By Susan Saldibar

“Where your talents and the needs of the world intersect, therein lies your purpose.” – Aristotle

The deeper into this pandemic we’ve gotten, the more we hear of heroic actions coming from self-described ordinary folks who wouldn’t consider themselves “heroes”. But they are! Barbara Conn, CEO of Morrison Living (a Senior Living Foresight partner), recently referenced the Aristotle quote above. It was part of her introduction to a powerful collection of heroic stories, some of which jump off the pages with energy and compassion. It’s called No Better Place to Be and it is something you really need to download and read yourself. You can access it here

I spoke recently with Regan Medzhibzher, VP, Marketing & Communications for Morrison Living, and Rachel Bell, Director of Communications. We talked about some of the amazing people behind these stories who were, according to Morrison Living, “born for this”. Here is a short, paraphrased summary of six of them:

Dr. William Palumbo, Morrison Living Regional Director of Operations (New York, New York)

Working in what had become the U.S. epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, William Palumbo recalls the heroic leadership of those he worked with in New York. He will never forget how the teams came together to keep residents and care partners strong during the worst of the pandemic. Then, the unthinkable happened. Several of their own key team members contracted the virus. William knew that he and his team had to, as he said, “step up to the plate to hit a grand slam“. They did, and they delivered. What has he taken away from this experience? “I’ll remember the relentless leadership of administrators, physicians, nurses, and HR professionals who expertly navigated during this turbulent time,” William says. “Through their strength, they share calmness, rational thinking, and hope.”

Mashawn Lynk, Plant Operations Director, EHM Senior Solutions (Saline, Michigan)

As Mashawn points out, the culture of preparation and discipline already in place at EHM was tested when COVID-19 hit hard in Michigan. Putting in place rigorous training on PPE protocols as well as holding pre- and post-shift team huddles really made the difference. Their efforts paid off in successful CMS surveys and infection control audits, truly something to be proud of in an area deeply impacted by the pandemic. “There is no doubt in my mind that an army powered by ‘purpose’ can do anything it sets it mind to,” Mashawn says. It can and they’re proof of it!

Tracy Blazer, Morrison Living Regional Director of Operations (Los Angeles, California)

Tracy has always ascribed to the philosophy that it “takes a village”. And when it came to caring for isolated seniors during COVID-19, her village became an assortment of compassionate organizations and people who wanted to help in a time of crisis. The need was urgent and Morrison Living’s parent company, Compass, lead the way. Quickly bringing others on board including FLIK, Eurest, and Bon Appetit, all providing food, supplies, and lots of hands-on help. Through Tracy’s husband, they were even able to secure 500,000 masks from China. Not an easy task, especially in the early days of the pandemic. “I’ve always believed that it takes a village and the Compass village sure showed up when we needed it most,” Tracy says.

Romeo Mauricio, Senior Utility Associate/The Forum Retirement Community (Cupertino, California)

As an older, more vulnerable member of the senior utility staff, local leadership encouraged Romeo Mauricio (known as “Taytay” by those who love him) to stay at home when COVID hit. But those who know Taytay weren’t surprised when he didn’t. Instead, Taytay would sit in his car after dropping off his wife (who works in the laundry) just in case they needed him. “As long as I am healthy and strong, I will keep coming to work. Don’t worry about me,” he would say. Even on his days off, he would find the time to cook something and bring it in to share with others. His family, friends, and colleagues are proud to call Romeo “TayTay” Mauricio a “true hero.”

Sara Wendt, Hospitality Manager, Friendship Village (Tempe, Arizona)

As a successful hospitality manager, it’s in Sara’s DNA to always be seeking ways to uplift residents and, as she puts it, “share a bit of cheer.” So when the pandemic hit, Sara kicked her creative energy into high gear, putting together programs to counteract some of the fear and worry that COVID brought into the community. Mother’s Day brought an opportunity to do something special and memorable. Sara, along with staff, turned Friendship Village’s central courtyard into an artists’ canvas. Creating colorful tiles representing each of the mothers in the community. “Our hearts about burst to see their expressions when they saw what we’d done,” Sara says. “Their faces say it all. The spirit of this village is stronger than ever.”

Sonia Gonzalez, Director of Dining Services/The Reutlinger (Danville, California)

The culture at Morrison Living is about so much more than team members doing the work they are hired to do. It’s about celebrating each other’s personal milestones as well. Even a pandemic can’t get in their way. So when Sonia Gonzalez realized that two of her team members were about to graduate from college and another from high school, she eagerly set to work to create a special celebration. She, with the well wishes of the entire Morrison team, threw a party, honoring Leslie Padilla for earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, Luis Favila for attaining his high school diploma, and Ketty Luque for her associate degree in health and science.

Who Are Your Heroes?

Who are your heroes who were “born for this” moment in history? Are you recognizing their contributions to your residents and staff members? More importantly, will you continue to do so after the pandemic? 

Finally, I asked Regan to weigh in on her experience working with the Morrison team and the many heroes who have emerged during the pandemic. 

“Working in senior living is one of the most purpose-filled careers out there,” Regan explains. “The pandemic has ignited even more purpose as we care for the most vulnerable population. It’s been amazing to see all of the frontline, essential workers who threw their worries aside, grabbed their capes, and stepped up to, not only keep our residents and team members safe, but also found ways to bring joy into their lives during this dark time. It really is our time to shine and I know there are brighter days ahead.”

Again, I urge you to download No Better Place to Be. You’ll enjoy the many stories. I know I did!