Jim and Lois Craig, residents of WHV.

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Warm Hearth Village is pleased to announce that William Lester, ALFA, LNHA and current Administrator at Showalter Center, has been chosen as a new Administrator at the Kroontje Health Care Center. He will be responsible for ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations and quality of care in the skilled and long-term care residence known as The Cove.

Lester has been with Warm Hearth Village for 17 years, initially as Housekeeping Supervisor and then as the Assistant Administrator and Administrator of Showalter Center. He is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator who holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business.

Lester looks forward to the new challenges this position will bring and is excited to continue working in an organization where the residents come first. “I want to make the Cove the best place possible for our residents to live and receive rehab services and our staff to work," he says.

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Warm Hearth Village and Virginia Tech Center for Gerontology Collaborate on Research Based Theatrical Production Aimed at Seniors and Families

More than 120 people from throughout the NRV attended “My Way”, a one-of-a-kind theatrical performance at Warm Hearth Village on April 19th .  The event represented an innovative collaboration between students and faculty at the Center for Gerontology and staff, residents and family of Warm Hearth where research on the decision-making process of moving from home to a care setting was adapted into a theatrical production with the goal of helping others facing the same decisions and challenges navigate the process.

Dr. Pamela Teaster, Ph.D., Director of The Center for Gerontology led the effort by engaging students and faculty in a research study where more than 30 families were interviewed after having made the transition to a health care setting at Warm Hearth Village.  Questions focused on the challenges, fears and obstacles in making the decision and learning how each was overcome as the move took place.  The data collected remained anonymous and was used to develop a three-vignette comedy written and directed by Mardy Baker, Life Enrichment Director at Warm Hearth and performed by resident and professional actors.  The vignettes focused on the denial of seniors of the need for more help and the stress this places on family caregivers; a comical space-age solution to the decision making process where an impersonal computer program “My Way 3000”  makes the tough decisions for you and an intimate look inside a couple’s struggles to acknowledge the effects of dementia on their relationship and living situation and ability to make decisions for their future.

Following the performance, the audience, with the help of table hosts, discussed key messages and personal life experiences in an effort to apply the research in an meaningful way.  Audience members were wowed by the partnership and many came away with new insights and appreciation of the trials associated with the aging process.

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Groundbreaking Ceremony Held for Carilion Clinic at Warm Hearth Village


On Friday, February 9, project partners and stakeholders assembled to celebrate and break ground on the new Carilion Clinic at Warm Hearth Village.  Fralin and Waldron will construct the 2,300 sf medical facility designed by C2Architecture that will provide wellness and acute care, screenings, immunizations, physical exams and primary care services. Financing is being provided by Union. 

The project is slated for completion in the fall of 2018 and will serve not only residents and employees of Warm Hearth Village but the greater community as well.  It will be open three days per week initially with potential for growth to meet demand.

Ferne Moschella, President & CEO for Warm Hearth Village told the crowd, “I am proud to see this project come to fruition and equally proud to have Carilion as our partner as we seek new ways to enrich the lives of our residents.”


Photo:  Left to Right - Greg Cupka, C2Architecture; Kim Roe, Vice President, Carilion Family and Community Medicine; Nutmeg, Mascot Warm Hearth Village; Terry Brizendine, Senior Vice President Union and Ferne Moschella, President & CEO Warm Hearth Village.

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Torrey Named New Director of Human Resources at Warm Hearth Village


Warm Hearth Village recently announced that Katharine Torrey will fill the position of Director of Human Resources upon the departure of long-time Director, Lorraine Wachsman.  Wachsman will retire in late February after 21 years with the nonprofit retirement provider.  She says she is looking forward to spending time with grandchildren and family and she hopes to find more time for hobbies that include reading, sewing and jewelry making.  “Lorraine has been instrumental to the growth and success of Warm Hearth Village throughout her long tenure with the organization.  We thank her for her outstanding service and wish her the very best in her well-deserved retirement,” says President and CEO, Ferne Moschella.

Torrey will assume responsibility for identifying staffing needs and recruiting qualified individuals, developing systems to retain employees to reduce turnover, implementing programs and employee benefits and developing, communicating and implementing compliance programs for personnel policies and procedures.  She holds Bachelor of Humanities and Arts Degrees in History and Drama from Carnegie Mellon University, a Master’s Degree in Humanities from Marymount University and a Master’s Degree in English from Georgetown University. Torrey’s extensive experience includes work as executive secretary, technical editor, web content manager, English instructor and human resource generalist.  “I look forward to building on the foundation that Lorraine has carefully laid, and to helping Warm Hearth navigate the waters of our ever-evolving field,” she says.

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Warm Hearth Village Honors Long-Time Showalter Center Director of Nursing

 At a celebration held today at Showalter Center, the Assisted Living residence on the Warm Hearth Village campus, residents, families and employees celebrated and thanked Sharon Moye, RN for her dedicated service to residents of the Blacksburg retirement community.

“We are extremely grateful for the many contributions that Sharon has made during her extensive career with Warm Hearth,” said William Lester, Administrator. “For 17 years, Sharon has remained loyal to the success and growth of Warm Hearth Village while developing a personal reputation as one of the best caregivers in the industry. We wish her nothing but the best as she moves forward with her well-deserved retirement,” he adds.

While Moye looks forward to pursuing personal hobbies, she says that simply spending more time with her family is what she will enjoy the most.

Amanda Cruise, RN, BSN has been hired to replace Moye. 

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National Senior Games Birmingham AL 2017 Second Place 85 90

Dick Skutt is a walking, talking advertisement for health and fitness. The 86-year-old Warm Hearth Village resident is the only Virginian to place in the racquetball competition in the National Senior Games that took place in Birmingham, Alabama on June 10th.

Over 10,000 athletes from across the country, ranging in age from 60 to 94 years young, competed in a variety of sports at the 2017 National Senior Games.  Events included basketball, Pickleball, swimming and track and field.

Skutt competed in the local senior games held in Blacksburg, then traveled to Newport News to compete in the state competition before going on to the National Senior Games. The racquetball athlete said that he seeks to inspire others--including those much younger than he--to become active and healthy.

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Warm Hearth Foundation Recognized by Leading Age Virginia for Stewardship

SharonAward1The Warm Hearth Foundation was recognized by Leading Age Virginia at its annual conference on June 8, 2017 as a leader in stewardship among its 123 members from throughout the state. The Warm Hearth Foundation receives and administers funds to support seniors living at Warm Hearth Village who are in need of financial assistance and/or support with basic necessities that include food, shelter, personal care items and health care services.

The Stewardship Award recognizes organizations who act in a manner worthy of trust and respect and who advance public trust and confidence in aging services. Focused on the scope of public impact and benefit to the community, The Foundation’s efforts to collaborate with businesses, individuals and community organizations to raise funds for seniors in need at the Blacksburg based retirement community were applauded.

Warm Hearth Village has been a member of Leading Age Virginia since 1981. A state-wide organization focusing on education, advocacy, community building, stewardship, not-for-profit leadership, and positive aging for seniors, members and partners include nonprofit organizations representing the entire field of aging services and continuum of care, state and business partners, consumer groups, foundations and research partners. The mission of LeadingAge Virginia is to expand the world of possibilities for aging


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Warm Hearth Village Assisted Living Residents Reaping Benefits from Herb Gardens

HerbGardenMany seniors have fond memories of planting and harvesting gardens to feed their young families. Some included herbs in their spring plantings. Staff and residents at Showalter Center, the assisted living residence at Warm Hearth Village, have worked to construct and plant herb gardens. The gardens contain a variety of herbs in raised beds that are harvested by residents and used in preparing meals in the dining room. Nate McCutcheon, Dining Production Manager shares, “I see the residents enjoying the tranquil scenery around the gardens where birds and butterflies frequent. We use the basil we grow in pesto, sage on our pork and chicken, lemon balm in beverages, cilantro for fresh Pico de Gallo and parsley to garnish our plates.”

The benefits of herbs for seniors, especially, is greater because herbs produce flavorful culinary additions which can act as a salt replacement, helping older adults to reduce high blood pressure and minimize the risk for overall heart problems. The mere act of gardening relieves stress for many. “I love putting my hands in the earth. Gardening helps fulfill this need as a fun ‘chore’ that’s neither too demanding nor too passive. It also feels good to be growing the ingredients that all my neighbors will enjoy,” says Elizabeth Myers, a resident of Showalter Center.

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Freedom First Credit Union recently awarded the Warm Hearth Foundation a Community Investment Grant in the amount of $5,000 to facilitate the production of Common Cents, a play designed to educate elementary-age children about the history and value of money.  The play was written and will be produced by Warm Hearth Village’s Director of Events and Volunteer Programs, Mardy Baker. The Community Investment Grant will enable Warm Hearth Village to provide this program at no cost to 20 public elementary schools throughout the New River and Roanoke Valleys. The play will feature residents of Warm Hearth Village, along with actors from the community at large, who will participate as cast members and interact with the children.

"With this program, the basics of saving, spending and sharing will be taught in an exciting and humorous way,” says Baker.   Included in the program will be the history behind why and who was chosen for representation on our basic currency.  Baker says  “I believe this is a valuable opportunity for youth and seniors to interact in a fun environment. Children continue to develop into caring, well-rounded people when they are involved with charities and seniors experience a feeling of usefulness and connectivity.”

Shows are being booked from September to December, 2017. Audition dates are June 14 and 15, from 2 to 4pm.  Sign up for an audition slot by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Warm Hearth at Home Welcomes New Director of Nursing

Mandy Crouch, RN, BSN has joined the Warm Hearth at Home team as the new Director of Nursing. She earned her BSN from Galen College of Nursing in San Antonio, Texas and she has a varied and impressive background. Crouch served four years of active duty in the Air Force and has worked as a police officer in addition to her experience in skilled nursing, medical-surgical nursing and progressive care nursing settings.

Crouch looks forward to bringing a holistic approach to nursing to her new clients and team. “We are very fortunate to have someone with Mandy’s experience join our team and we look forward to continuing to grow our business with her leadership,” says Michelle Narramore, Administrator of Warm Hearth at Home.

Warm Hearth at Home provides comprehensive home health care services to residents of the New River Valley that include skilled nursing services, rehabilitative therapies, personal care, care management and companion care. They are a Medicare licensed provider and a part of the Warm Hearth Village family of health care services.

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Residents at Warm Hearth Village have formed a new Pickle Ball ™ Club and plan to play at the Village Center at least two days per week.  Pickle Ball is a trademarked fitness craze sweeping retirement communities and it looks like a lot of fun.  Small wooden paddles and a plastic ball (like a whiffle ball) are combined with a waist high net and some cones on a flat surface and the result is what looks like a miniature version of doubles tennis.

Residents Mike and Barbara Spears, Roland Byrd and Dick Skutt formulated the plan, assembled the materials needed and games began on March 22nd.   About ten people showed up for the inaugural match and the weather has certainly been cooperative.  Byrd says they are interested in growing the club to about 12 to 15 members who participate on a regular basis.

“It’s like playing ping pong, standing on the table,” says Mike Spears, Chairman of the Pickle Ball ™ Club.  He adds, “The nice thing about pickle ball is that it’s easy to learn, fun for all ages and requires no athletic ability.”  It also provides an opportunity for residents from across the Village to come together and socialize in a fun setting.

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A dog life: Solace and service


Wookiee and Millie approach their work at Warm Hearth Village each Wednesday morning as eager professionals, eyes bright and tails wagging.

At the front door, Millie, a black Labrador, jumps up almost twice her height to hit the door opener button with her right paw. Wookiee, a very social Briard, rushes forward to begin schmoozing in the lobby. Millie stands alert, waiting for her handler’s command.

Tiffany Moeltner is training the two dogs for very different roles, but both are honing their skills while enhancing the lives of the residents of Warm Hearth’s Kroontje Center. When either dog trots into a room, faces that seemed permanently etched in frowns often relax into smiles.

Wookiee, the therapy dog, makes new friends on every visit. He accepts hugs and kisses of varying intensities with equanimity. If someone acknowledges Wookiee, he’s ready to return the love. Today he sits eye-level with J.B. Jones while the retired professor reminisces about dogs he has trained. Jones’ goal is to improve his strength and balance enough to take Wookiee for a walk.

“Wookiee was a rescue from the Humane Society. When I saw how much he loves people and how gentle he is, I knew I had to train him as a therapy dog,” Moeltner said.

Millie is a Saint Francis service dog in training. Moeltner is teaching her to be “all business” around people as well as to perform tasks. One of the important things Millie is learning at Warm Hearth is not to respond to people other than her owner.

This is important; a dog that loses focus misses cues from his owner. Service dogs trained to detect seizures or low blood sugar must concentrate on their human’s condition second by second. Missed signals could have dire consequences.

At Warm Hearth, Millie doesn’t have a designated patient. She opens doors, fetches objects and drags large baskets or boxes out of the main thoroughfare, and responds to 40 spoken commands.

She also helps with physical therapy sessions, retrieving bean bags the patients throw and giving them extra motivation to exercise their arms. Millie also throws her weight into an arm-strengthening exercise with a tug rope, maintaining a steady, gentle tug for patients to counter.

Millie’s ability to wield a credit card is her most surprising skill. Rising up on two legs, Millie stands with her paws on the nursing station counter, credit card gripped between her teeth, smiling like a happy shopper. On Moeltner’s command, she lets the nurse remove the credit card and waits slack mouthed for its return. No, Millie can’t swipe her own card – yet.

“Millie and Wookiee enrich the environment here for residents and staff,” said Kroontje Activities Director Johnathan Tate, who collaborated with Moeltner in bringing the dogs to campus. “Because of them, we’re in the process of bringing a resident service dog to Kroontje.”

“In the 11 or so months we’ve been coming to Warm Hearth, the dogs and I have reached many milestones,” Moeltner said. “We benefit from training around the variety of people and equipment. The staff is learning how to treat a working service dog. The residents benefit from being around the dogs. One woman in the memory unit who was always silent actually spoke to Wookiee. ”

Citing studies published in “Frontiers in Psychology” journal, Moeltner claims being in the company of a dog can lower people’s stress hormones, heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety level as well as improve their motivation to participate in activities. When Millie enters the therapy room, patients smile and press into their activities with new vigor.

Millie wants to be a good dog, but she can’t resist the toes sticking out of a patient’s leg cast. She darts out her tongue for a few quick licks as she trots by, and the recipient erupts into giggles.

“Millie’s a fun dog,” Moeltner said. “That’s why she’s going to take longer to train.”

Moeltner has earned credentials as a field trainer for Saint Francis and is a registered therapy dog handler through Pet Partners. She does this on a volunteer basis, as a labor of love, she said. In addition to Warm Hearth, she and her dogs visit LewisGale Montgomery Hospital regularly, usually in the waiting rooms.

Moeltner holds a master’s in special education from the University of Washington and has developed a school-based program, Individual Education Pups & Pets. This program, now based at Price’s Fork Elementary School, brings registered therapy animals into the schools to support students who are “at risk” or receiving special education services in achieving their academic and personal goals. Dogs are used to help students with physical skills and bring a relaxing presence to students struggling with reading. Children experiencing family crises may benefit from the sense of unconditional love and positive support offered by the mere presence of a therapy dog during a counseling session.

Moeltner consults with veterinarians at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine and Virginia Tech’s Center for Animal Human Relationships — one of only 11 centers nationwide promoting research on the human-animal bond.

Moeltner has a mission to educate people about the proper training and roles of service and therapy animals. Service dogs are highly trained animals that provide assistance to an individual with a disability. They don’t socialize with other humans and should not be petted. Although therapy dogs also receive training, they are social dogs who interact with a variety of people while on duty.

Moeltner’s “pet peeve,” so to speak, is that no required central registry exists for trained service and therapy animals. By law, only service animals are allowed in certain places, such as restaurants and supermarkets. But unlike the people who use disabled parking placards, those with service animals don’t have to register anywhere; the Americans with Disabilities Act protects their privacy. So, although businesses can ask whether a dog is acting as a service animal, owners don’t have to prove that it is.

“People are passing off improperly trained animals as service animals,” Moeltner said. “When a disabled person is sold one of these animals or when an untrained dog interferes with his service animal, it makes life so much harder for someone whose life is already very difficult.”

Saint Francis Service Dogs provides thorough training for service dogs and offers them free to disabled people who need them. Moeltner also leads advanced training for therapy animals. She is always looking for new volunteers. For information about training therapy or service dogs, contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 808-2202.

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