Though it was at an airbase in Germany where Aimee Clark first solidified her passion for helping people, it was at Greencastle of Bayonet Point where her love for working with seniors materialized.
Read more about her journey and the Greencastle of Bayonet Point community, as a whole, below:
How did you come to be a part of Embrace Living Communities? What was your background beforehand?
Believe it or not, my mother had this job prior to me 13 years ago. She was going elsewhere and said ‘you should apply for this job, you would be perfect!’ So I did apply and I’ve been here for 12 years.
After a couple years of local college, I ended up going into the Air Force. I was stationed at an airbase in Germany, where I was assigned a 450 person, civil engineer squadron. I worked as an Information Management Specialist in the front office. After that, I met my husband there in Germany, he was 82nd airborne and general escort. After nine months, he was going to be sent back stateside, so he hurried up and proposed to prevent us from being separated. Now we are 26 years married with three kids.
Had you worked with seniors before? What inspired you to work with this group?
Honestly, I think that job in the military is what steered me in the right direction of loving to take care of people, working with people and supporting people. In the military, they bring college to us, and I loved caring for people so much that I took human services classes from the University of Maryland (in Germany).
Honestly, starting here was pretty much my first time with seniors. With all the people I worked with in the military, not too many were seniors. I had all the background and knowledge to do the job, but not with the seniors directly. I think maybe it was just my personality and love of people that really allowed me to connect with the seniors here.
Seniors are a unique group. What have you learned from your time working with this population?
I’ve realized that a lot of people don’t appreciate our seniors and the knowledge and the life that they have lived. I think people often don’t give them the chance. They may be having a bad day or hurting, and you never know everything that they’ve done in their past and how much they could offer. When you really listen to them and talk to them about their history and look at pictures of them from many years ago, they could teach us so, so much – especially with the ways things have changed from their generation to today. I love listening to their stories and their history. So it was me just starting to work with them 12 years ago to make me realize how much I really do love working seniors.
Describe the senior community of Greencastle of Bayonet Point in particular:
I’m really happy because I know that, in general, it can be hard for service coordinators to get their seniors to participate in all the functions that happen within a community, but I actually have a really active group here. There are 83 seniors and they’re a really great group. Whenever I have something in the community room, like an educational wellness program, they all try to support me and attend. We get a lot of resources to come to the building, and now with a younger group of seniors, I have a lot more people that want to participate and volunteer to help set up, pass things out and just be more involved beyond attending. I noticed that with baby boomers, the ways things are being done is changing, but I have a good group who is active in the community and the building.
What are some ways you encourage participation?
For a good amount of our residents, participation comes naturally, but there are some residents who don’t typically participate, so I always try to do new things, or be creative with the events I have going on and try to get a different group to come down every time I plan something. So the encouragement is always there.
Can you speak to the value of socialization for seniors?
A lot of the events and programs we have here prevent depression and loneliness, so I think that socialization is huge for our seniors. From programs to dinners, everything that we bring in ends up contributing to that socialization. We have so many different places for them to sit and congregate and activities for them to do.
We recently received a donation of patio furniture, which is great because now the residents can sit out on a beautiful patio in front or a gazebo in the back. We also received a donation from the University of Florida, so we started a garden club and committee. One of our local colleges gives us all the different supplies and we hand out jobs every week to help maintain the gardens. So that’s been great for socialization too.
What are some of the events being held across the Greencastle of Bayonet Point community?
There are so many different ones – I try to bring in a couple programs a month. A lot of them include normal things like free vision screenings, hearing screenings, fall prevention, helping residents apply for benefits. I usually ask them what they’re interested in by sending out a flyer so they can indicate the types of things they’re looking for, and generally they’re pretty responsive. Some are looking for more food donations, so I applied for a Panera Bread grant. Now every Friday morning, all the residents take all the Panera Bread donations received and use that for “coffee klatch.”
How are these partnerships, like with Panera Bread, developed?
There’s a networking meeting I attend each month, and there’s over 120 members all in Pasco County [where Greencastle of Bayonet Point is located], which has helped me stay in contact with almost every resource there is in this county from programs to donations and giveaways. So this group has helped me tremendously with keeping up in the community with a lot of things going on.
How does the Greencastle of Bayonet Point community interact with the larger Bayonet Point/Port Richey community and vice versa?
We actually have a lot of outside community involvement. Local schools, churches, and groups will deliver food. As I mentioned, the colleges help with our garden club and The Boy Scouts of America help build our garden boxes, so the outside community definitely helps us. We actually just had a local middle school come and perform there. Also, we have students come volunteer to fulfill school credits at their high school or college.
Most of the Embrace Living Communities are located in the Midwest. Being located in Florida, how does this community make efforts to connect with others?
There’s our Greencastle of Bayonet Point community, then our Orchard Place of Sarasota community and the Apostles Village community. We’re all probably about an hour away from each other. We do all stay in contact and try to get together whether it’s for a picnic or a Christmas luncheon. I try to meet with the service coordinators once a month for meetings and I believe the managers also meet once a month. Even with everyone in our Chicago departments, we all definitely all stay in contact via email and phone. I still feel like, even though we’re all so far away from each other, we all work together as a team to stay in contact. And it works. It works.
What’s a typical day like for you in your role as social service coordinator?
I do apply a lot of residents for benefits, whether it’s food stamps, or electric assistance, I do help them to take advantage of the services available to them. I set up a few appointments set up for the day to help those that specifically need my help with those things. I’ve noticed more and more residents don’t have transportation, or family in the area, so I’m doing a lot of transportation applications these days. Overall, I think what I love about my job so much is that every single day is different. Whether I’m applying someone for benefits, or just spending time with a resident because they’re having a hard day, or helping them set up for in-home services because they’re just nervous about it, I just love helping. And I think that’s what I love most – I never know exactly what I’m going to do.
Feel free to contact us for any future resident, current resident, or general inquiries.