(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) When residents at McLean’s Vinson Hall Retirement Community wanted outdoor recreation during the pandemic, retired Marine Col. Mike Cluff grabbed a pickax and sledgehammer and built the sought-after amenity himself.
Decades before he became a resident at Vinson Hall (6251 Old Dominion Dr.), Cluff oversaw the building of an encampment in Vietnam and was present during the Tet Offensive in 1968.
More recently, he put his “keep moving” mentality to use to construct horseshoe and bocce ball pits for the McLean retirement community, an approximately 400-room facility that focuses on caring for military veterans and their families as well as high-ranking former federal government employees.
“The genesis of this was…everyone wanted to play outside,” Michelle Crone, director of philanthropy and engagement for the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, said.
As Vinson Hall’s philanthropic arm, the foundation supports facility renovations and provides financial assistance to residents in need.
Cluff, 82, was motivated to construct the horseshoe and bocce pits by fellow Vinson Hall resident Midge Holmes, who is active with getting people involved and wanted residents to be able to play horseshoes.
After looking up plans for horseshoe pits online, Cluff worked with the retirement community to get the materials he needed and spent a few weeks during the spring of 2020 finishing the project, which is located on the site of a former house that was demolished years ago and is now becoming an outdoor recreation area.
Vinson Hall later added artificial turf to the horseshoe and bocce ball pits to help with maintenance. A multi-surface area next to them is under construction and could facilitate more outdoor activities, such as pickleball, which was played inside at the facility until the pandemic halted it.
The new outdoor recreational area is one of several capital projects that Vinson Hall has undertaken during the pandemic after getting a financial boost, thanks to a Fairfax County Economic Development Authority measure that let the retirement community refinance bonds that had been previously issued to fund campus improvements.
Vinson Hall Chief Financial Officer Rick Bova says the move will bring savings and help improve the lives of residents and staff by supporting property upgrades and salary increases for staff.
The retirement community is refinancing around $70 million in debt to get a savings of some $10 million to $12 million over a 12-year period with the economic development assistance, he says. The FCEDA approved the measure on June 14, and the money is being facilitated by Truist Bank.
“In our business, every dollar counts,” Bova said.
Among the ongoing improvements is a renovation of The Sylvestery (1728 Kirby Rd.), a memory care unit that assists residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
Other proposed changes include enhanced lighting and other additions to the memory care unit’s sensory room, which offers an array of items for residents to touch and interact with, from stuffed animals to tropical colored bowling pins.
Called a sensory oasis, the room helps patients with dementia calm down, says Antionette Doublin, senior director and administrator of the skilled nursing facility Arleigh Burke Pavilion and The Sylvestery. Research shows that multisensory sessions can help verbal agitation and provide other benefits.
“So, we bring them in here, and it calms them down,” Doublin said.
The Sylvestry is also getting a central kitchen area that can host cooking demonstrations. The project is currently under construction and could be finished in two to three weeks.
After nearly half of a century, The Treasure Shop in McLean has announced its closing date is Tuesday, June 30.
For patrons interested in browsing one last time, the store is hosting a final sidewalk sale out front on Thursday and Friday (June 25-26) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The boutique and consignment shop made the decision to close after 49 years of business because of the COVID-19 setbacks and increasing operational costs, according to a statement from the store.
The shop will be following recommended protocols to protect patrons during their final sale, including maintaining social distancing, requiring masks and allowing no more than three individuals in the store at a time.
“A lot of people really love the treasure shop. I would say it’s going to be missed,” said Amiee Freeman, the spokesperson for the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation, which owns The Treasure Shop. “It’s kind of the end of an era.”
The Treasure Shop has been a major part of McLean and the Vinson Hall Retirement Community for decades. The store said the decision to close “was not made lightly,” and many members of the community are saddened by the closing.
“I am truly sad to hear this,” one person wrote on the store’s Facebook page. “The Treasure Shop has been such a unique and beloved place to me for many years, both to shop and to consign. I am really sorry to see you go.”
“So sorry to hear this. I love your shop. It always has wonderful items from all over the world,” another person wrote.
The Treasure Shop originally opened in 1971 in Vinson Hall as a way of selling unneeded items to military personnel as well as raising funds to assist residents, according to the Vinson Hall Retirement Community website. From there, the store grew into a widely-known consignment shop where people could find unique and interesting items.
The store moved into the Chesterbrook Shopping Center in 2009 due to the need for more space and parking.
The shop credits its success to the volunteers, consignors and donors who helped support the establishment over its 49-year run.
Photo courtesy of Amiee Freeman
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