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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Winter Growth, an idea that grew out of the Brookeville home of Marge Burba, is celebrating 40 years of giving dignity to seniors and disabled adults.
Burba said it began as a part of her master’s thesis project as she worked toward a degree in gerontology.
“Nursing homes 40 years ago were not what they are today,” she said. “I wanted to look at different ways to serve older people.”
Burba launched what would become a model community-based nonprofit serving the needs of seniors and disabled adults in Montgomery and Howard counties.
A novel idea
As the single parent of two little boys, Burba began offering a day program for seniors in her home. She would drop off her children at school, pick up the participants in her station wagon and bring them back to her house, where she would offer personalized, appropriate, stimulating activities.
Eventually, because she needed more space and to comply with new licensing regulations, Burba moved her program to Ross Boddy Community Center in Sandy Spring, where it occupied two large classrooms. When that building underwent a renovation, the program moved to the Bel Pre area and then to Burtonsville.
“We got tired of moving the program, so we decided to build a building specifically for us,” she said.
In 1994, Winter Growth opened at 18110 Prince Philip Drive.
Burba said it was the first facility in the state built specifically for an adult day program.
In 1985, a second location was opened in Columbia.
A thriving program
Olney’s Winter Growth’s adult day program now serves about 70 people, with about 50 attending the program each day. It also provides 16 residential rooms for assisted living and respite care.
While Burba is no longer involved in the “business” end of the organization, she continues to work part-time.
She helps with activities and works with the staff to create new therapeutic programs and to analyze the people they are serving.
Burba said she never expected Winter Growth to be going strong 40 years later.
“My kids were 3 and 5 at the time I started,” she said. “I always thought when they got older I would get a real job.
“I am most excited to see the new generation of staff and volunteers with fire in their bellies,” she said. “We create really individual programs for people. We look at the whole person and create a life within the center that is meaningful to them.”
She said that is why the community bought into her idea early on.
“Unlike big corporations that just look at the bottom line, we have worked hard to keep that our focus,” she said. “And even though we’ve grown, we still know each of our participants individually.”
Ursula Costa has been attending the day program since last year.
“The staff here are nice and on the ball; they’re there for us when we need them,” she said. “I do have fun. I like exercising. I also like the discussion groups so I can pipe in and give my opinion.”
Russell Kelly has been going to Winter Growth for about five years.
“It’s been wonderful,” he said. “I love it here. I enjoy the exercises, and lunchtime—they have good food. All the people who take care of us are good people.”
Winter Growth Executive Director Cyndi Rogers said that looking ahead, two of the initiatives they will focus on are fall prevention and a new transportation program.
She said they will keep on top of the latest research to prevent falls because that is one of the most prevalent issues seniors deal with.
They have also recognized a need for more handicapped-accessible transportation in Montgomery and Howard counties.
“We have accessible vans that are underutilized mid-day, so we are looking at ways to help the growing senior population in this region,” she said.
They are still working out the details and researching funding options for the of the “Winter Growth Wheels” program.
Rogers said she is proud of Winter Growth and its accomplishments.
“We offer a special program that is really unique,” she said.
Celebrating four decades of car
To recognize its 40th anniversary, Winter Growth will host a “Forty Fabulous Years” celebration on April 24. The event will take place from 4:30 to 7 p.m. in The Oak Room at 17921 Brooke Road in Sandy Spring.
A brief program will begin at 5:30 p.m., honoring community members who are living their lives with joy and purpose.
A second event will take place in Columbia on April 25.
Ticket proceeds will support Winter Growth Wheels – a collaborative project expanding accessible transportation in Howard and Montgomery counties.
For tickets, go to:
For more information, go to www.wintergrowthinc.org.
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