A large part of what makes our communities an ideal place for older adults and individuals with disabilities to age in place, is the physical space that is designed to be beautiful and comforting.
Read this interview with the man who helps make this possible at our Greencastle of Bienterra community, Lead Maintenance Technician Bryan Rudny.
How long have you been with Embrace Living Communities and how were you first introduced to the organization?
Well, I was actually grandfathered in when Embrace Living Communities took over the management of our City First Church buildings up here in Rockford. So about five years total.
What’s a typical day like in your role as lead maintenance technician?
We don’t subcontract exterior work for the most part – we take care of the whole building. So my typical day can be anything from building apartment maintenance on the inside, to going outside and doing all of our yard maintenance. I’m the only maintenance man on site here at Greencastle of Bienterra, but we have four other maintenance staff at each of the other four Rockford buildings that could be here in a moment’s notice, if needed. As a team, we’re always in communication with each other on what schedules look like so we can things done in a reasonable amount of time.
What’s your interaction with the residents like?
When I first started here, the residents were used to seeing the maintenance man that was here before, so it took some time before they felt comfortable coming to me and opening up about issues in their apartments or around the building. Now, I have a lot of interactions with the residents – probably more than the rest of the staff here. We have myself, a part-time housekeeper, an office manager, assistant office manager and a service coordinator, so out of all our staff, I think I’m the most visible simply because I’m out in the hallways working on things. The residents will stop and have conversations with me or show me something that I’ve missed around the building.
The fact that we’re in a residential neighborhood with lots of stores that residents can walk to also means that there’s some general population traffic in the area, so they may let me know if they see a person or car that’s questionable or something like that.
Talk a little bit about the GC of Bienterra community, the residents, the staff what’s the community like?
We’re one big family. One thing, I always say to the residents and I won’t ever stop saying is that my coworkers and I get an opportunity to come take care of their home. We don’t even see this as a job, we view this as being called to come in and serve the residents that live here. I’m excited each morning when I get cleaned up, get in my car and drive in every day. Because we spend a lot of time here, we view this as our home too – that’s how welcoming the community is. The residents always make us feel welcome and vice versa. It makes a big difference and it’s something we all come to enjoy every single day.
What are some of the testimonies you’ve heard from residents about how you’ve helped them?
The residents know what I’m doing every day. Whether I’m inside or outside they see me, and they see the work that I do. And the one thing that really just brings a lot of joy to my heart is making their home beautiful, because it brings a lot of joy to their hearts. Even on a daily basis I have any number of residents that will come up to me and tell me how much they appreciate what I do to make their home beautiful. I mean, for me that really is just a reward in itself. It just takes the cake.
Now that we’re moving toward the warmer seasons, what are some of the current projects you’re focusing on for the building?
Right now we’re in the midst of doing all of our spring landscaping. All of our perennials that we transplanted to the front of the building last year, are starting to pop the ground. The other day I actually got done installing 30 yards of mulch around the whole building in a lighter color to brighten things up a bit, which is a one-and-done process, so I won’t have to worry about mulch for another year. Now we’re going to start fertilizing, we’re going to do quarter aeration, start mowing and stuff like that. As a maintenance team, we’re always in communication with each other on what schedules look like so we can things done in a reasonable amount of time.
What’s the process for figuring out the timeline of these projects, when dealing with unpredictable weather?
We’re always looking at our weather apps, which predict up to 14 days out, so we do that to see if we can get a jump on certain things. For example, now that I’ve done the mulch, it just goes into maintenance mode of trimming, mowing, making sure that the bushes are trimmed up nicely and that all the flowers are blooming like they should be. It’s really all based on weather, but it was tough this year. A week or two ago we had a fluke snowstorm, and the snowpack that we had around all of our buildings, not just Bienterra, but around all of our Rockford buildings was just was crazy. All of our snow equipment is put away, but we had our guys come in to shovel and salt the paths, and it was warm enough the next day to melt the rest. If they forecast multiple days in a row of snow, then we’d have to shift gears and bring out the snow equipment again.
On our Facebook page, there was a post about the seed starting class you taught ELC residents. How did that class come about?
The seed starting class we did here at Bienterra was always a passion of mine. A couple years ago we built a raised planter bed to have the residents help plant produce, and I wanted to continue having the residents get more involved in those kinds of activities, so I taught them how to start their own plants from seeds. We were able to get a small portable greenhouse for the indoor process of starting seeds. We’re growing snapdragons, petunias, and different varieties of tomatoes and peppers. In all, we’ve probably got about 60 different plants that are growing in our greenhouse, which has artificial fluorescent and LED lighting, along with an excellent amount of natural sunlight, since it’s South-facing. So these plants are just doing fabulous right now. And the great thing about this is that the residents get to see the progression of the plants as they grow on a daily basis. And as a community, we’ve scheduled a day to take these plants outside.
What do you think encourages the residents to get involved in these types of activities?
In the past, we’ve done things like garden meetings, but we’re taking a building that’s been here for 20 years, with landscaping that’s been here for 20 years, and making a change. So the residents were looking to give suggestions on what they would like to see planted around the building and we try to get their input on that. When we did the seed starting class, we had a good turnout – probably double the names that were on the sign up sheet attended, so I was very happy with that. The was a lot of talk about the class around the building for about a week, and now, even the residents that didn’t attend still come downstairs and see all these plants that are growing, and that will continue to grow through the fall.
How do you think these types of outdoor projects help residents to embrace life?
It puts joy in their hearts because they will always say to me, ‘I remember back when I had my own house, and I used to take care of this stuff all the time.’ The other day residents were saying how they could sit on the benches under our front canopy area block and enjoy the warm weather, even though it was raining at that time. They get to enjoy what’s out here and how nice it looks. As beautiful as it is on the inside, they’re able to go outside the doors of the home they live in and see the same thing on the outside – and they appreciate all the hard work that goes into it. So I would say it gives them a positive outlook each day.
How do you embrace life yourself?
You know, a lot of people ask me, ‘surely you don’t go home and do the same thing?’ And I say ‘yes, I do!’ Because this home here [at Embrace Living Communities] looks like an exact replica of what my home looks like. So a lot of the ideas that I have that I run by our team is stuff that I tried in my own house, where I’ve lived for 24 years now. I’ve always been an outside person and the master gardener motto is to help others learn as we grow, so I’m constantly learning myself. I might make mistakes, but I try to figure out why it didn’t work, and what would happen if I changed things – climates, atmosphere of the plants- around a bit to see how they do. I like to go home and start working in my two large gardens. You can ask my wife, any of my friends, when I go home I don’t go inside – I’m an outdoors person.
Since working at ELC how has that impacted your life, if at all? Have there been any residents or staff members in particular who’ve touched your life in some way or the community in general?
I’m at a point in my life where I truly feel very blessed to be at today. I’ve had different jobs over the years for commercial construction, work manufacturing and, it’s completely different. I was with family on Easter weekend and we were discussing jobs, and I was able to share how blessed I am to be able to have this opportunity. It’s a great place to work because of the residents that live here and because of the coworkers that I get to do life with each and every day.
Feel free to contact us for any future resident, current resident, or general inquiries.