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Make Your Mark: Nawassa Smith spreads positivity like 'a ray of sunshine'

Nawassa SmithThe mission of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS), “to honor God by enriching the lives and touching the hearts of older adults,” is fulfilled when the actions of our employees demonstrate our stated values. In doing so, they “make their mark” upon those we serve. In our continuing series, “Make your Mark,” we introduce you to PHS employees who are living out these values.
From morning to evening, wherever she goes and whatever she does, Nawassa Smith makes her mark with a wide smile and a warm greeting. Nawassa, who serves as Optage Hospice Services Coordinator, lives out the PHS core value of service excellence, which says, “I greet each person with warmth and sincerity.” In doing so, she creates an exceptional experience for clients and coworkers alike. Lindsy Anderson, Optage Services Supervisor, said, “Nawassa is a wonderful example of the variety of ways to serve here at PHS—and that a greeting can go a long way.”
Starting as a volunteer in 2010, Nawassa became an employee in 2013 with Optage Hospice in Roseville, Minnesota. Her abundance of joy is what people remember best about Nawassa. “Nawassa is one of the first voices you hear in the office in the morning: greeting people by name, asking how they are doing, bringing smiles and laughter," Lindsy said. “She sings a lot, too, and brings such positivity to the office and everyone she meets.

Joseph Michelli, author of The New Gold Standard, explains the connection between a warm greeting and service excellence. He writes, “The highest level of customer care is attained when service transcends attention to detail and embraces genuine empathy.”
Nawassa’s empathy was felt by Pum Swanson, Housing Billing Specialist, on her first day at PHS four years ago. Pum wrote, “She introduced herself to me and took me on a tour of the whole building.  I could tell that everybody loved her and was very happy to see her. What could have been an awkward day [for me] became so much easier. Because of her, I felt welcome.”
Nawassa says her family and African-American heritage taught her how to care well for others, especially across generations. She felt inspired as a child by witnessing her family working together to care for an older family member who had cancer. She now holds a greater understanding of the word “family.” She explains, “It’s more of a support system through the rough, difficult and confusing situations of life. I feel complete when I’ve helped relieve stress or made someone’s day better.”
Such wisdom makes a mark in the wider context when COVID-19 intersects with racial injustice—two great challenges facing our nation today. “Love one another,” Nawassa says, echoing Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35, which are included in the biblical framework of PHS. “Change will not come unless we as individuals change. In God’s eyes, we are all God’s people,” she says and concludes, “I think this is why COVID-19 arrived, to show us we are all the same—all human beings. As for me, I shall do as Jesus commands, which is to love others.”
Loving others is how Nawaasa makes her mark and finds meaning in her work with Optage Hospice. “I’ve always wanted to work in hospice because it’s when an older adult needs the most support. My loving heart always wants to be sure that no one feels alone,” she said.
Lindsy says Nawassa’s role at Optage Hospice provides critical support as “she ensures service requests and records are processed and that client charts are complete,” adding, “she’s also a resource to field staff to make sure their visits are scheduled and to answer their questions or connect them to whoever can best assist them.”
Nawassa’s responsiveness, resourcefulness and attention to detail—all acts of care for others—are  illuminated by her bright personality. As Nawassa says with a wink, “I’m such a ray of sunshine, I’m everywhere.”
We are blessed and thankful to Nawassa and all PHS employees who make their mark, demonstrating service excellence and radiating positivity. 😊
Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to make a mark at

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