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CARING FOR OUR FAMILY DURING THE PANDEMIC

From the desk of Carla Fresh, Chief Marketing Officer at St. Mark Village:

Good fortune truly smiled upon me when I walked through the doors of St. Mark Village thirty years ago. From my days in the Care Centers and through the years as part of the Sales and Marketing team, to my present position as Chief Marketing Officer, every chapter has had its challenges. However, I can truly say this “job” has brought great joy to my life. I have made lifelong friends with my fellow Team Members, our Residents, and their families. Over the years I have witnessed countless gestures of kindness and compassion from Residents and Team Members alike. When my parents decided that the time had come to consider moving to a Retirement Community, I hoped that St. Mark Village would be their choice. A decision of this magnitude and a move is always stressful. Over the time since my parents made the decision to move to St. Mark Village, my parents gradually started to feel safe and secure, at peace in their new home. In the days since their move, I have been able to see them enjoying beautifully prepared meals with new friends — laughing with the Team Members who serve them. They talk about how much they love the Wellness classes and their amazement at the richness and variety of our Life Enrichment program.

Things were moving along quite nicely… and I think you know where this story is going — a global pandemic. If I am being honest, I have to admit that there are days filled with a feeling that I am helpless to protect my parents from the virus. However, there are more days when I am grateful that my parents are not alone in a house, but rather here with me. I am grateful that we are members of the St. Mark Village family, all responsible for taking care of one another. As the pandemic continues on, I see our Team Members working tirelessly, not only to supply the basics, but also to continue embracing our Mission of four decades — to enrich the lives of the Residents we serve by creating an environment that fulfills their every need – body, mind, and spirit. I am blessed because in these uncertain and volatile times, I still see Residents and Team Members reaching out to lift each other up. I still see friends dining together and enjoying conversation. I still hear music and laughter. Our generous and resilient Residents constantly take the time to ask the Team Members how they are doing, if we eating and sleeping and taking care of ourselves, and most of all thanking us for all we do for them. These words mean everything to us. That is why we are here.

When I take a moment to reflect, I remember meeting with our CEO and the Executive Team in February to develop a plan to respond to Covid-19. In early March, we started implementing that plan. There was not much guidance from our the various regulatory bodies, though we are a highly regulated industry. Nor was there much information from our government agencies. So, we all became researchers and repurposed ourselves to do whatever needed to be done. I in essence became a purchasing officer in addition to my duties as Chief Marketing Officer. My days and nights were spent looking for personal protective equipment as we received little to no aid from any official source; state, federal, or otherwise. Other Team Members from multiple departments solved TV and computer issues, delivered donations of food from local restaurants, and became check point screeners. Since we had multiple check points set up around the clock, friends and families of Team Members became screeners, package deliverers, and even sorted mail when the U.S. Postal Service stopped bringing mail inside the building. We set up a recording studio where we could record video updates to inform and entertain the Residents. Our CEO, no matter how tired he was, has updated Residents each week via video, as we fought against the virus. The battle continued into April and lives were lost here at the Village. This is the most difficult chapter to write. We continue to mourn and honor the Residents from our Skilled Nursing, many of whom have been a part of our lives for decades, that we lost to Covid-19. Those were, and are, my saddest days in my thirty years with St. Mark Village. We still have many challenges to face going forward. Each day, we brainstorm about ways to help our Care Center Residents and families stay connected during this seemingly endless time of restrictions on visitation.

Last week, I added another chapter to my tale as a Village employee who is also a family member. I received a text message from my sister on a day that I was not working. The message stated that my Dad was being rushed to the emergency room and was going to need surgery. In the days of coronavirus, with no ICU beds available, I was really, really frightened. Where was Mom? Mom struggles with macular degeneration while in unfamiliar places and she relies upon my dad to be her eyes. By the time I arrived at St. Mark, my Mom was safe and sound in their apartment. I learned that our Concierge had arranged last minute transportation for my parents to the doctor. One of the dedicated St. Mark Village drivers escorted them and stayed at the doctor with them. Next he transported them to the nearest emergency room and continued to stay with them. When my Mom was told she could not stay because of coronavirus restrictions, she was understandably very upset. With respectful and gentle persuasion, their driver convinced her to come with him back to St. Mark Village. He just could not leave her sitting on a bench in the heat in front of the emergency room. After a few nerve-racking days, when we couldn’t get much information from the hospital and we were not able to visit, Dad returned home. Our Resident Nurse Manager was there immediately to check on dad, go over all his discharge orders, and late on a Friday afternoon, she even arranged for a St. Mark Village CNA to do whatever my parents needed over the weekend; setting up delivery of all their meals to their apartment. The weekend went smoothly thanks to the dedicated St. Mark Village team. All my parents needed to do was concentrate on rest and recovery. I have seen our compassionate Team Members go above and beyond countless times over the years though this was the first time I was a worried daughter, rather than simply a Team Member. I am truly grateful to each of them for all of their selfless support for mom and dad during this time.

To close, the entire St. Mark Village family thanks you from the bottom of our hearts for your kind words, continued support, and patience as we navigate this global emergency together. We cannot predict what will happen next. All we can do is continue to do the next right thing. Your peace of mind as-well-as the safety, health, and well-being of your loved ones is our first priority. Please continue to stay tuned to our Covid page for weekly updates at: www.StMarkVillage.org/Covid19. You may also access our in-house newsletter, the Lively Mark, distributed to Residents each week and available to families online at: www.StMarkVillage.org/Lively-Mark. To communicate with me directly to share your stories, please feel free to call me at: (727) 785-2580 or email me at cfresh@stmarkvillage.org.

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