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The Forest’s Best of 2019: A Top 10 Countdown to 2020

The Forest at Duke hosted an array of memorable gatherings in 2019—from once-a-year, special events like the colorful Diwali Festival of Lights to reliable weekly meet-ups like square dancing, there were literally hundreds of event and activity opportunities for residents to enjoy on and off campus each and every month.

The Department of Resident Life has been hard at work all year to bring fun to The Forest! From left to right: Meghan Rodriguez, Sandy Mouras, Glenn Arrington, Sheri Sampson, and Lauren Herring.

The community’s notably robust calendar of activities is made possible each year because of the tireless efforts of five very dedicated Forest team members in the Department of Resident Life: Sandy Mouras (Director of Resident Life), Meghan Rodriguez (Independent Living Activities Program Manager), Sheri Sampson (Fitness Program Manager), Lauren Herring (Activities Coordinator), and Glenn Arrington (Activities Assistant / Driver).

It’s easy to say that the events we see around campus are all fun and games, but there’s an awful lot of planning and behind-the-scenes work that goes into them! We certainly can’t recognize these fantastic activities without recognizing the remarkable people behind them. Thank you, Department of Resident Life team members, for the incredible amount of effort you put into keeping The Forest a fun, busy, and exciting place to live, work, and play!

Now, as we prepare to count down the final seconds of 2019 leading into 2020, let’s also count down our favorite events of the year leading into our big New Year’s Eve party at the end of it!

Forest residents Ebbie and Abby present information about the Encore Store at the Resident Volunteer Day in April.

10. Resident Volunteer Day

“Volunteer! It’s good for you!” this event encouraged. And of course, it is! As April is National Volunteer Month, the Department of Resident Life put together a very special volunteer expo in the Community Center on April 18th, highlighting many of the active, resident-led committees and services at The Forest. This event gave attendees a chance not only to learn more about these committees and activities, but an opportunity to sign up as a volunteer for them, too!

Before the expo began, The Forest was honored to host Mr. Sam Miglarese as the keynote speaker for the event. Mr. Miglarese is a former Forest board member and is the Assistant Vice President and Director of Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership (DDNP) at Duke University and oversees the DDNP and community engagement efforts for the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs.

The tables set up in the Community Center featured enthusiastic residents from a number of important Forest committees and initiatives, including Health & Wellness Interior Gardens Committee; Health & Wellness Center Volunteers; Writers Assistance Group; Gift Shop Volunteers; Lobby Flower Arrangers; Library Activities; NorCCRA (North Carolina Continuing Care Residents Association); Diversity & Inclusion Collaborative; Activities Committee; Encore Store; The Forester; New Resident Orientation Committee; and ER Friends.

9. NCAA Basketball March Madness Bracket Challenge

When you live as close to the action of the age-old UNC/Duke college rivalry as we do (and have “Duke” in your name, to boot!), it’s hard not to be involved in that rivalry in some form or fashion. When March Madness rolls around, filling out brackets certainly isn’t an activity for the weak! This year, we engaged in a friendly competition, submitting our brackets with our best guesses for the winners of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments.

A large bracket was posted outside of the Forest auditorium during March Madness, tracking the winners throughout the tournament to help residents keep up with the victors, the teams heading home empty handed, and the Cinderella stories. Many of the tournament games were shown in Taproot, making it even easier for Foresters to get a front row seat to the action.

During the bracket challenge, the Department of Resident Life crafted a nifty points system, giving participants a set number of points for each winning team correctly guessed in a given round of the tournament. At the end of the championship, the residents with the most collective points – Lib Goode for the women’s tournament and Diane Goff for the men’s tournament – were announced on Touchtown and had their names added to a plaque that will hang in Taproot for generations to admire!

8. Earth Day Event

In celebration of Earth Day in April, The Forest at Duke and its resident Green Team hosted a paper shredding and electronic recycling event just outside of the Community Center lobby. ProShred, a trusted name in document disposal, brought a commercial vehicle on site; each resident household was permitted to bring approximately three bankers’ boxes full of material to be disposed by the company at no charge, and each additional box was only $5.00. The fun part was getting to see these documents shredded on the spot, without the need to remove staples, paper clips, or binder clips beforehand!

Volunteers at the event also collected old electronics on behalf of local non-profit organization Triangle ECycling. This included items like computers, telephone, and office equipment. Once the items were picked up and removed by the organization, the company securely removed all existing files and either refurbish or recycle the machines and their components.

While all of the hustle and bustle of recycling on behalf of Mother Earth was going on, members of the Green Team staffed a nearby booth to introduce others to The Forest’s recycling programs, as well as to the benefits of reusable bags, straws, and containers. As a bonus, they held a fun raffle for reusable goods.

Resident Ruth Jane and team member Kelli pose together with silly props in the photo booth at the Resident and Team Member Summer Party. (Photo courtesy of ZimZoom Photography)

7. Resident and Team Member Parties

Resident and team member parties are always exciting, unforgettable gatherings for members of The Forest at Duke community. This year’s shindigs included a summer party in June, held in Rosewood and Heartwood, and a holiday party in early December, hosted in the Community Center and Auditorium.

Hosted by The Forest at Duke and the Residents’ Association, the Resident and Team Member Summer Party was a fun luau-themed festivity, wherein attendees donned their best summer styles and joined the fun for an extended social hour. Residents and team members enjoyed food, drinks, dancing, and lots of little extras, like a ZimZoom photo booth with larger-than-life props for extra fun pictures. There was even a game of “Guess Who?” set up in the Community Center lobby, featuring photos of team members and residents as babies or children – a fun chance to win a raffle prize!

The Resident and Team Member Holiday Party provided catchy holiday music, an array of tasty food, and a hot chocolate station – not to mention a sea of festive sweaters, dresses, and headwear to enjoy! The Board of Directors and each department at The Forest created a different themed gift basket (like “Cozy Night at Home” or “Let It Snow”), up for grabs in a special raffle for residents and team members.

During the party, attendees were encouraged to participate in a holiday-themed photo booth and a social scavenger hunt, designed so that team members and residents could get to know each other a bit better. An hour before the celebration came to a close, the Residents’ Association President Anderson Banks announced the amount raised for the Employee Appreciation Fund, as well as the winner of the annual Team Member Wreath Trimming Contest. (This year, Health & Wellness took the prize for best in show!)

The “I have a dream…” chalkboard wall installation served as a living document in the Community Center during the week of January 21st. (Photo by TFAD Department of Resident Life)

6. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Program

On January 23rd, the Forest community came together for the 2nd annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration in the auditorium. Dr. King’s first visit to Durham took place in October 1956, at the invitation of N.C. Rep. H.M. “Mickey” Michaux, Jr. In 2019, The Forest at Duke was very pleased to welcome State Representative Michaux to campus as the keynote speaker for this special event. He discussed Durham’s African American and civil rights history and the work for equality still being done in Durham.

The Forest Singers and volunteer team members, led by Scott Hill, joined voices in song for a portion of the program, too. Additionally, since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a national day of service, the Forest community once again collected books for Book Harvest’s “Dream Big” event.

Throughout the week, a chalkboard installation in the Community Center encouraged residents and team members to complete the sentence “I have a dream…” on the wall with their best wishes for the brightest future. Special thanks to the Activities Holiday Subcommittee and the resident Diversity & Inclusion Collaborative for their support of this event!

Derby hats and big smiles all around! (Photo by TFAD Department of Resident Life)

5. Kentucky Derby Party

In early May, The Forest auditorium turned into Churchill Downs as the beloved tradition of gathering to watch the running of the Kentucky Derby continued! Betting skills were tested, too – with a limit of two horses and $1.00 per horse, attendees were permitted to bet “to win” only.

It’s also traditional (and expected, of course!) for ladies to wear extravagant hats to Churchill Downs, so residents were encouraged to wear their finery for all to see and admire! In the true spirit in a cocktail party, while there was no “saving of tables” prior to the event, there was plenty of table hopping and socializing. Complimentary wine, beer, and mint juleps were served, along with light finger foods. Betting was open for the first hour, just before the horses took off for the race on the big screen for all to witness. It was a perfect night for friends, food, and fun!

During The Forest Striders’ August 21st visit to the JC Raulston Arboretum, Forest resident Kay’s sunny smile brought extra warmth to this bright and cheerful scene at the arboretum’s bee hotel. Bee hotels are a wonderful way to attract pollinators to gardens—an open invitation for the bees to make themselves at home! (Photo courtesy of Sheri Sampson)

4. The many adventures of The Forest Striders

Where haven’t The Forest Striders gone?! The Forest at Duke’s off-campus hiking group is almost always on the go, and they visit some pretty amazing places every chance they get. Since The Forest at Duke is located so close to so many wonderful parks, greenways, and trail systems, getting out and exploring those locations on foot is a great way to stay fit and get to know fellow residents.

The Forest Striders enjoy two planned hiking trips each month. This year was a busy one for the Striders, who trekked through a multitude of locations: Hillsborough Riverwalk; Little River Regional Park Natural Area in Rougemont; North Carolina Museum of Art Sculpture Trail in Raleigh; Horton Grove Nature Preserve in Bahama; Third Fork Creek Trail in Durham; Falls Lake Rolling View Area; American Tobacco Trail in Durham; JC Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh; Mt. Airy and Pilot Mountain; Duke Gardens; Morgan Creek Trail in Chapel Hill; Umstead State Park in Raleigh; and Hanging Rock State Park in Danbury.

Let’s not forget that the Striders also took part in The Forest at Duke’s Walk to Cure Arthritis on May 15th! Starting at the Community Center’s main entrance, walkers journeyed a 1.25 mile route through campus in a fun, non-competitive fundraising event that raised awareness about the crippling disease of arthritis.

Later, on November 27th, The Forest Striders also took part in the Campus Turkey Trot. Residents and team members met at the Health & Wellness Visitors Center for a walk around campus. This was a non-competitive, fun walk (or run) to burn off the holiday stress and enjoy some time with neighbors and friends.

Where will the Striders go next? Only time will tell!

No bones about it—team members at The Forest love getting into a festive spirit, and Halloween certainly is no different! From witches and colorful M&Ms to a very clever “LIFE” handing out lemons, team members got all dressed up to make others smile ahead of the community-wide social in the late afternoon. (Photo by Lauren Young)

3. “Franks & Steins” Community-Wide Halloween Social

On Thursday, October 31st, the entire Forest community was invited to spend some time just outside the Health & Wellness Center entrance, where the “Franks & Steins” Community-Wide Halloween Social was to be held.

Throughout the day ahead of the party, team members enjoyed dressing down in their Halloween costumes, including many of the Health & Wellness staff, who dressed as sparkly, tutu-sporting M&Ms. Many residents also joined in the fun. Never ones to miss out on a good costume, best friends Evebell Dunham and Molly Simes attended the social in their creatively crafted “sun” and “moon” costumes.

Hot dogs (franks) with all of the fixings and lots of beer (served in steins) were available for all to enjoy. Outdoor games – including a dunk tank – and a good, old-fashioned costume contest rounded out the fun-filled afternoon. For those who didn’t have a costume of their own, fun costume accessories were available to get attendees in the Halloween spirit!

Mardi Gras Casino Night at The Forest (Photo by TFAD Department of Resident Life)

2. Mardi Gras-Themed Casino Night Benefiting the Benevolent Fund

On March 4th, those who were feeling lucky could swing by the auditorium to play some craps, roulette, Black Jack, and Texas Hold ‘Em to their hearts’ content! The Forest’s Casino Night, benefiting the Benevolent Fund, featured tables run by dealers from a professional casino company. Any resident or guest who signed up and wished to participate received a free “starter cup” of chips to play a few hands. Then, if they were interested in contributing to the Benevolent Fund, they could purchase a full cup of chips to enhance their playing potential and maximize the fun!

Since the party was held just before Fat Tuesday, attendees were encouraged to dress up in fun outfits to fit the Mardi Gras theme. There were plenty of masks, beads, and hats available to grab for those who wanted to make the night a little more fun. And since dinner had just been served in the dining rooms, light finger foods and King Cake was available at the Casino Night, in addition to beer, wine, and spirits.

A small sample of the residents in attendance at The Forest’s 27th Anniversary Pond Party. (Photo by Lauren Young)

1. The Forest at Duke 27th Anniversary Pond Party

In celebration of The Forest at Duke’s 27th anniversary, residents and team members came together on Friday, September 13th to reflect on the community’s history during a special, extended social hour at the pond on campus, right next to two of The Forest’s original fixtures—the tobacco curing barns!

Enjoying delicious small bites and tasty beverages, new and old friends laughed, talked, and danced the afternoon away to tunes spun by the DJ. Bits of The Forest at Duke’s history were woven into the celebration, including a display of pictures and stories, as well as quotes from Pioneer residents recited during the event.

Pioneers – those who have lived or worked at The Forest at Duke since it first opened its doors in 1992 – were honored at the pond party. There are four such team members on staff: Laurie Lach; Glenn Arrington; Eric Reid; and Carol Adams. There are also seven Pioneer residents living at The Forest: Marion Bender; Elizabeth Dube; Evebell Dunham; Peg Lewis; Phyllis Owen; Maryann Ruegg; and Molly Simes. The pond party proved to be a very special celebration – a time to embrace the memories of the past while looking ahead with hope for the possibilities of the future.

New Year’s Eve Party!

After a year of so many wonderful festivities, what could possibly come next? The fabulous team members from the Department of Resident Life have put together a spiffy New Year’s Eve Party, to be held in the auditorium and Community Center beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 31st. Ring in the new year with good friends and neighbors at The Forest as we dance to music spun by a DJ, sip tasty beverages, and indulge in decadent desserts.

A special New Year’s Eve dinner will be served in the Café and Rosewood during normal dinner hours just before the party, but please be sure to save room for dessert at the event! All who attend are encouraged to dress to impress for the occasion. In addition to seating in the auditorium, tables will be provided in the Living Room and Greenwood’s for a quieter, more relaxed option.

Have a favorite song that you’d like to hear? Want to give it a spin on the dance floor? Pass your song recommendations along to Lauren Herring at or 919-419-4042 ahead of the party so that the DJ has your requests in time for the New Year’s celebration.

Let’s get ready to have some fun!

More importantly, let’s get ready to have some fun in the year ahead. 2020 is full of promise – a completely clean slate full of possibilities and adventures. Let’s see what the future holds, take risks, and have a great time!

Lauren Young, Marketing Specialist

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