How do you recognize someone who works in “life enrichment” and is always focused on others? You know the type – they might respond, “I don’t need recognition – my glory is in the smiles of those we serve every day.” Well, Jess Drecktrah, who supports life enrichment across PHS, has an insight to share – these leaders actually do want to be recognized. The truth is, we all need affirmation that what we do matters.
Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS) employs 150 professionals dedicated to life enrichment, recreation and volunteerism, with varying roles depending on the size and needs of each community. These individuals get to know residents on a personal level and come up with ideas, both large and small, to meaningfully engage residents in having fun, learning, and connecting with others.
Bound for Glory
Jess has a passion for elevating the profession of life enrichment in senior living – that the power of community requires thoughtful shepherds of people’s gifts and energy. As such, Jess initially wondered how best to energize this creative and friendly group. So, she naturally sought advice from the functional leads in Life Enrichment and Volunteerism: Cassandra Cook of Woodland Hill, Laura Thompson of Boutwells Landing and Samantha Sleeman of Optage Hospice. What Jess learned is that due to the collaborative nature of the group, a traveling award would work best based on open nominations and selection by peers.
Over a weekend of prayer and study of movements in song making, Jess came across the lyrics to Rosetta Tharpe’s song, Bound for Glory. Jess had the vision of train tracks fading into the heavens and she knew the image would be powerful to represent life enrichment at PHS. Jess later learned that Tharpe influenced many others who became rock stars like Elvis and Johnny Cash. This is what life enrichment professionals do – they lay the tracks that enable others to be (and feel) bound for glory.
With the help of her daughters, Jess crafted the trophy which combines a plant, a rock (with a star painted on it), and a golden microphone. Jess joked that winners would receive a “live rock star show.” She went on to describe, “The plant represents the live nature of the work we do. The rock with the star on it represents the subtle unsung fact that we are all rock stars. The golden microphone symbolizes the show. The train represents movement and the belief that we are bound for glory. Each recipient of the award also gets 10 microphone pins to bestow on others who support life enrichment efforts in a significant way. The mission of PHS is to ‘Honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,’ so the important part,” noted Jess, “is that everything points back to the glory of God through the call of service.”
Accepting the Award
The inaugural winner of the Bound for Glory award, as nominated and selected by his peers, is Kevin O’Donnell! Kevin has served at McKenna Crossing in Prior Lake Minnesota for nearly 10 years. He serves nearly 200 residents as Recreation and Wellness Director for the community. Campus Administrator Melissa Kirchhoff nominated Kevin saying, “We are lucky to have Kevin! He creates so many opportunities for residents in the community to share their purpose.” She continued, “Kevin genuinely cares for the residents, he listens to feedback on programming and helps create the fun on our campus!” Melissa noted that Kevin is at the center of the community’s “Rock and Walk” fundraiser for memory care programming and new initiatives. At the Rock and Walk, you will find live music, people getting outside to enjoy the trails around the property, and yes, Kevin dressed up as Elvis! He even joined the live band to sing some Elvis classics. Melissa closed by saying, “We are grateful to have his dedication and his caring heart. It is evident that he loves our community.”
Kevin was humbled by the award from his peers and was eager to recognize others on the McKenna Crossing team. Jess noted that nominations are again open, and that Kevin will soon have the opportunity to select the next recipient of the traveling award – because glory is meant for sharing.