The Power of Life in Community

Michelle Faulkner, Activities Director at The Trinity Community at Beavercreek, has brought community activities to a whole new level since re-joining the United Church Homes (UCH) team in the Spring of 2021.  It’s little wonder given her background in, and love of, theater.

Michelle Faulkner

Although she is the creative mind behind most of the community’s events, she is quick to point out that the secrets to her department’s success are the contributions of her team, Chef Ashley Warren, and staff working throughout the life plan community. She credits them all with the success of the many dynamic activities that always serve to bring smiles to the faces of both residents and staff.

“I love to play off of holidays and themes,” Faulkner said. “Not just the obvious ones, but those you can discover through just a little bit of research.  We’ve celebrated Disney’s anniversary, re-enacted a scene from the I Love Lucy show, hosted Willy Wonka- and Candyland-themed events, built activities around Broadway, and even recognized Mailman Appreciation Day.  There are so many great ways to bring residents and staff together, and it’s so much fun for both.”

“One of my favorites is when Michelle and Ron (Wilson) re-enacted the hilarious scene from the I Love Lucy show in which Lucy and Ethel are working at a chocolate factory, trying desperately to avoid being fired by eating the candies and stuffing them into their clothes when they are unable to keep pace wrapping them,” UCH Director of Customer Experience Amy Kotterman said.  “I’m sure I’m not the only one who will never forget it.  Their performance brought joy and laughter to everyone in attendance.”

Kotterman and Faulkner agree that some of the tried-and-true activities – like Bingo and key holiday celebrations — will always have place in UCH communities. However, they also agree that it’s fun to shake things up a bit with the unexpected. Faulkner coordinates some holiday and other events on an annual basis but says she “likes to one-up herself” with more unexpected celebrations. The response from residents and staff alike has been positive, and both look forward to what Faulkner and her team will come up with next.

“I’m so grateful to Chef Ashley and every member of the Trinity Beavercreek team for contributing to the success of our activities,” Faulkner said.  “We go all out with it and aren’t afraid to be silly. We try to offer something for everyone!”

Faulkner has plenty of experience coordinating activities in senior communities, and previously worked for United Church Homes from 2008 to 2015.  She says that she had always dreamed of working in a facility like Trinity Beavercreek and was thrilled when she was asked to return in 2021 as group activities started again after being so limited through much of the COVID pandemic.

“We all contribute in unique ways,” Faulkner said.  “In addition to events coordinated by the activities team, staff from individual units within the community sometimes create their own special events and celebrations.  Everyone puts their God-given talents into their work, and residents clearly enjoy seeing that.”

Faulkner and her team like to find ways to engage both staff and residents. A Broadway Day event featured staff performances and showcased the work of a resident who over the years made many costumes for theater productions.  Events featuring displays and food on tables throughout the room serve to encourage conversation and sharing of life experiences.

“Chef Ashley’s creativity adds a lot to our events.” Faulkner said. “When I bring an idea to her, she creates a collage of what she envisions. Then we get together and develop a plan and invite staff to join in the implementation.”

Resident and staff smiles are the best metric of success of the activities, events and celebrations throughout UCH communities. Like others who were forced to physically isolate during the worst of the COVID pandemic, UCH residents are happy and excited to return to a more engaged lifestyle.

The sharing of best practices at UCH isn’t limited to clinical services. Kotterman is reconvening the activities staff now that COVID is more under control. Some events can easily be replicated in other communities, while others may serve to inspire a different spin. The newly created position of joyologist – primarily focused on staff morale – will also likely spark ideas for joyful resident activities.

“I’m so proud of our teams,” Kotterman said.  “Their love and commitment to our residents is so touching.  They lift people’s spirits and contribute to abundant life, and they understand that quality of life is as important as quality of care.”