Commonwealth Senior Living’s “Gas Up” event on January 11 was about support from the top down rather than filling up. Commonwealth Senior Living President and CEO Richard Brewer was on hand personally at the Cavalier Xpress last Thursday to fill up the tanks of 53 Senior Living associates. Brewer said the idea of a “Gas Up” was tried out in Gloucester, Virginia several years ago.
“Putting a little bonus in a paycheck was boring. At the time we first did this gas prices had spiked. Everybody needs gas. It went well and I got to meet everyone and see what cars they drove,” said Brewer. “I think it’s servant leadership. It’s having a positive impact on the lives of our associates who go above and beyond every day making a difference in the lives of our customers. It’s an interesting business. We’re people caring for people.”
Brewer said the approach is one where management responds to those who are on the ground every day not only meeting but exceeding the standards of the company. A process where communication “perks” up rather than direction only being laid down by managers.
He said Commonwealth consistently has earned recognition for going above and beyond. Not only has he learned more about associates, the sight of an executive pumping gas has attracted new employees (one convenience store cashier at an earlier Gas Up was so impressed she went on to work with the Commonwealth Senior Living for many years.)
“This is a true honor for the employees at the community and a testament to how well every resident is cared for. Commonwealth Senior Living at Hillsville recently secured its two-year license from the Virginia Department of Social Services,” said Mike C. Gray of Commonwealth Partnerships. “Only a fraction of assisted living communities throughout the state receive two-year licenses, which the DSS gives only to communities who have stellar performance in caring for senior, solid management practices, and exceeds all expectations set forward by the Commonwealth of Virginia.”
Commonwealth Senor Living Associates Mary Beth Hall RMA; Chasity Rupe, RMA and Carolyn Worrell, Care Associate, appeared pleased about the upcoming Gas Up last Tuesday. They all agreed everybody needs gas.
“My reaction was being grateful. It really makes a difference to us. It makes you feel appreciated as an individual,” said Worrell.
Rupe said she was “shocked and elated” and had never worked for a company which did something like this. Hall has been with Commonwealth Senior Living for 12 years; Worrell started in April and Rupe has been with the firm for two years. They shared their feelings on Brewer’s from-the-top-down approach.
“(In my opinion) It’s really above and beyond what is expected from them. It’s above and beyond what anyone else I’ve ever worked for has done to show their appreciation and gratitude to the employees,” said Hall.
The trio agreed State certification is a wonderful “stamp of approval” for their efforts, and that while what they do is something from the heart, certification is a form of validation and makes them feel appreciated as an individual.
“I think it ties in with the core values that they (Commonwealth Senior Living) live by. The values of listening, love, care and service,” Worrell said.
Hall said she virtually grew up in the caregiver profession and had a passion for helping the elderly, being brought up around it by her mother, Kathy.
“I’ve done this kind of work off and on for on 30 years. I’ve taken care for some of her loved ones. The rewards that you get back when you know someone you are taking care of are priceless,” Worrell said. “It’s knowing when you see one of our residents smile and (get a) thank you after doing something for them….that’s a huge reward for me.”
This wisdom is hard earned, the feeling of being cared for in a harsh world. Hall said they typically spend more hours at work than at home, making their charges like family. Worrell explained it’s about knowing you made a difference in somebody’s life every day.
“My favorite part of the job is just making sure they are taken care of. It feels like a big family to me. They are my extended family. You get to know them personally,” said Rupe. “When they say thank you and they love you and they appreciate what you do. You start caring for these people and they are my extended family. The staff here is like family also. We have an excellent staff here.”
The three agreed one of the reasons Commonwealth is successful is communication is open and managers are willing to help do anything on the floor, saying they are only as good as the team. None of the three said they have special plans once the gas tank is filled. They said it will be business as usual, and probably be used to drive to work.
They are also impressed Brewer is personally pumping gas and they feel it says a lot about him.
“So you come here to this company and they show you this kind of support, wow!” said Worrell. “It makes me appreciate where I’m at every day.”
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.