Today, CALA awarded the 2015 Excellence in Service Awards for Northern California. Four exceptional Assisted Living employees were cheered at the 2015 Spring Conference & Trade Show by a room full of their friends, family members, and co-workers.
Outstanding Caregiver: Vicenta Garcia
Garcia has worked at Regency of Evergreen Valley for 13 years. Executive Director Jolie Higgins says, “One of the most amazing things about Vicenta is her unwavering passion for her work, which she does with confidence and ease. She gives selflessly to bring comfort and happiness to those around her.”
Garcia began at Regency of Evergreen Valley as a housekeeper, and then became a caregiver in the memory care neighborhood a few years later. She says “Once I was a caregiver, I knew that this job was for me.” Garcia takes the time to really get to know each resident, and she is skilled at making new residents feel at ease. Family members have noted the remarkable transformation of previously reclusive residents in her care.
Colleagues share that she is always willing to assist them, and she mentors new employees by sharing her philosophy on what makes an ideal caregiver: “You have to have the fire in your belly and the passion in your heart in order to succeed.”
Outstanding Team Member: Valerie Etzel
Etzel has worked at Cardinal Point since 2009. Executive Director Michele Moros describes Etzel as the “glue” that holds the Cardinal Point family together.
Etzel utilizes her organizational and problem-solving abilities to keep residents informed of daily activities, plan weekly excursions requested by the resident council, manage the high school student volunteer program, and remember the birthdays of every staff member and resident. She is flexible and willing to rearrange her day as needed to assist in other departments. Colleagues say her work is done with a joyful, can-do attitude and she rarely takes credit for the support she gives to others.
Etzel is dedicated to the residents of Cardinal Point. She visits with them each day during Happy Hour, where she shares jokes and listens to their stories. According to Moros, she has been offered the position of Activity Director twice, but has turned it down because she wants to remain actively involved with the residents.
Outstanding Department Director: Lonnie Julius
Lonnie Julius is the Community Relations Coordinator at The Vistas Assisted Living & Memory Care. According to Executive Director Karilee Baird, “Lonnie is an incredible individual with a heart the size of Texas. Her willingness to do whatever it takes, and the time she invests in relationships, speaks louder than a marketing or advertising plan ever could.”
The manner in which Julius serves residents, family members and colleagues is inspiring, and there are many examples in which she goes above and beyond. She has provided child care for a team member, used her vacation time to visit a resident who relocated to Arkansas, drove four hours round-trip to pick up a resident’s daughter at the airport, and visited a resident during a stay in a rehab hospital an hour away.
She is described by others as kind-hearted, passionate, and driven. Baird says, “Her authentic love for people and drive to make a difference has impacted our community of residents, family members, staff, and friends immeasurably.”
Outstanding Executive Director: Scott Carlson
Carlson began his career in Assisted Living at the age of 16 as a dining room server. Since then, he has served in various capacities, including as Executive Director for Brookdale Paulin Creek, and was recently promoted to Regional Sales Director for Brookdale.
Susan Edwards, a fellow executive director and former Excellence in Service award recipient, says “working with Scott as the executive director at a neighboring community is both inspirational and rewarding.” And one of his employees says, “He empowered me and gave me confidence; for that I will always be grateful. I have him to thank for the career I love.”
Carlson’s goal is to enrich residents’ and employees’ lives. He knows each of the 300 residents at Brookdale Paulin Creek by name, and he often stays late to help residents in need. He regularly writes personal notes to employees, thanking them for excelling in their duties and making a difference in residents’ lives. He has adopted innovative training practices that allow department managers to have more time with residents.
Congratulations to all four Excellence in Service winners! Your dedication, empathy, creativity, and hard work are truly outstanding. CALA members in Southern California, do you have an exceptional employee at your community? Check the CALA website for the Fall 2015 Excellence in Service Awards call for nominations!