Service with a Smile

Essential workers have stepped up in a big way during the COVID-19 outbreak. LIFEPlan member Princess W, working with Challenge Workforce Solutions, is a terrific example of an essential worker. To her it is more than a job, it is her passion. We are sharing her story that was written by Challenge Workforce Solutions, and posted on their Facebook page.

Senior care professionals are among the ‘everyday heroes’ who have been reporting to work throughout the COVID-19 crisis to keep our community safe. 

Too often, the headlines aren’t heartening. Nationally and internationally, retirement homes and long-term care facilities have been extraordinarily hard-hit by the pandemic. In many regions, they are linked to nearly half of all severe cases. 

But we were so glad to hear from our phenomenal participant Princess W., a dining attendant at Longview, who was able to report that as of today, “Everyone’s healthy!” 

Even in so-called ‘normal’ times, dietary staff like Princess play an essential role in senior care. In addition to serving up nutritious meals and keeping everything clean, the personal relationships that they develop with residents are instrumental in ensuring quality of care and quality of life. Because they see and interact with folks not just day to day but meal to meal, dining attendants are often cherished pals as well as keen observers, frequently the first to alert clinicians or family members to potential health and safety concerns. 

These days, Princess’s skills are all the more vital, as she works sixty-hour weeks to provide nourishment in the form of wholesome food and friendly banter while stepping up sanitization and maintaining strict six-feet-apart social distancing protocols. 

I serve, I cook, I wash dishes,” Princess says, “But most of all I love the residents. Getting to know them is the best part of the job!” 

Princess was born in Liberia, West Africa, and at the age of twelve was adopted into a large homesteading and homeschooling family in Candor—well-known to Farmers Market regulars as Forget Me Not Farm. She and her eight siblings helped to raise heritage sheep and chicken breeds, grow heirloom squashes and sunflowers, and build a twelve-by-eighteen reclaimed timber frame cottage that now serves as Small Graces, a B&B farmstay where guests can enjoy organic, locavore room service and an outdoor spa room. 

Princess attended Candor High School, where she participated in chorus, set four new track and field records, and won a National Technical Honor Society award and a President’s Award for her “unusual commitment to learning in academics despite various obstacles.” As she neared graduation in 2014, one of her teachers in the special education program recommended that she reach out to Challenge to get support in finding a good job. In short order, she was hired on at Longview, where she has continued to thrive. 

Challenge Employment Specialist Heather Simpson has been providing ‘extended’ services—meaning periodic, less-intensive coaching—to Princess for the last two years. “I see a supervisory role in her very near future,” Heather says. “She’s cross-trained, so she can cover many different positions in dining. She’s a team player—she’s awesome at delegating tasks when she’s in the lead. And most of all, she’s extremely hardworking, determined, and independent—she supports her two-year-old daughter all on her own and still manages to work every one of her shifts and even fill in when they’re short-staffed.” 

Longview’s Director of Dining Services, Kevin Allison, echoes these comments: “Princess is a very hard worker—one of the very best. She always lends a hand and gets it done. She’s a valuable member of the team.” 

Says Princess, “I love it here, and Heather is a great person to work with. She’s always there to listen to my concerns to help me to work towards different goals. Right now my goal is to get a driver’s license, so she’s supporting me in that. I’ve done the five-hour course so now I just have to practice parallel parking some more!” 

Best of luck, Princess, and thanks so much for all that you’re doing to serve and protect our elders.