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Make Your Mark: Engineer Don LaValle tackles ‘A to Z’ with care and humor

Don LaValle and Michele NicholasThe 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.

As we anticipate National Health Care Environmental Services Week, we share a Make Your Mark story about Don LaValle. For more than 27 years, Don (pictured right with Michele Nicholas, Housing Director) has served with PHS, including 20-plus years as the Engineer at The Mayfield in Little Canada, MN. The world prizes engineers for skillful work using their minds and hands, and PHS staff and residents say Don does this and so much more. He makes his mark by engaging his full heart on the job – a reflection of the PHS value of Ready & Engaged People.

Lee Osterberg, who is a Regional Director of Operations, oversees PHS senior independent living apartment communities such as The Mayfield and knows Don well. He says, “Number one is Don’s strength of character and loyalty. He takes so much pride in the maintenance of The Mayfield, making sure everything is in working order. Safety comes first, and he’s always looking out for residents.” Lee adds, “Don knows every resident by name, their families and takes extra time to ask if they’re doing okay and if there’s anything he can do.”

Don LaValle delivers Easter liliesDon’s care also shows up as humor. Lee continues, “When I see Don in action, it’s his customer service with a touch of humor. Don is very witty.” He explains, “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, Don handles it with professionalism and his humor lets everyone know it’s going to be okay.” (Pictured left: Don delivers Easter lilies to residents' apartments during COVID.)

For example, a resident recently experienced an electrical issue in her apartment that Don worked tirelessly to resolve after several days and nights. She commented, “This situation made us closer by having to work together. Don’s caring and concern touched me the most. It made a difficult time so much easier.”

Mayfield Housing Director Michele Nicholas works alongside Don every day. She confirms that Don’s humor has helped reassure the community through the challenges of COVID. She says, “We’re always smiling and laughing at The Mayfield. So many times, during the COVID pandemic, his sense of humor gave us a reality check. We still find things to laugh about even in a crisis.”

Don admits things have been hectic the past six months. In his words, he’s tackled problems “from A to Z.” Yet, with wisdom built up over the years, he says, “You take it one day at a time. Say your prayers and ‘Let’s get to it!’” He credits the community, saying, “It’s the residents who keep me going — whatever I can do to help them. It’s why the good Lord sent me. This is my calling.” He concludes, “I have one regret: I only wish I had started sooner.”

We at PHS are grateful to Don and our 400-plus employees who serve in Environmental Services including Engineers, Maintenance Technicians and Housekeeping Services employees. Your ready and engaged service helps build safer, more secure communities for thousands of older adults. Plus, you create smiles!

Do you know someone looking for more purpose in their work? Share the good news and the many opportunities to make a mark at

Rated #1 employer in Minnesota by Forbes!

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