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Spreading the love: Couple performs hymns from a distance for residents
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Spreading the love: Couple performs hymns from a distance for residents

Residents of numerous Columbus area retirement homes were recently serenaded with heartfelt hymns with the hope it would uplift them during a trying time.

Nicole and Joel Ripke decided to put their musical abilities to good use by traveling to various Columbus retirement homes earlier this week. At each stop, they performed outside for residents to watch from indoors. Nicole is the program director for Camp Luther, an outdoor ministry in Schuyler that offers summer camps and year-round retreats, among other things, that aims to create and renew disciples of Jesus Christ.

She recently got to talking with Camp Luther Maintenance Director Rob Honken, whose wife, Tiffany, is the life enrichment assistant at Brookestone Acres. Nicole said she loved Tiffany’s idea of the Ripkes performing outdoors for residents and decided they wanted to make it happen.

“Since we can’t do it on-site (at camp), we wanted a way that we could be in the community and do something for the community,” Nicole said. “We want to continue to share joy with people.”

The couple on Monday visited multiple places, stopping at Brookestone early in the afternoon. Nearly all 80 of the building’s windows were opened so that the Ripkes could make their way from window to window (standing several feet away for social distancing purposes) to perform a few hymns at each stop for several residents at a time. They both sang and Nicole played guitar over the course of approximately two hours. Even though it was a bit chilly, the couple persevered - much to the delight of Brookestone staff and residents.

“It was a blessing. It was a nice break in the day,” said Brookestone resident Pat Ernst, who noted the couple’s rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ among the highlights she enjoyed most. “I certainly thank them, because it was cold out there.”

Honken said the performances were greatly appreciated, noting how it was especially uplifting with the facility not currently allowing visitors due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19. It also filled a need, as Brookestone’s regular weekly musical performances in which a guest comes to entertain has been put on hold indefinitely under the circumstances.

“It was a huge joy. There were lots of tears from staff and residents; there were lots of ‘thank yous’ and waving,” Honken said. “It brightened up their days because they’re missing family visits … It was amazing, it was exciting, it was fun. It made for lots of smiles.”

Brookestone Administrator Nicki Woznick said the kind gesture of the couple was reflective of the Columbus community as a whole.

“The Columbus community has been so supportive during this time, and we look forward to the day we can welcome everyone back into the building to say thank you in person,” she said.

Nicole said she and her husband enjoyed the unique outdoor performances on Monday, adding that they will work on continuing to do so throughout the area during this time.

“I just hope we were able to show them they’re not alone and we were able to share joy with them, specifically through music,” she said. “We want to share Jesus and joy with people while serving the community as much as we can.”

Camp Luther can be reached at 402-352-5655. The camp also has numerous videos to keep kids and families stuck at home busy. Those can be found at

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at

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Managing Editor

Matt Lindberg is an award-winning journalist and graduate of the University of Kansas.

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