Q & A with Kenyae Hooker, Manager at North Orchard Place

Back to Blog

Everyone hopes to embark on a career path that feels like a calling, not a job. For Kenyae Hooker, her passion for helping others and desire for career advancement forged together on a common path at Embrace Living Communities.

Read about her journey, below:

 

How long have you been with Embrace Living Communities and what initially drew you to the organization?

I started working with Embrace Living Communities in 2007. I was actually doing security here at North Orchard Place for six years, and I had a relationship with coworkers. That relationships that I formed made me feel welcomed, and I saw the way they called residents into the office and handled business with them. It was a company I wanted to work for because they had the residents’ best interest at heart. Not only that, but there were just some beautiful people to have in your life, so I decided to go back to school and when I finished I applied for a job and I was hired at Greencastle of Morgan Park. I worked there for four years before returning to North Orchard Place in 2017 as the community manager.  

 

What’s your day-to-day role as a Community Manager include?

Well, for the most part I have paperwork that I need to complete, but we’re here to serve the residents, so if a resident comes into the office and they have a situation going on in their apartment, I’ll stop that paperwork process to address whatever issue or concern they have. I’m never doing the same thing every day.

 

How does the North Orchard Place community like to spend their time together? 

We create a newsletter each month and include everything we plan on doing for the month.  We hold these different activities at least four or five times a month. We have a couple of days where we have bingo and give out raffle tickets. Whether or not they’re playing bingo, residents can end up winning something like a clock from the raffle. Then, typically on Tuesdays, we put on a DVD and lead wheelchair exercises for the residents. Every year during the holiday, we hold a Thanksgiving dinner and a Christmas dinner for residents.

 

An important thing for senior health that often gets overlooked is social wellness. How does the staff try to encourage social engagement?

In my experience, it’s actually been easier to get the seniors involved than the younger crowd. I think it’s because they can get lonely, but they enjoy being around people. I talked with some residents before, and they’ve said they wish they were able to get out and do more things. So, I try to listen to the comments residents have made and include their suggestions. We’re actually working on that now where we’re making a list of activities and events the residents want. In July, when it will be warm, we’ve planned to have a “Diversity Day,” suggested by one resident. This is a very diverse building, so on this day, residents will make an ethnic dish, tell a story about its history, why they chose it, and share with everyone in our community room.

 

What are some of the organizations that partner with North Orchard Place, and how do you go about setting up those partnerships?

Our building’s Social Service Coordinator handles most of our relationships with other organizations like Catholic Charities and food service organizations that provide services to us. I try to form some relationships, as well.

One of those relationships is with the local Alderman. He and his office have helped our community tremendously since I became manager.

We had a 30th anniversary last December and many of the residents had been at the building since it opened. The alderman came out and presented the residents with their proclamation award. I felt that was important because although this is a small community here, I want residents to know that they count. I could’ve awarded them myself, but I thought it would be more special if the alderman did it.  It was a really, really nice event.

Also, the alderman and his office visited our community to drop of turkeys for Thanksgiving,  They’ve come in to meet with residents and listen to their concerns. They’ve been over here repaving streets and sidewalks, and two months ago they confirmed that they will have a red light installed [per residents’ request]. It’s been a great relationship. 

 

In all your time working with Embrace Living Communities, how has it impacted your life?

I’ve had a lot of residents who’ve impacted me. My experience with older people is that they always try to encourage you. Residents have shared how their lives were and how you should appreciate life, and what you need to do to grow, which is something I’ve always really appreciated.

With this company as a whole, they offer so much room for advancement and growth. When I started, I began as a Home and Community Office Assistant. I went back to school, got my Associates Degree and became the Assistant Manager. Went back to school again, got my Bachelor’s Degree and became the Manager. They offer tuition reimbursement and really encourage you to attend school and really let you know how they can help you.

Not only that, but they don’t make you feel like a stranger. None of us are at the same building, but when everyone gets together it’s like you’ve been around them forever. You’re not just a number or an employee. They just make you feel so welcomed and at home. When we have our company picnic, everyone mingles. The corporate office makes time to get to know everyone and makes sure to treat us like family. I am so grateful to be a company like this.

WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux