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Johanna Shores’ staff and volunteer receive Minnesota Activity Awards of Excellence

Service Excellence, a stated value of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), was recognized with fanfare at the 2017 Fall Conference of the Minnesota Statewide Activity Professionals Association (MN SWAP). On Thursday, October 12, Johanna Shores took home top awards presented to Kara Reiser, Gables Life Enrichment Director; Joanne Lott, Activity Volunteer and Blake Boche; Campus Administrator. The three were honored for going above and beyond in their commitment and service to promote the highest quality of life for older adults. 

Each year at the conference, MN SWAP honors individuals who excel and stand out in support of the activity profession and aging services. Kara, Joanne and Blake were nominated by Nancy Schwartz, Arbor Resident Services Director at Johanna Shores, with ringing endorsements by other recreation team leaders. Nancy appreciates the value of these awards. She was named 2014 Activity Professional of the Year by MN SWAP and 2015 Activity Professional of the Year by the National Association of Activity Professionals (NAAP).

Activity Professional of the Year: Kara Reiser
Kara received this award for making significant contributions the activity/recreation profession and improving the quality of life for older adults at Johanna Shores. Kara arrived at Johanna Shores just over a year ago bringing over 30 years experience as an activities professional. Kara has been a member and leader of MN SWAP for 27 years, serving on its board as Vice President and Regional President. She is a board certified activity director and consultant through the National Certification Council for Activity Professionals

“Kara takes our activities to a new level and brings the whole interdisciplinary team on board,” wrote Nancy Schwartz in her nomination. “With her extensive experience, she dives right in with full force with new ideas and ways to create meaningful programs and memories for residents, families, staff and volunteers. Her passion is evident in all she does,” Nancy added. 

 “What an honor and privilege it is to receive this award,” Kara said. “I have always looked up to those who have served within MN SWAP and admired their commitment to the career of activities which identifies us as professionals who are serious about our vocation,” she said. Kara credits her family and past mentors for supporting her toward her career achievements. “They inspire and motivate me to learn and serve older adults better and enrich their lives through consistent positive support,” she said.

Volunteer of the Year: Joanne Lott
Joanne has volunteered at Johanna Shores for over a decade. She was named Volunteer of the Year for her dedication to volunteerism and faithful service to older adults. Joanne has served in many capacities at Johanna Shores, including assisting with resident outings, serving in the dining room, escorting residents to campus appointments and activities, leading a story and chat group. She has often given up to 40 hours in a week. 

“Joanne has been ‘showing up’ almost daily for 10 years,” said Liz Jurchisin, Johanna Shores Activity Coordinator, in her letter of endorsement. “She is always ready with a hug and kind words and is a good listener for staff and residents alike,” she wrote.

Joanne said, “I am very honored to receive this award and believe that God has guided me to this purpose for Johanna Shores. It means so much to me. I love the interaction with the residents and getting to know them individually.” She said that Nancy Schwartz, as well as her twin daughters, Jan and Jane, have been most supportive of her. 

Excellence in Administration: Blake Boche
Blake has been with PHS for over 16 years, starting as a Resident Assistant at Johanna Shores Care Center and rising through the ranks in several PHS communities as Activities Coordinator, Household Coordinator, Recreational Therapist, Housing Manager, Care Center Administrator and now Campus Administrator. He received this award for consistently advancing activity and recreation services as a profession and for supporting the activity professionals at Johanna Shores and through MN SWAP. 

“Blake has stood by his department leaders [through significant campus transitions] and offered support and encouragement,” said Jane Chagnon, Johanna Shores Recreation and Wellness Director, in her letter of endorsement. “He is very supportive of our participation in continuing education and professional associations and has taken the time and effort to support our Life Enrichment Staff as an integral part of Johanna Shores,” she wrote. Jane points specifically and with pride to Blake’s effort to get Johanna Shores, new pontoon boat, the SS Graham, and for enlisting resident volunteers as boat pilots for outings on Lake Johanna.

Blake said, “It is such an honor to receive this award. Having started as an activity coordinator, it has special meaning for me to be recognized by MN SWAP and my team in this way.” Blake values the direct impact that the Life Enrichment (activities) staff has on the well being of older adults. “It feeds my heart that residents are happy and engaging in life. It’s what drives me every day,” he said. 

Congratulations to Kara, Joanne and Blake, and thank you for your service to Johanna Shores!

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