Our Stories

Meet Number 1

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Steve Aaron, Founder and Managing Member of Birchez Associates, gave Phyllis Sonner a nickname: “Number 1”. When Chambers Court opened in 2004, Phyllis was the first Resident to move in. And Steve Aaron remembers it well. He was visiting the property the day Phyllis and her possessions arrived.

Only one problem, there was no one from the then property management company to meet or assist her. So Steve jumped in and helped Phyllis move.
Steve also vowed that day that he would fashion a property management company that would treat all Residents as members of the family. That was the inspiration for Rondout Property Management taking over the day-to-day operation of Chambers Court and all our subsequent communities.

Phyllis, a Kingston native, remembers Steve Aaron, from before her first day at Chambers Court. When Steve was a youngster, he used to stop in with his father Marty Aaron at the Furniture Factory where Phyllis worked for many years. And later, Phyllis of-ten saw Steve working at Fowler &Keith, the family’s industrial hardware company.

Today, Phyllis is proud to be the grandmother of six and the great grandmother of three. Despite having two of her children living in North Carolina, she has had recent visits with both. One of her grandsons and his wife both served in Iraq, which could account for some of the red, white and blue décor in Phyllis’ cottage.

A Resident for twelve years, Phyllis remains a vibrant member of the Chambers Court Community. “I can’t say enough about living at Chambers Court. It’s safe, so nice and pretty, so convenient. And for the amount we pay, I am so appreciative!”

P.S. We borrowed Phyllis’ Welcome chair, complete with Fall Flowers, for this issue’s masthead. Phyllis is known for the seasonal decorations of her door and entry area.

With 72 cottages, Chambers Court is in the town of Ulster, adjacent to both Chambers Elementary School and The Birches at Chambers which opened in 2010.

Resident Profile: Arthur Baum of The Birches at Saugerties

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Don’t Fence Him In

Resident Arthur Baum is joined by his daughter Chris, far left, and granddaughters Veronica, Tiffany and Olivia.

Arthur Baum loves his independence at The Birches at Saugerties, although convenience and security are close seconds when he lists the reasons why he likes living here. Baum has lived on the campus for about seven years. Previously, he spent time living with his daughter and her family after moving out of his Samsonville home.

The former full-time pianist at the old Fallsview Resort Hotel in Ellenville, Baum’s fondest memories during his 32-year tenure were his interactions with guests. “I became friendly with many of the guests,” he recalled. “It was a pleasure to talk to them.”

“When I played one particular tune, my signature song, there would be dozens of people dancing on the floor. Even if they didn’t know the song, they knew the second line of the song and they’d always sing it:  ‘Don’t fence me in.’ It was spontaneous.” And at The Birches at Saugerties, Baum isn’t “fenced in.”

Baum, 78, still considers himself ‘in recovery mode’ from a stroke about five years ago. “So I like the idea that my unit is all on one floor; that’s very good,” he said. “When I go outside, I’m outside without taking any steps, which matters to me, because my independence is so important.”

“My daughter shops for me,” said Baum. “I don’t drive. An aide comes in three times a week and helps with cleaning and cooking. It’s so much easier when she’s here. On an average day, I’m at the computer or by the TV or reading.” During the winter months, Baum stays inside for the most part. But in the warmer weather, Baum said he’s happy to walk around outside. “I’d like to get out a little bit more,” he added, “but I do have some balance issues.”

Baum said he’s most happy when he has a chance to see his family. His daughter lives only five minutes away and his son is 40 minutes. “The greatest pleasures in my life are my granddaughters,” said Baum. “They’re beauties, all of them, and a pleasure to talk to. One’s 20, another is 23 and another is 26.”

But he’s also happy that he picked The Birches at Saugerties as his place of residence. Birchez Associates developed Saugerties, three other affordable senior housing communities in Ulster County, and the latest in Schoharie County to rival the quality of retirement communities built to rent at market rates.

“I’m very glad to be here,” added Baum. “I’d tell people that the place is convenient, the surroundings are pretty and nice. They are fair and good to everyone who lives here.”And I do hope to play the piano again, once my hand gets better.” Yes, “Play it again, Art!”

Birchez Associate Profile – Paul Slover

Monday, July 25th, 2016

An Employee Everyone Counts On

Birchez Founder Steve Aaron knows everything is always in pristine condition in The Birchez at Chambers community thanks to the efforts of Paul Slover, a 10-year employee who is the facility’s porter.

Slover, who lives just two miles from Chambers, is known for his pleasant demeanor, helpful ways and sterling work ethic.

Paul Slover, porter at Birches at Chambers, makes sure that the community’s common rooms, like the library, are spotless

“Paul started out with Chambers Court (the 72-cottage style, single-story apartment community) when it was built, and later at Birches at Chambers (the 66-unit complex adjacent to Chambers Court),” said JudyAnn Fitzpatrick, Rondout Property Management’s Compliance Manager. Along with resident caretaker Jerry Coschigano, Paul is now responsible for the maintenance of 138 units and cleaning of the common areas.

Residents rely on Slover to shovel and plow snow, cut grass, polish furniture in common areas and handle many other duties to keep Birches at Chambers spotless.

“I’m a ‘Jack of all trades,’” Slover said. “I always try to help everyone I can. There are a lot of nice people here and they’re all very friendly.”

Fitzpatrick acknowledged that, too. “Mr. Aaron knows when he wants to show off the place, he can count on Paul because Paul keeps everything up to Birchez’ high standards” she said. “And the residents get a chance to thank him when he stops by ‘Alice’s tea’ (offered weekly by Birchez Senior Advocate Alice Tipp).”

Slover has been married for 22 years to Debra Slover and enjoys the outdoors and traveling. He knows that taking a few minutes to help goes a long way to making people feel comfortable and important. Most noteworthy, he’s demonstrated a special sensitivity to the senior residents he’s served for ten years.

Birchez Supports Birchwood Village Resident with College Scholarship

Monday, July 25th, 2016

Birchez Associates LLC Founder Steven L. Aaron presented a Birchwood Village Scholarship Award to Birchwood Village resident Angelina Lyman to support her efforts to attend Hudson Valley Community College.
Lyman received her associate’s degree in science from Ulster County Community College (UCCC) in 2015. In the fall, she began attending Hudson Valley Community College in Troy where she is studying mortuary science to receive a second associate’s degree. Her goal is to graduate in three semesters and become a New York State-licensed funeral director. The scholarship award – given to Birchwood Village residents furthering their education – was for $3,600. Birchez has since given Lyman additional money for books and other school-related expenses.
“Each year Birchez Associates supports many worthy community causes and events in the communities that we serve, but this year it is extra special to support one of our residents and a member of our family that has been so courageous,” Aaron said during the presentation. “We are humbled and honored to award the Birchwood Village Scholarship to Birchwood Village resident Angelina Lyman. She is a shining example of a student who persevered through the toughest of situations.”
Lyman had been attending UCCC and was just months away from completing her associate’s degree when her 3-year-old daughter, Annabella, was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of pediatric cancer – stage 4 neuroblastoma. “I had to make the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from my classes and the college to fight with everything I had in me to save my daughter,” she said. After eight rounds of chemotherapy and three surgeries, Annabella was in remission. Once Annabella attained a year’s remission, Lyman returned to Ulster County Community College.

Lyman made the dean’s list and graduated with a 3.47 grade-point average from UCCC. She now commutes to Hudson Valley Community College.

“Becoming a mortician/funeral director has been a dream of mine since I was a child,” Lyman said. “This scholarship allows me to continue my education while relieving a ton of financial stress. I can’t thank Birchez Associates and Steve and Judy Aaron enough for their generosity to both me and my family.

For information on the Birchez Foundation, go to www.Birchez.com.

Congressman Chris Gibson chooses the Birches at Chambers to announce important senior legislation

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

U.S. Congressman Chris Gibson is introduced by Birchez Associate’s Steve Aaron at a press conference by Gibson introducing legislation that would re-authorize the Older American Act (OAA). Congressman Gibson says he chose the site because the Birchez Senior communities are a great example of how to care for our nation’s senior citizens by offering high quality, affordable housing that truly meets the needs of the areas senior population.

17th Annual Dutchess County Senior Prom

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

More than 400 senior citizens packed the dance floor at the Dutchess County Division of Aging Services’ 17th annual “Dutchess County Senior Prom”.


This fun filled senior event was held on October 15th at the Villa Borghese in Wappingers Falls. The prom featured a Black & White theme, live music from the Bob Martinson Band, lunch and dancing, as well as prizes and cakes donated by local businesses. (more…)

A Sweet Treat

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

February 13, 2012
Residents of The Birches at Esopus celebrated Valentine’s Day in style with a delectable brunch of homemade treats, plenty of smiling faces and friendly hugs from a special guest. The Community Room was decked out in style for the event, which was organized by the residents of this premier affordable senior housing community which overlooks the Hudson River.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey & Fortunée Bennett.

Congressma Maurice Hinchey, who the residents lauded for his longtime support of and fight for seniors’ rights, dined with the residents, listened to their concerns and clearly enjoyed the delicious fare. He’s shown to the left enjoying a laugh with resident Fortunee Bennett.

Steve and Judy Aaron, who are responsible for this Birchez Associates community, praised those responsible for organizing the event, while delighting in the diversity of the scrumptious spread.

Bill & MaryAnn Banks

Longtime Valentines Bill and MaryAnn Banks, happily married for 35 years, spoke lovingly about the changes in their lifestyle since joining the Birches community and of the many activities and amenities offered at the facility. One of MaryAnn’s choices is the bus that comes to the door and takes her for excursions at the Mall (especially when Bill’s working or watching a game!).

Residents Eileen McGuire & Shirley Shumate

Spry and chic, the 91 year-young Shirley Shumate looked positively captivating in her red Valentine dress. For some seniors keeping in shape comes naturally, but many take advantage of the Fitness Studio, complete with instructor at no charge, at The Birches at Esopus.

Eileen McGuire, pictured with Shirley in the picture to the left, is president of the Residents Club at this award-winning facility.

Roseann Harominek spoke glowingly of her new life at the Birches at Esopus – as shown in the picture below, her smile speaks volumes. Many who attended were in their late 80s and 90s, fitting tribute to the aging in place philosophy of The Birches at Esopus and other Birchez Associates communities in the Hudson Valley.

Roseann Harominek

Valentines from loving hands

Monday, February 13th, 2012

Seniors give to other Seniors

Pictured is one of two hundred Valentine cards made by The Birchez at Esopus Crafts Club.

Birches at Esopus resident and crafter Barbara Fidow shows off a card.

For the last several weeks, a dedicated group of crafters at The Birches at Esopus have handcrafted some two hundred Valentine’s Day cards. And where have they directed Cupid’s arrows? The Golden Hill Health Care Center, Ulster County’s nursing home, located off the Boulevard in Kingston. Started 65 years ago, Golden Hill provides both rehabilitation services and long-term health care.

A range of materials were creatively incorporated in these one of kind cards. Ribbons, jewels, doilies, wallpaper, whatever these clever crafters had at hand. Designs varied from whimsical to modern, something for everyone’s tastes.

According to Crafts Club member Marie Shultis, this is the third year the Esopus seniors have created Valentine’s Day cards for the seniors at Golden Hill. “If we had one thing to do over, we would have started earlier,” she said. But with a new target of 200 cards this year, their highest to date, they made it with a few days to spare.

Some Birches at Esopus Crafts Club members in the final stretch (seated: Janis Loring, Rae Skinner, Barbara Fidow, Ruby Sterling,
standing: Senior Advocate for Birchez Associates communities Alice Tipp.)

At Golden Hill, Marie Shultis tells Resident Virginia Burhans how the card was made; Ruby Sterling looks on.

On Friday, February 10th, a contingent of the crafters met with a few residents of Golden Hill to present the cards. The intent is that the cards could be used to brighten the resident’s room or to give to a loved one.

Golden Hill resident Ralph Hayner shows off his pick as Ruby Sterling and Barbara Fidow smile with approval.

As The Birches at Esopus group chatted with the residents, there was some sharing of techniques and materials used. Marie Shultis talked about some exacting measurements used in various crafts to make sure the results look as best as possible. Looking at the results, one might even say professional!

(More text below photos.)

Resident Ken Hyatt has his choice of cards presented by Janis Loring and Marie Shultis.

The Crafts Clubs keep busy year ’round at both The Birches at Esopus and The Birches at Chambers. Chambers has had two annual collaborative events knitting hats for children with cancer.

At Esopus, the crafts room has shown off holiday gifts ranging from cards, kissing balls, knitted scarves and hats, and at this time of year, lots of red cards.

Every now and then the public gets a chance to check out the crafts at The Birches at Esopus. Last year, during the Town of Esopus Fall Festival, the tour bus made a stop at this senior affordable community so interested purchasers could browse the Crafts Club’s creations. We’ll let you know when the seniors have newly created crafts to share.

Going Strong at 100

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

Recent projections on seniors living longer are certainly borne out at The Birches communities. Just last week members of the Residents Club for The Birches at Chambers and Chambers Court met to fete William McDonough on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

Bill was born November 23, 1911, and he considers himself “just an ordinary guy.” Bill didn’t know why people would make such a fuss. So he was surprised at the turnout that included residents, owners Steve and Judy Aaron, and staff of Birchez Associates and Rondout Properties. Or that we would want to interview him.

Earlier this year, Bill was honored as a centenarian by the Ulster County Office for the Aging. On the left, pictured before the luncheon began at the Hillside Manor, is Bill with his loyal helper Dorothea Schwenk, a resident of Chambers Court since 2004.

Since the County’s celebration, it’s been about six months of birthday acknowledgments. He brought one to the party this week, a birthday card from the President and First Lady (click on the photo so you can read it!). This was in addition to the number of declarations and proclamations from many local politicians and dignitaries including State Senator John Bonacic, Assemblymember Kevin Cahill, and Ulster County Executive Mike Hein.

Bill lived in the area for 25 years before moving to Chambers Court early in 2008. He values living in a safe senior community. Bill says he’s found a really nice place and values the new friends he’s made.

Bill served as a conductor for the New York Central Railroad for many years. His “route” was Grand Central to Buffalo on the 20th Century Limited. At the time it was the fastest train out there. Today Bill wonders why people want to go much faster. “When I think of some of these tiny cars speeding down the highway at 70 miles per hour, I don’t think it’s safe. Why is everyone in such a hurry?”

Bill is, at the moment, the only centenarian living at one of the Birches Communities but there are a number of residents close behind. Currently there are 43 residents aged 85 and over, with 14 of those 90 or over. In the picture to the right taken at the Residents’ celebration, Bill is pictured with Tess Glassman, a Birches at Chambers resident who turned 90 on November 20th. Between them is Steve Aaron, founder and managing member of Birchez Associates which developed and manages four senior communities in Ulster County.

Steve Aaron spoke about aging in place in independent living communities. “Bill’s a great example of why I believe so in the aging-in-place concept. It’s a better quality of life and much more economical for society than nursing homes or alternate level of care facilities.” Most units at The Birches Communities are handicapped ready if not fully ADA handicapped accessible. Home care and personal care aides from a number of local agencies can help provide assistance with daily living tasks which allows many seniors to spend their time “at home.”

Steve went on to say, “Annecdotally, we’re hearing that our residents, when they do have to be hospitalized or spend time in a rehab setting, are coming home sooner because the apartments’ features encourage that. They don’t have to wait for a ramp to be built or a bedroom created on the first floor or even the necessity to move from their home.”

– K.J. McIntyre, Director of Marketing, Birchez Associates

Alice Tipp Appreciation Day

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

August 22, 2011, Town of Ulster: It’s not easy surprising Alice Tipp, the Senior Advocate for Birchez Associates, but the Birchez staff and the residents of The Birches at Chambers and Chambers Court managed to do just that. Today it was Alice Tipp Appreciation Day!

Alice has served in her position for the last six years. And as Steve Aaron, Founder and Managing Director of Birchez Associates, often says, “Alice works five days a week and is the first one in every morning.”

Alice has plenty of experience showing up and being on time having served thirty years in the Ulster County Legislature before accepting her position as Senior Advocate. Alice’s experience is invaluable as she matches resources to the needs of the residents in the four Birchez communities she services.

Appreciation was apparent in the applause, warmth and laughter expressed in the room of fifty or so. Among the attendees were several surprise guests including her son Tippy (Walter Scott Tipp II), her daughter Cheryl and son-in-law James McTague.

The residents presented Alice with a candle and candle holder to express the sentiment: “You Light up Our Lives.”

Steve and Judy Aaron presented Alice with a pearl necklace, and the staff gave her a basket of goodies and flowers. Ice cream cakes and pound cake rounded out her luncheon. Alice even read the sentiments of the many cards aloud and admired the stealth with which her friends had operated to pull off her surprise party.

The crown from Senior Property Manager Judy Fitzpatrick was just the right touch for a lady who deserves to be queen every day.