Westminster Shores Residents Lead the Way: 68 AEDs Installed at Westminster Communities

What started as an idea from Westminster Shores residents Geni and Jack Vanek has resulted in the installation of 68 Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) across all of Westminster Communities of Florida’s Life Plan Communities and Rental Retirement Communities.

Thanks to the passion they showed for the project and the generosity of previous donors, the Westminster Communities Foundation contributed more than $90,000 from the unrestricted fund to install AEDs in independent living common spaces.

“It really was a community effort,” Geni said. “And now it’s the standard… for all of Westminster.”

DeeLynn Rivinius, Director of Philanthropy at Westminster Shores, acknowledged the pivotal role played by Geni and Jack, emphasizing, “If it hadn’t been for their passion and commitment, I don’t know that this project would have had quite the effect.”

Vice President of Philanthropy at Westminster Communities Foundation Jeff Coates noted that this project shows how the Foundation is able and willing to support projects that are of great benefit across the entire organization.

“It’s one of those rare projects that we’re able to do not just for one community but for every community we have in the Westminster family,” Jeff said.


The portable, battery powered, semi-automatic external defibrillator uses voice prompts and visual icons to guide the user through a cardiac arrest rescue. The device will analyze the electrocardiograph (ECG) rhythm of the patient and detect whether rhythm would respond to shock or not.

“It’s intended to help individuals that are having sudden cardiac arrest or a heart event,” DeeLynn said. She noted that while many hope the AEDs get very little use, just seeing them around the community brings her comfort.

“I walk by one of the AED machines every day and it just warms my heart,” DeeLynn said. “Heart events have no bearing on age. It can happen to anyone at any time, so it’s really reassuring.”

Jeff further emphasized that the AED installation offers an enhancement to the safety and well-being of all individuals within the community, regardless of their role or relationship to the residents.

“Think about the amount of family members that come through our communities and the number of team members that are in the communities. It’s not just a couple hundred residents that live there,” Jeff said. “It could be anybody at any given time.”


The Vanek’s moved to Westminster Shores, our Life Plan Community in the Bahama Shores neighborhood of St. Petersburg, in the beginning of 2021 and have been active participants in the community.

“They are individuals with a very philanthropic mission,” DeeLynn said. “They were both very passionate about this project and it made good sense for the health and well-being of our communities statewide.”

“For me it’s very personal,” Jack said. While having lunch with his father at a Continuing Care Retirement Community in Ohio after completing a 24-hour shift as a physician, a gentleman at the next table had a cardiac event.

“I had people call 9-1-1 and told them to bring me a defibrillator and to get a nurse – somebody to help me,” Jack said. “He needed CPR, and I started it on him, but no one came to help me and there was no defibrillator.” After Jack said what felt like hours but was probably only 10 minutes, emergency medical services arrived. They shocked the gentleman, and his heart came right back. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital and died two hours later.

“I can’t help but wonder if he would have had a much better chance if I could have shocked him immediately,” Jack said. “That is something that is etched in my memory. I don’t want to see that ever again.”

After hearing Jack’s personal experience, Jeff said it brought the need to life.

“It made it a no-brainer from the Foundation’s perspective because it’s core to what we do and what we should be providing to our communities,” Jeff said.


Westminster Communities of Florida is partnering with the American Red Cross, local fire departments and other companies that conduct the standard CPR training with an AED module to train team members and residents.

“Team Members can be trained, and we also encourage residents who might be interested to get the same training. They would then be able to use the device or provide CPR, if they wish,” said Jim Polaski, Senior Vice President of Operations for Westminster Communities of Florida.

The AEDs are being placed in independent living commons areas at Westminster communities, where people gather in numbers or in proximity to those areas where people gather.

“You would still call 9-1-1 for an emergency response, and we’re blessed that at our locations the emergency responders have a great response time,” Jim said. “They would come in and take over after that.”

Geni noted that the local fire department that conducted the training at Westminster Shores is the same group that would respond if residents called 9-1-1, and that their training went very well.

“What most people verbalized is that it’s a lot of work!” Geni said. “CPR takes a lot of pressure and you’re tired by the end. If you can have more than one person there – one to call 9-1-1, one to push and one to relieve you – the more people that can respond, the better!”


What Jim stressed is that the entire project is a response to a resident request. “We’re very grateful to the resident committee at Westminster Shores for discussing the details of how the program looks, and to the Westminster Communities Foundation for supporting this cause and making it easy to implement,” he said.

The implementation of the AED program not only provides a sense of security but also offers the possibility of more precious moments with family members.

“I think what most people want is the best chance to continue to see their grandchildren and their children and that’s what it really comes down to for me,” Jack said. “If it doesn’t work, I understand. It’s a difficult thing and it doesn’t always work, but if it works and I get to see my kids and grandkids again, that’s what I want to see. That’s what I want for everybody, as simple as that.”

To learn more about resident initiatives that make a difference at Westminster communities, find a location near you today!

Community Locator
Find the right
Because where you live has the greatest effect on your health and happiness.

Contact Information


Subscribe to Our E-mail List