Staff members from United Church Homes’ central office in Marion, Ohio, were reenergized and inspired this spring through fall, when they experienced the organization’s mission firsthand with trips to seven affordable housing and senior living communities in Ohio.
The idea for the mission projects originated with the central office supervisor’s group, made up of a member from many departments — Erin Foos, Carol Gordon, Michelle Tillman, Julie Reed, Bob Ross, Jennifer Ramey and Chris Keller. In 2015 and 2016, central office staff members toured Ohio’s UCH communities, engaging with community staff, which opened their eyes to the daily operations of the communities. In 2017 and 2018, the special project for central office staff was training on change management at The Ohio State University at Marion’s Alber Enterprise Center. This year, the supervisor’s group recommended returning to the mission projects.
Part of the Big Picture
“For me, being there at the community — even for a short amount of time — is priceless,” said Erin, central office manager and executive assistant to President and CEO Rev. Kenneth Daniel.
“You know you’re part of this big, grand picture,” added Carol, central office project research and database manager.
Erin said those working in the central office sometimes can feel isolated from the communities and the organization’s mission. She quoted Director of Social Services Bil Farrar of Trinity Community at Fairborn (formerly Patriot Ridge): “We’re the people who serve the people who serve the people.”
“A lot of staff members don’t get to see the mission in action every day,” Erin said. “We hear stories, but if you’re doing invoices or working on payroll or providing support to the communities in another way, you don’t get to see why we’re here — for the residents.”
Skilled Nursing Care Week
The mission project kicked off during National Skilled Nursing Care Week in May, when staff assisted Fairhaven Community (Upper Sandusky) residents and their families to an outdoor picnic, served food and drinks and cleaned up.
“The best part of the day was watching the residents enjoy the food and music — experiencing abundant life,” said Alissa Clouse, director of major gifts and grants. “It was clear that they were immersed in the experience. A resident I was assisting taught me about patience. That was incredibly helpful, as we always seem to be in a hurry and forget to just be. I appreciate getting to walk a mile in the shoes of a Fairhaven employee.
Live Entertainment from UCH’s Own Howard Cole
Central Office Employment and Safety Services Assistant Megan James observed how engaged residents were with Howard Cole’s live music. Howard is a former Music & Memory intern who continues to work with United Church Homes to assist senior living communities in managing their Music & Memory programs.
“It really brought it home for me with the Music & Memory program — how that really reaches a deep part of their souls and brings out their personalities,” Megan said.
Megan also was excited that staff has embraced the culture-change language at the community level.
“I love that they asked us to take residents ‘home’ to their ‘neighborhood.’ It really helps break the negative connotation of living in a long-term care community.”
Games, Landscaping and More
Other central office staff served a cookout and played games with residents at Mill Run Place (Ashland) and Brownstone Terrace (Marion). Still others presented a Lunch and Learn to Trinity Community at Fairborn staff on emotional intelligence. They also completed landscape projects at St. Michael’s Community (Delaware) and Shawnee Springs (Bellefontaine) and participated in a panel discussion and small group discussions and activities with residents at Parkvue Community (Sandusky) during the Heidelberg University HYPE Career Ready program.
Some staff experienced serendipitous moments with residents. For example, the initial trip to St. Michael’s Community was postponed due to rain. When staff arrived at the community on the rain date, a resident saw them planting flowers outside and approached a staff member with a special request. That day was her late daughter’s
birthday, and the rose bush planted in her memory needed transplanted. Staff quickly adjusted their plans and assisted with the rose bush as part of the project. Later, residents asked if the team could paint the community’s sign in the front yard.
“People who drove by asked, ‘Did you get a new sign?’ It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do,” Erin said.
Reflections on the Mission
Carol, the database manager, said the mission projects were also opportunities for central office staff to meet their community counterparts in person, sometimes for the first time.
“You might see their names come through your email, but you’ve never met them,” she said. “You would have thought we were rock stars. They might call us to ask questions and get support, and here they are for the first time. The room just lit up.”
Both Megan and Erin said they were reenergized by the site visits.
“You almost envy the employees at the communities, that they are touching so many lives each day,” Megan said. “However, it also renews your sense of purpose because they couldn’t do it without us at the central office, and we can’t do what we do without them.”