Penns Valley

On Centre | Penns Valley: Salem Hill Haven residents explore creative sides through poetry class

Inez Confer was 90 when she died May 6.

But her memory lives on at Salem Hill Haven — an assisted living facility in Spring Mills.

After all, resident Dorothy Shoffstall, 90, said it was because of Confer that she got involved in a poetry writing class at the facility.

“When you’re retired, it’s so boring and you have nothing to do, but they had this class and I heard a lot of good about it from her,” Shoffstall said. “She told me how nice it was to sit and tell your story through poetry about things you’ve done, and I joined and it’s really nice.”

Confer was the longest active member of the group, said community writing teacher Abby Minor.

Minor also said that a poem Confer wrote is one of the more memorable pieces she has read.

The poem was shared with the CDT, but Minor asked that it not be published.

“It was very short and to the point, and it just resonated with me,” Minor said.

Minor started a poetry writing group at Salem Hill three years ago to help share her love of writing.

She holds two, 12-week sessions — one in the spring and the other in the fall.

The program is made possible through a $700 grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

The spring session group called “Being Heard” consists of about seven residents, of which about four are regularly active, Minor said.

“We write collectively and focus on a different topic, and I think it helps the residents tap into their creativity,” Minor said. “They don’t always have to rhyme, but we play with different styles, read a lot of contemporary poetry and I encourage them to just keep it simple.”

Last fall, Minor created a food and drink theme. This spring, the theme was places.

“They could write about a place they’ve been or a place that’s imaginary,” Minor said. “It’s all about telling a story.”

Shoffstall said her latest poem was about her travels with the National Bowling Group in the 1970s.

“It was a bowling league in Lancaster and we formed a group of about five of us and traveled all over the United States,” Shoffstall said.

Her favorite trip was to Hawaii.

“It was 70-degree weather all the time and when it rained, it just rained at night so when you woke up it was nice again,” she said.

That was followed by an unrelated fishing trip at the Chesapeake Bay.

“Oh, boy!” Shoffstall said enthusiastically. “I used to do a lot of things and travel a lot.”

A year-end celebration will be held 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Salem Hill, 424 Heckman Cemetery Road, Spring Mills.

A booklet of all the residents’ poems will be shared at the gathering.