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From server to leader: Mary Kluthe’s enduring vocation at PHS

The 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 our continuing series, “We Will,” we introduce you to PHS employees who are living out these values and working together toward a better, brighter future for the older adults we serve.

Meet Assistant Culinary Director Mary Kluthe, who started her vocation over 40 years ago as a dining room server at Johanna Shores in Arden Hills, Minnesota. Every day, Mary (pictured 3rd from the right) leads her team to be “ready and engaged people,” a core value of Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS).

Mai See Vang, a member of Mary’s team, noted how ready and engaged Mary is, writing, “Mary shows up to work early and doesn’t hesitate to come in on her day off to support her staff. She does a fabulous job without thinking twice about how long her day may be.”

In 1980, Mary was in high school and working part-time as a dining room server at Presbyterian Homes of Arden Hills, now Johanna Shores. She remembers, “I didn’t think I’d work here for long, a couple of months at most.” Yet, in the 41 years since, Mary has worked continuously for PHS, starting as a server, then lead server, to shift supervisor and now as the Assistant Culinary Director at Johanna Shores.

Mary admits that when she graduated high school, she wasn’t considering a career in culinary services. She said, “I went into a 2-year administrative program to be a secretary.” At the same time, she continued working at Johanna Shores. She recalled, “Things just fell into place. I got married, had a family and we lived close by.” She continued, “I knew I had to work and PHS is a great place to work.”

Every workday, she oversees the dining operations for the independent and assisted living residents of Johanna Shores. “But I get around,” she admits, “and we all work together.” Mai can testify to Mary’s commitment to her team and readiness to get the job done. Mai wrote, “We’re all hands on deck in the dish room, hauling hot and cold carts over to the care center, running room tray service and then taking out the garbage.”

Throughout the years, Mary’s relationships with residents have meant the most to her. She fondly remembers a resident named Ruth who lived across the hall from her office. Mary recollects, “Ruth would come by to say hi but I really didn’t think she liked me. We were nothing alike.” As time went on, Ruth and Mary warmed up to each other. When Ruth moved to the care center, Mary would visit her. Mary said, “We spent a lot of time together and shortly before Ruth passed away, she told me I was her best friend!”

Mary’s initiative to learn and grow throughout her vocation at PHS, along with her commitment to the wellbeing of residents and employees alike, are the essence of being ready and engaged. Mary’s motivation to remain on the Nutrition and Culinary Team seems obvious to her. She says, “A lot of good happens here. That’s why I’m still here.”

We at PHS are grateful to Mary, the team at Johanna Shores and every employee who helps create an environment of teamwork. We will work together as ready and engaged people.

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