Today, CALA awarded the 2016 Excellence in Service Awards for Northern California. Four exceptional Assisted Living employees were cheered at the 2016 Spring Conference & Trade Show by a room full of their friends, family members, and co-workers.
Outstanding Caregiver: Gina Rizon
Rizon began working at Regency of Evergreen Valley 15 years ago as a caregiver. She was promoted to med tech four years later and she has been trained as an RCFE Administrator. She mentors new staff at Regency of Evergreen Valley and is never too busy to help out a co-worker.
Rizon says of her work at Regency of Evergreen Valley, “This is my life. I take care of people.” She knows each resident’s unique needs and preferences and she always keeps their best interests in mind. Residents and family members have expressed that her patience and kindness have made them feel more at home in the community and helped them in stressful situations.
Executive Director Jolie Higgins says, “Gina takes her work seriously, but herself not so seriously. She has a great attitude and outlook on things and can effortlessly turn a stressful situation into a positive one.”
Outstanding Team Member: Rosa Villa
Villa has been a housekeeper and laundry attendant at Atria Sunnyvale for 12 years. Her dedication and compassion for the residents have earned her the coveted Atria Exceptional Service Award. When asked what she most likes about her work, she replied, “It’s the residents. Here we are their second family.”
Villa knows the laundry preferences of each of the 100-plus residents. When she drops off laundry, she will spend time with each resident, looking at pictures and listening to their stories. One family member says, “Rosa is a wonderful housekeeper. She is always smiling and goes the extra mile to make sure my mom is happy.”
Executive Director Diane Milenkovich says, “Rosa is a gem. I have supervised employees for more than 25 years and have not found a better example of the perfect employee. She has the respect and love of all of our staff and residents.”
Outstanding Department Director: Mander Farrell
Farrell has been the Personal Expression Manager at Carlton of San Jose for more than five years. In those five years, resident participation has increased significantly. One resident says, “Thanks to Mander and his team for all the smiles that make us feel better. Even when we don’t feel like it, they always put a smile on our faces and a song in our hearts.”
Farrell coordinates immersive activities, from movie nights to activities that give back to the community-at-large. For instance, if residents want to watch a baseball game, he will decorate the TV room with residents’ favorite teams, put on a baseball uniform, and hold baseball trivia during commercial breaks.
Executive Director Jay Underwood says, “Mander takes the cake! He involves family members and many others in activities. He knows each department and employee and will go out of his way for anybody. He makes his peers and residents laugh, and lightens their hearts.”
Outstanding Executive Director: Jolie Higgins
Higgins has been the Executive Director of Regency of Evergreen Valley for more than five years. Under Higgins’ leadership, both employees and residents have thrived. One employee says, “Jolie has the ability to bring out the best in a staff member, resident, or situation, and that allows people to do more and become more than they ever thought possible.”
Higgins has transformed Regency of Evergreen Valley into a flagship community for the training of Integral Senior Living (ISL) staff in caring for residents with dementia. She has also created two pilot programs which have been adopted at other ISL communities: a Diabetic Program and a Transitions Program.
Higgins serves as a mentor for other ISL staff, but modestly says “I’m not a great leader. I just have great employees who do their job really well.” Her career in assisted living began at the age of 15, and she has worked as a dining room server, concierge, and business office director before becoming an executive director.
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 2016 Excellence in Service Awards call for nominations!