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From volunteers to employees: Caleb and Craig say it all started with bingo

From left: Caleb Long, CNA, and Craig Ahlers, RN and clinical coordinator at Harmony River
From left: Caleb Long, CNA, and Craig Ahlers, RN and clinical coordinator at Harmony River
B-I-N-G-O and bingo was their call-o! Caleb Long and Craig Ahlers volunteered simply to call numbers for the popular game at Harmony River in Hutchinson, MN. Little did they know that they had each taken steps on the road to a career with Presbyterian Homes & Services (PHS). Now years later, Caleb serves as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and Craig as an RN and clinical coordinator at Harmony River.

Each came to Harmony River at different times, but both Caleb and Craig have their mothers to thank for their start. Both began volunteering at a young age when their mothers took them to help residents with bingo. The relationships they built over several years as volunteers motivated them to do more.

Craig’s journey

Craig began volunteering about 16 years ago when Harmony River was known as Burns Manor. He reflected that, at 10 years old, it was “something to do in the summer.” He started helping with bingo; then, over the next several years, he escorted residents to the beauty shop and enjoyed one-to-one activities with residents. When he turned 16, he applied for a job as a culinary server at Harmony River and was hired. Two years later, he trained and received his CNA license. He worked in that position through college before becoming an RN. Over the following years, his career advanced and he took on his current role as clinical coordinator.

Pam Wolling, a clinical administrator at Harmony River, was Craig’s mentor. She helped Craig find jobs and encouraged him to see his future at Harmony River. Craig explained, “She made sure I would get my license and then become an RN — all while continuing at Harmony River.”

Caleb’s pathway

Caleb started volunteering for Harmony River in his freshman year at Maplewood Academy in Hutchinson. In his first two years, he participated in the school’s community assist program. By being in the program, his tuition was reduced. But, that didn’t matter to him as much as the experience he gained. He spent two years in the assist program volunteering at Hillside, a neighborhood of Harmony River. There he worked with residents one-to-one and in small groups.

When the school program changed, and Caleb was no longer eligible, he turned to Pam Radunz, resident services director at Harmony River. Caleb asked her if there was a way he could still volunteer. Even better, she found him a job as an activity assistant in Fern Pathway, the memory care neighborhood at Harmony River. “I always wanted to follow my dad into healthcare,” Caleb said. He ventured to get his CNA license, which helped him get his current job. 

Caleb loved volunteering but enjoys and appreciates steady employment. Being an employee allows him to better maintain his relationships with residents, which is important to him. “Just being there and being patient is what these residents need and, if they can depend on me, then I am doing my job,” says Caleb.

The future is bright!

Craig foresees staying at Harmony River for as long as possible. He has already dedicated 16 years and has more to offer. He jokes, “I feel sometimes I am here more than I am at my own house.” Craig has lived in Hutchinson his whole life, and Harmony River has been a special place for him. He says, “I see [more] people moving here, and I also have family here. So the town does play a part in my staying at Harmony River.” Feeling he has meaningful work in a place dear to his heart helps make Craig an excellent employee.

Caleb envisions that his vocational pathway, which began at Harmony River, will take him far. He plans to continue his education at Union College this fall and hopes to become a physician because he wants to “have ongoing relationships with patients.” Building and maintaining relationships is a high value for Caleb. Craig adds, “Caleb is a great guy and he does a really good job with Harmony River residents.”

Caleb says that he would tell future employees or people interested in PHS, “Know that helping others makes residents feel good and it also makes you feel good. It just does good. Many know that work isn’t always fun, but this work is always fun, and every resident becomes one of your friends.” Craig adds, “The atmosphere is friendly and really becomes where you have a second family and home.”

We thank Caleb and Craig and many others in PHS who started as volunteers and became employees. We appreciate their good service and dedication to residents.

Want to find out if serving older adults at PHS is for you? Start as a volunteer — you might find your future as an employee! For ideas and ways to volunteer, click here or email [email protected].

Find out more about employment opportunities on the PHS career page.

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