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ERS Linkage Podcast - Episode 27

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 Learn from Yesterday, Hope for Tomorrow: Episode 27

Date: December 23rd 2020

Hosts: Bryan Reynolds & Kristin Davenport

Guests: Reverent David Lowry, Laura Lamb, JoAnn Hagopian and Pat Donaldson

For our twenty-seventh and final episode for the 2020 year, we touch base with four guests: Reverend David Lowry at Marjorie P. Lee, CEO Laura Lamb, Chair of the ERS board, JoAnn Hagopian and resident Pat Donaldson at Deupree House. 

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Episode 27 Transcript


Bryan Reynolds [00:00:03] Hello, hello, hello, welcome to Episode twenty seven of the Linkage podcast by Episcopal Retirement Services. This episode is for the week of December twenty first two thousand twenty. Thanks so much for joining us and happy holidays to everyone. I'm Bryan Reynolds Vice President of Marketing of Episcopal Retirement Services, and I'm here with Kristin Davenport, our Director of Communications for ERS and our executive producer. How are you, Kristen?

Kristin Davenport [00:00:31] Feeling very festive today. And this is a great week. A lot of anticipation of just trying to honor some traditions, maybe a new and different ways. So just excited to get together one more time with you and our guests before we finish up this year.

Bryan Reynolds [00:00:51] That's right. And the Linkage podcast, just as a reminder for everyone, is dedicated to educating our audience about the issues regarding aging, informing people about the mission of ERS and how that comes to life in our everyday interactions with our residents, clients, families and staff members. Kristin, you want to tell us about our upcoming episode? It's a big one.

Kristin Davenport [00:01:14] This is kind of an epic episode to end our year. Joining us for this episode, we talked a little bit about how we wanted to end the year and we thought it might be a nice idea to to kind of bookend our podcast by kind of ending where we began the year. So I revisited my conversation with the Reverend David Lowery, who's one of our residents at Marjorie P. Lee. And Bryan, you got to check in with Pat Donaldson, who is a resident at Deupree House. And then joining us also is not only our president and CEO Laura Lamb, who will give us an update this week, but also Bryan. Also, you had the pleasure of having a conversation with our outgoing board chair, JoAnn Hagopian, and she is a talented and generous leader, has really helped our organization through just not only some some interesting transitions, but this unprecedented year.

Bryan Reynolds [00:02:25] Yeah.

Kristin Davenport [00:02:26] I can't wait to hear that interview Bryan.

Bryan Reynolds [00:02:29] Absolutely. Well, with that said, do you want to introduce your first guest that you interviewed?

Kristin Davenport [00:02:36] So the Reverend David Lowery, he lives at Marjorie P. Lee. And we talked together and our very first episode before we really even knew what this podcast was going to be. We both revisited our our conversation and checked in together this week. And everyone, please welcome back David Lowery.

Kristin Davenport [00:03:10] David, welcome to the Linkage podcast, or I should say, welcome back.

Reverend David Lowry [00:03:15] Thank you.

Kristin Davenport [00:03:16] So thankful that you agreed to help us end the year by reflecting back with me to when we first started the show. And I'm just glad to connect with you again today.

Reverend David Lowry [00:03:31] Yeah. Wasn't it April that we first talked our way?

Kristin Davenport [00:03:37] Yes, hard to believe. Yes. It's been going on for that many months. Some days it seems like it's just all running together. So kind of nice that we've got the holidays and the end of the year to give us some mile mile markers on this marathon journey that we're on.

Reverend David Lowry [00:03:54] I remember when we talked back in the spring, of course, this experience was new and I remember saying, oh, well, I'm fine, my spirits are good and I'm well protected and cared for here. And I'm I'm just going to ride this out as long as it takes. You know that, now. That sound a little that sounds a little cocky, I think, you know, I mean, it's still true. You know, I'm feeling good and I'm protected and well cared for and in good spirits. But nine months later, approximately, and probably another six months to go like this before summer. Well, OK. It turned out to be a longer hold on. I was expected to admit to that.

Kristin Davenport [00:04:57] Yeah, I agree. And I don't know if there was just a lot of optimism about people complying with the safety recommendations. Obviously, that's been a roller coaster, but...

Reverend David Lowry [00:05:16] It certinaly had. You know, one of the things I've been doing is a good bit of reading, a lot of different reading. I mean, everything from John Gresham's new book, Murder Mystery and David Susskind, who wrote On A World Without Work, talking about how technology and artificial intelligence is changing our futu re right now.

Kristin Davenport [00:05:48] Oh, wow! I'm writing that one down.

Reverend David Lowry [00:05:48] Yeah, it's a good book, David Suskind, but the one that I really have spent a lot of time with is Ron Chernow's excellent biography of George Washington Journal. You know, wrote the Hamilton book.

Kristin Davenport [00:06:03] Yes.

Reverend David Lowry [00:06:04] That inspired the musical. Well, this is this is a little 800 page volume about George Washington. And he does not present Washington as a plaster saint on a pedestal. He he presents a very complex, conflicted, ambitious man with many qualities. But the one quality that struck out to me was what they call virtue, the old classic Greek called virtue, which is defined as placing the common good above my personal desire. And what you just said triggered that for me, because we have not had either our leaders or ourselves that virtue.

Kristin Davenport [00:07:02] Right.

Reverend David Lowry [00:07:02] To think about the common good rather than what I want to do or what would be better for me, you know.

Kristin Davenport [00:07:09] Right.

Reverend David Lowry [00:07:09] And we really yearn for that, for that quality of of caring enough to wear a mask, of caring enough to think that maybe what I do is going to affect somebody else. And that has been so missing and in our Covid year, I'm afraid, as well.

Kristin Davenport [00:07:30] And I guess what has struck me being, you know, on the outside, what sort of living like, you know, in a room down the hall from you is just that. We're not really equipped, we have not equipped ourselves for virtue. We were equipped to, you know, just keep doing what we want, wish, desire to do without really too much of a deep thought about consequences for anybody else.

Reverend David Lowry [00:08:07] I'm afraid that's true. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Some other some other societies are more equipped for a communitarian point of view. We we are still kind of a frontier people where, you know, rugged individuals who can't be told what to do and what not to do, I'm afraid.

Kristin Davenport [00:08:29] That is a very apt description. Frontier people.

Reverend David Lowry [00:08:36] Yeah, yeah. So. Well, but that's you know, reading has been an important piece for this for this year for me. I had to adapt and write some things I can't do. I was struck. I think it was just yesterday's paper celebrating the the opening of the pedestrian bridge over Madison Road in Oakley.

Kristin Davenport [00:09:07] Oh, yes.

Reverend David Lowry [00:09:09] A new pedestrian bridge so people can get across Madison safely, you know, and it reminded me how much I miss being able to walk because all four of the last mile, I don't know how many decades I've been walking most days for an hour or an hour and a half. And Oakley was one of my favorite places to walk. I haven't been able to do it all year.

Kristin Davenport [00:09:39] Well, when you return to your walking, God willing, you're going to love the what they've done with the bike trail they're on, wasn't there there the Washington way? Yeah. Yeah. They're putting the finishing touches on it, it seems like right now. And I've driven past there recently and it's a stark change. You will not know where you are.

Reverend David Lowry [00:10:05] Well, as I look forward to that.

Kristin Davenport [00:10:08] Well, I know that you are in a leadership role there among the residents in several ways. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about how you've been able to keep some of those efforts going even while we're all distanced?

Reverend David Lowry [00:10:22] Well, when I when I moved here actually 15 years ago, almost to the day I moved in here on December the 19th, 2005. And the first thing I noticed was that we did not have a recycling program. I said, what if we don't have recycling? So I set about making a petition to the to the resident council to start one. And so we did we got a contract with Rapke and we started recycling and I've been doing that. Every week for 15 years, three days a week, go around to the recycling bins to check, to see the right stuff is in the bin, in the wrong stuff isn't. And then a staff person comes in and puts it in the dumpster for umpty for for recycling. And I just recently got a volunteer to help me, and that's nice. So I don't I don't have to do it all alone. But that's one thing that I've been doing and that takes me, I don't know, 20 minutes or so, three days a week. That's one thing.

[00:11:50] Probably the big thing this year that's kept me interested and alive and involved is the Christmas fund for our employees, which since we can't tip, we we tip once a year in December right through the Christmas fund. And we were worried. I have a little committee. I'm now chairman of I've been treasurer for ever since back in. 2006 have been treasurer of the Christmas fund, but this year I have a new treasurer so that I can be the chairman instead of the treasurer and and we our committee thought, you know, this is going to be a tough year.

Kristin Davenport [00:12:41] Right.

Reverend David Lowry [00:12:42] We have fewer people. We people are not feeling very confident about the future. Maybe giving is going to be more difficult. But we said, you know, of all the years that we can't afford to do less, this is the year when our staff are doing so much more and the need is so much greater. So so we set about a plan to make the Christmas fund work this year. And and we did. And we said our highest goal, we said we're going to we're going to raise seventy thousand dollars, which is more than we've ever done before. And we believed that people would respond and they did. We exceeded the goal where over 80000. And and so it was a joy to pass out the checks, as we've done for 15 years. On December the 3rd, we were able to pass out checks to our two hundred and eighty two employees, just the hourly rate of employees.

Kristin Davenport [00:13:53] Right. Well, and I know, you know, parties are a big part of Marjorie P. Lee ERS culture. And not only do we have one Christmas party for staff and residents, but we have to because it's such a love fest. You know, the residents want to give the staff a Christmas party, but the staff wants to give a Christmas party for the residents. So it's sad that this year we had to miss that tradition.

[00:14:20] But I saw a picture of the drive up check distribution, which was. Oh, did you? Yes. I saw how people kind of could drive up. And I also saw one person had a Santa Claus blow up Santa Claus in their car, which was kind of a funny image to see Santa coming to get back. I don't know if you've got to see that one. I enjoyed that.

Reverend David Lowry [00:14:49] Yes. Well, you know, it's been a hard year. And for for us, people like me, I'm I'm well, I have a comfortable place, I think, about our employees. Life is a lot more difficult, you know, out there balancing family, maybe children home from school. And, you know, there are lots of lots of problems. And so we were delighted we could do something for them.

Kristin Davenport [00:15:26] That is that success is very heartening to hear for sure. Well, David, as we wrap up our conversation, can you share maybe just what are what kind of hopes are you hanging on to during, you know, as we wind down this year for for next year?

Reverend David Lowry [00:15:47] Let me tell you let me tell you something about what hope really means, you know, because hope is the thing that keeps us going. It's that it's that quality that says, you know, this is hard, but it's going to get better, you know? And and so I I use this at the Christmas Fund event where we were about to hand out the checks. I said to the group, I said, let me tell you a story about hope.

[00:16:19] Four hundred years ago in sixteen thirty six, Martin Reincard, who was a Lutheran pastor in Ellenbogen, Saxony, was suffering through the Thirty Years War. All of Europe. And of course, war brings famine and disease. And people were dying all over Europe hundreds of thousands year after year. Mm hmm. And so what did Martin Reincard do as this pastor who was burying parishioners? He wrote a hymm. Now, thank we all our God with heart and hands and voices. Wondrous things have done in whom this world rejoices from our mothers arms has blessed us on our way with countless gifts of love and still is ours today. Well, if Rinka could do that right in his circumstances, who are we to lose heart and not have faith and not have hope because we have a loving God and so we hope and we know it's going to get better.

Kristin Davenport [00:17:44] Well, that is an amazing thought to leave our our listeners with. Thank you so much for that. It is indeed a that's a beautiful hymn pressured by me and I'm sure many others. And to hear, you know, the context of it is is helpful for sure.

Reverend David Lowry [00:18:05] Well, thanks for calling. I appreciate it.

Kristin Davenport [00:18:08] OK, David, you have a Merry Christmas the rest of your day. Merry Christmas and happy New Year. And I look forward to talking with you in the New Year.

Reverend David Lowry [00:18:16] Good bye bye.

Bryan Reynolds [00:18:21] Kristin, it was so nice to hear again from David Lowery and get an update since our first interview back in, I guess that was March and April, actually. Oh, yeah. And hear his perspective. I really enjoyed him talking about that whole concept of virtue and in in relation to the book that he was reading about George Washington, but also that the concept of hope, you know, particularly in these days that have been maybe a little darker and bleaker, even with a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel.

Kristin Davenport [00:18:56] Yeah, this is an unprecedented times. And it's always great to check in with someone like David, who just is very thoughtful about how he's going about getting past all this and what is how he's biding, biding his time, really. We talked a little bit about his optimism from April till now, and he said, you know, basically it's it's the same. It's just maybe not quite as easy as it as I sounded in April. Yeah, I get it was it was a really, as always, just so good to hear what our residents, you know, how they are dealing with this. It's just really helpful to me.

Bryan Reynolds [00:19:37] And it's a reminder of why we started this podcast was we wanted to hear those those voices and and their experience all along the way and how they're how they're managing and coping, if not thriving.

Kristin Davenport [00:19:51] Absolutely another way that we manage and cope is checking in with our leader, our president and CEO Laura Lamb. So let's listen to Bryan and Laura's conversation this week.

Bryan Reynolds [00:20:12] So we're back this week with president and CEO Laura Lamb how are you, Laura?

Laura Lamb [00:20:18] I'm doing fine, Bryan. How about you?

Bryan Reynolds [00:20:20] I'm doing well. Thanks so much for asking. It's right before Christmas and it's certainly a time of reflection and and I guess appreciating some of the good things that are going on. And I guess I wanted to start out. There's been a lot of chatter and news about the vaccine and we're starting to see that rolled out. And I wondered if you could share with our listeners the news about our communities and where we're at in line for the vaccine.

Laura Lamb [00:20:55] Yeah, it's a wonderful time where we've all been waiting for the vaccine and it's here literally. So tomorrow is our first community, Episcopal Church Home in Louisville, Kentucky. They have their first clinic tomorrow afternoon. And then we just got word overnight that Deupree house and cottages will have their vaccine in early January, probably the first full week in January. Date's not finalized now, but they've reached out to us. And that means we're just waiting on word for Marjorie P. Lee. We always joke that we get news at Deupree before Marjorie P. Lee and we're convinced that they do everything by the alphabet. So, yeah, that's kind of validating it. It's like, OK, Marjorie P. Lee will be probably today or tomorrow that we'll hear their dates.

Bryan Reynolds [00:21:48] Wow, that's so exciting. And just just kind of a side note. Our very own Beverly Edwards was interviewed by the governor yesterday, which was kind of exciting.

Laura Lamb [00:22:00] Didn't she do a great job? I'm sure that. Really. Yes.She's so passionate about having the whole community rally around helping elders, and she sees it firsthand, you know, the the terrible consequence of covid. And she just wants everyone to do their part. So I was happy they were they asked her and she was willing to to speak on his and ERS's behalf.

Bryan Reynolds [00:22:29] Yeah, that was wonderful. It was wonderful. So, you know, we're at the end of the year and kind of looking forward to twenty, twenty one. This is just kind of special episode as we kind of review the year. And we're interviewing our friends Patt Donaldson and David Lowery, who we interviewed earlier. But I thought it would be also nice to kind of look forward to twenty, twenty one and talk about the priorities. Obviously, covid is going to be an important thing to manage even as the vaccine rolls out early in the year. But I wonder if you could talk about those strategic priorities that we continued doing this past year. But we're going to be doing in the twenty twenty one, such as there's been a lot of progress and there'll be a lot of progress in twenty, twenty one.

Laura Lamb [00:23:22] Right. I'm so looking forward to twenty twenty one. I don't know about you Bryan. Oh, you know that song. That line. And have yourself a merry Christmas and our troubles will be far away. I've repeated that in my head like five times in the last day and a half because it's going to be true. Right. We proclaim it. Yeah. I'm so excited. ERS has really done, I think, a wonderful job balancing the you know, we have to obviously deal with what's right before us, which is Covid and racial injustice and care and services of our residents each and every day.

[00:24:00] But we're an organization that knows that we can do two things simultaneously so we can do those things and we can work on our strategic plan and some strategic initiatives so that we keep our organization growing and thriving and moving to the future. So, you know, you mentioned the master plan. That's our number one strategy, our number one goal for twenty twenty one again. And what that means is that we're well positioned to continue that very important work. You know, the master plan for it was designed. It's a bold vision that really will help to be sustainable long into the future. And in a nutshell, for your listeners, it's making sure that we're providing what elders want, smaller, more intimate environments that are based on the philosophy of person-centered care. Yeah, and so we're well on our way. The current are that old, I will say. Memory Care Building is now repositioned as Morton House, which. The new home of our skilled nursing residents, as well as our memory, care, personal care, residence instruction has gone so well, it's almost I almost feel like I have to knock on wood. It's unbelievable how well our contractors, Ridgestone and our architect has done.

[00:25:35] We think that that building will be licensed and ready to start moving residents in mid-January. And that puts us right on schedule for, as we said to our families way back in February of twenty twenty before the pandemic, that we would be vacating the current health care building and demolishing it in the spring. And we're actually right on schedule Bryan, which I just is unbelievable to you. How did we pull that off?

Bryan Reynolds [00:26:07] Yeah, it's just unbelievable. And it's just it's it's hard to think that, you know, there will be those that new skilled nursing area. I think in that first quarter, if I if I remember correctly, will have some model homes and clubhouse and even a new dining venue.

Laura Lamb [00:26:28] It's so true. It's true. I had the great opportunity to to visit ECH last week and to all of the areas that you just mentioned. And, you know, that's one of the joys in my job, is kind of starting a project with an idea to help your teen vision at work through the construction and the design and then see it in a reality. And I said to the Ridgestone team candidly, with tears in my eyes, do you realize that you have you have played such an important part of two things enriching the lives of those we serve because spaces are so much more functional and you have such an important part in reshaping it so that we can make sure that it is sustainable long into the future. So I just I have such a such gratitude for our partners for helping us along and and that you not not you know, it would be easy to say, well, we're in a pandemic and we can't move forward or we can't recover quickly. But the but the partners understand that this work is critical for success. So they have put their ad team on it and they're working so hard. And I just am very grateful for their partnership.

Bryan Reynolds [00:27:55] Yeah, well, I'm looking forward to showing off some of those results real soon from all this great work.

[00:28:02] So the other kind of area that we've focused on over the past year and again, just a tremendous amount of progress, as are our efforts in branching out now into this middle market for older adults. And I wondered if you could kind of share the progress and what you see coming up in twenty, twenty one for for this new initiative as well.

Laura Lamb [00:28:25] Yeah, middle market. So many of you know that River's Edge is our pilot project in Perry's Berg, Ohio, just outside of Toledo. And it's a partnership with MacCarthy Builders and Ridgestone. And it's going really, really well. Our what we add to the project is the service coordination. We believe that we can create a model that is affordable for those folks that we lovingly call stuck in the middle to too many assets for affordable living, not enough for a retirement community. What do those folks do? And like I said, it's a pilot. We're a good what is it? We're good year into this pilot. Believe it's a year. But we've been at this a while and it's going really, really well. And frankly, the the patio homes are being very well received in the market. They're selling selling. That's not really selling renting as as we had hoped. And it's really given us the confidence that we're on to something that it's not perfect. It's a pilot. So we're tweaking it as we go along. But the group, the staff team and the in the board committee that's working with us have this establish a criteria. And part of our strategy for this year and next year is to look for other locations that we could replicate this pilot. I know. I know. So as you know, you and others have helped with some market research. So we're real close to being able to identify a specific location. I'll give you give your listeners. A little preview, it's closer to home, it's outside the two seventy five belt around Cincinnati, so that'll be exciting when we have more to more to share.

Bryan Reynolds [00:30:21] Yeah, we'll definitely definitely share that when we have the more concrete news. And as we've talked about over the last several years, serving our community, both in our retirement communities and in the communities we serve for those living with dementia and or Alzheimer's and their care partners, there's really been an important part of our strategy. And we launched the Center for Memory, Support and Inclusion this past year. And obviously there's some progress has probably been delayed or not as not as fast, but it's still very important. And something will be moving forward in twenty, twenty one and kind of wanted to talk about what we might expect next year as well.

Laura Lamb [00:31:13] Well, I'm excited again when when we have a little bit more flexibility to meet with people and to be present in person with people. The work our of our members support center of inclusion will be just propelled. But that's not stopping us. We're doing things virtually with our library system, with their memory cafes. We've still have done some work with the churches. But I feel like because of the pandemic, we've kind of hit not the complete pause button, but kind of like a little pause button. And so for twenty, twenty one, I'm so excited that we will be able to take that plan with Shannon coming on board and really just let her letter loose, so to speak, and just watch where she's going to take us. The one thing that we've learned in the pandemic is, boy, there is need in the community that if you felt isolated before the pandemic because you were in your home caring for someone with memory related issues, you really felt isolated during the pandemic. So that'll be really good to continue to help serve people.

Bryan Reynolds [00:32:35] That's great. Looking forward to that. Good work. And to your point, Shannon is so well known in the community that she's looking forward to getting out there and talking with people.

[00:32:47] And then the last thing I just thought I'd highlight, you know, there's obviously been a transition with the leadership team over the past several years. And we've got a few more retirements on the horizon. And and I know you've been working and planning through that as well and working with the team. And one of I wonder if you could kind of talk about those transitions as well.

Laura Lamb [00:33:12] Certainly, I'd love to. So Kathy Ison-Lind, who has worked with us for two decades, almost has decided that it's time for her to retire and spend time with grandchildren and hopefully after Covid traveling with her husband, Bill. And so we're so excited for her. We she gave us wonderful notice. So we actually started thinking about the process back in September for kind of how how do you replace Kathy, which we all know you can't replace Kathy. So what I decided to do was really look, use it as an opportunity to look at her job in detail. So in essence, what I determined is best for us at this point is actually separating some of Kathy's duties. So Kathy, as I said, has been with us a long time and she's had incremental changes in her role. And when you look at her job description and you think, oh, I have to find somebody else to do all this work it it's a popery duties!

[00:34:21] It's a so our HR team really helped me kind of say, OK, these are these are two separate kind of work. Kathy is uniquely qualified to do all of them. But, you know, we don't know that there's another Kathy out there, right. Bryan. So we separated it. We said, OK, Kathy does this and that and we call it in-home ministries, Parish Health ministry, Meals on Wheels, Living Well Senior Solutions. Those kind of outreach ministries. Well, that's very closely aligned to the work that Megan Bradford's doing with memory support and partnership with Shannon that we just talked about. So we actually changed Megan's role, elevated her to a vice president of middle market and ministry. And she's taking over those. What we used to call in-home services as part of, quote unquote, our ministry.

Bryan Reynolds [00:35:17] Yeah.

Laura Lamb [00:35:17] And she has been on the job for several weeks in this new role, several months. And she's just doing a great job. So Kathy and Megan are transitioning those functions. And I think the team will be well, well supported with Meghan leading those initiatives that left the affordable living so affordable living operation of our communities, as well as the development. And what I decided there is to keep those two entities together and to recruit somebody that wakes up every morning wanting to serve and enhance the lives of low income elders in our area. And so we're recruiting for that position right now as we speak. We're well into the process. We're actually getting ready to announce the second round interview with a couple of candidates. So our team has exceeded my expectations as well. They've done a great job of taking many, many applications and helping us find out the top ones to interview. We've done that. And like I said, we'll have two candidates to present to more constituent groups within our organization in early January.

Bryan Reynolds [00:36:33] Wow. Lots, lots, lots going on what went on in twenty, twenty and a lot to do in twenty, twenty one!

Laura Lamb [00:36:44] I know it is it does. When you sit down and think about it, it almost takes your breath away, Bryan.

Bryan Reynolds [00:36:52] It is, Bryan. Like wow, this is a lot, but it's such good work and I'm like I'm going to end where I started. I'm so proud to be a part of an organization that knows that we can do we're yes and right? We can do multiple things simultaneously and do it well. And I think this year is a great demonstration of that.

Bryan Reynolds [00:37:12] Yeah, it certainly makes me proud as well. And I think about our accomplishments and what we have to look forward to next year. It's it's a good feeling. So it sure is with that. Laura, I just want to thank you for all of your your efforts and your leadership. And I want to wish you a very, very merry Christmas. And we'll look forward to it a much better twenty, twenty one together.

Laura Lamb [00:37:40] I'm going to hold you to that Bryan. Thank you.

Bryan Reynolds [00:37:44] I will talk to you in the New Year.

Kristin Davenport [00:37:50] Bryan, it is always good to hear from Laura, but especially this week, hearing those updates about the vaccine and hearing about our strategy, which is really, really important that we're we're keeping our eye on that ball among everything else that that's going on.

Bryan Reynolds [00:38:09] Yeah, I think keeping the organization moving is so important and so much got accomplished among, you know, just trying to make sure we're taking care of our residents during this pandemic. So I think there's a lot to be proud of with that. And which really ties in nicely with our next interview with our outgoing chair of the board, JoAnn Hagopian. JoAnn and I had a really nice opportunity to kind of sit down and talk over Zoom and chat about her, her experience and why she loves being affiliated with ERS and and everything that kind of goes along with that. So here's my interview with JoAnn.

Kristin Davenport [00:39:00] So we're here this week with our outgoing board chair of the ERS board, Joanne Hagopian. How are you, JoAnn?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:39:09] I'm great, thanks. How are you? Getting ready for Christmas!

Bryan Reynolds [00:39:13] Ready for Christmas. Yeah. So excited for this year. And I just had some wanted to ask some questions. You've been so supportive and involved in the organization. I know you've been leading over the last three years and we're on the board several years before that. And what drew you to join the ERS board so many years ago?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:39:41] Well, I've told the story a couple of times. It started with my friend Trish Martindale, who was the she was she had been the chair. She and I had known each other for many years at P&G. In fact, for a while I was actually her H.R. manager when she was worked in the technology area. And she I ran into her one day and she said to me, I want to have lunch because I have an opportunity for you. And so she sat down with me and she kept saying to me, why didn't I think of you sooner? Why didn't I think of you sooner? Which was just so Trish and I really didn't know much about ERS, you know, and I I felt pretty connected to the community and I didn't really know much about it. So I was really drawn from the mission. Know I had a meeting with Doug Spitler, the then CEO, and he explained the great work that ERS does. And so I was really drawn to the mission. But I have to say that I was really recruited by Trish. There's a lot of P&G people that have stood in ERS And so it felt very much at home to me.

Bryan Reynolds [00:40:42] Yeah. So once you started working on the board and you've obviously throughout the years, you've learned so much about the organization, what do you feel does well and what what do they communicate with you or what do they contribute to the communities they serve, the staff, the management and so on?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:41:09] Well, two things come to mind that I think that they innovate. I think ERS is an innovative organization. I think that I'm always so impressed that there always seem to be on the leading edge of things. They know the demographics, they know the social changes. They know all the regulations, Jim. They just know so much about the industry. And I think they're innovators. And I I know that because I there are people that I know call Laura and all of you on a regular basis to say, well, we have to check in with what ERS is doing there. They're always the leading edge. And so they're always doing things better than anybody else. So let's check with them. And so I think that's one thing that comes to mind. I think the second thing is that I think it's a strategic organization that, again, keep in keeping up on going trends. People benchmark are this organization. They they really have great strategic focus and they really do great action plans against those strategies.

[00:42:18] And so, again, based on my experience at P&G, it feels very, very like very strategic in the way that they approach their work. And therefore, I think they're they're able to deliver great service to the to the residents we serve. I mean, when you think about it's not it's not just physical. Great. Yes. Beautiful physical places to live from affordable living to our Deupree House beautiful places to live, but also social, you know, social support, spiritual support. So, I think they bring just like the total person, the support of the total person into what they do. And so I'm just I'm just very impressed that we really do live out the mission of we make older people's lives better. I mean, that's just what we do. And everything that people talk about goes through that filter does make it better for the people we serve.

Bryan Reynolds [00:43:16] Yeah. I really appreciate you saying that to Laura and I were talking in our update earlier and just talking about the strategy and even being able to get so much done even throughout the pandemic and then looking forward to next year. And it's, I think, a point of pride that we all have that we can stay so focused and have that support and guidance also from the board in that that aspect of...

JoAnn Hagopian [00:43:41] The board is so impressed that to your point, that we have great strategic initiatives that really haven't suffered, even with this unbelievable demand on the ongoing operation and all the changes. And every day is different. And but but the big. Strategic initiatives have continued on time on budget, so again, that is I think that is a great compliment to the organization that they're able to do both.

Bryan Reynolds [00:44:10] Right.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:44:12] We know a lot of organizations in town have stopped doing their strategies, that they have stopped doing it because, look, we don't have capacity. Well, ERS can figure out how to create that capacity. So, yeah.

Bryan Reynolds [00:44:26] So with just personally, what have you enjoyed most about your involvement in your ass? I mean, you've been so invested and been so involved, but what have you and probably enjoyed most during your time as board chair, just on the board?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:44:41] Well, I think, first of all, first and foremost, I've just enjoyed the people in both the organization getting to know people, you know, the people in the city, the people on the board, you know, the residents who are out on the board who are resident reps. I've just really enjoyed getting to know people better. When I started as board chair, I actually interviewed every person on the board. I had lunch or a drink or breakfast with every board member and talked to them about what what they got out of it, what they liked, what what what could we do better. And it was really a great way to start off the board chair, because it really gave me a great understanding of what people wanted to do and what people like to do. So I would say that. And then I would say, you know, working on on projects with the board and with the staff. To your point, I've been involved with joy on development. So she needs me to do something to to help with the development aspect of her work. I've done that. I've worked with Joan on the personnel committee, which is kind of my background from P&G. I've worked on the Strategy Committee because that is something that I did as an H.R. person at work. And so I've really enjoyed just bringing the skills that I had from industry and bring them to the board and then working on important projects, because I feel like we do things that do help the organization or I think the board knows where to play and they come and they help, you know, let's get into the operations. We don't get into all that. But we we can bring expertize and people are willing to to get it and willing to use it and work with us. So so I've really enjoyed that. I really have.

Bryan Reynolds [00:46:29] Yeah, I know. I really appreciated watching you. You're so good at that high level and giving that guidance and that that that that kind of push to help us all. And I really learned a lot from watching you over the last several years in that capacity.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:46:45] Thank you. That's nice. Thank you.

Bryan Reynolds [00:46:49] So it is is there anything that that's really surprised you during your time as the ERS or about senior services or or the services that we offer?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:47:01] You know, I think I guess I am what I was surprised by and I guess I shouldn't have been, but I'm surprised about what a technology it is.Serving seniors is a technology on its own. Now, why that should surprise me, I don't know, because, you know, because there but there has to be so much knowledge and it has to be integrated knowledge between health care and and physical plant and and the services and nutrition and regulation. And I mean, when you think about the scope of all the things that people in this industry have to know about. Yeah, that's that surprised me. Again, on reflection, it shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. And when I went to a couple of leading age conferences with a couple of members of the board in the SLT, I was struck by. Oh, right. Oh, we do that too. Help you do that better. I was all struck with of course, that's what they're all working on because that's what we work on to do. So that again it kind of surprised me, but in a nice way, you know, what I love is so oftentimes even there they would come up to Laura or they would come up to some and say, hey, I hear you're doing X, Y, Z. Can you tell me more about it?

[00:48:24] So Lauraand her team are seen as people who really know their business and know the industry and are good resources for people.

Bryan Reynolds [00:48:34] Yeah, yeah. Well, it is is certainly a very complex and many disciplines involved in that. But I think that part of the pleasure of serving and trying to do it so well for long and I actually I actually think that they may have more acronyms than P&G, which got long way. I mean, it took me like a lot to get all the, you know, like to even understand. And so what are they talking about right now? So, yeah, I think it has more more three letter four letter acronyms than perhaps P&G does.

Bryan Reynolds [00:49:08] Yeah, there is quite a bit. And there is a learning curve for sure. For sure. So I know you're not you're not stepping down from the board and you're certainly very involved in our committees and some of our other boards. But what are you going to miss most about, you know, stepping way as the board chair?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:49:28] Well, that's a good question, because it is bittersweet. I mean, it's been it's been a big commitment. I have enjoyed. I felt very honored and privileged to have done it. When Trish and Robin approached me to ask me to be the chair. To your point, I'd only been on the board about a year and a half. And my first reaction was, surely there is someone that is more qualified to do this than me, you know, who understands the business better than I do, etcetera, etcetera. And they're like, no, no, you're the right person. No, you're right. And I was like, are you sure? And they were like, yes, you are.

[00:50:02] So I took it. But I was a little nervous. So I guess what I would say is a couple of things. I will miss my partnership with Laura. Yeah, that has been really a great partnership. We have some of the same skills, but we also have some different skills. And so I think we've been a good balance for each other. The good ideas and problem-solving, I think we have been a good pair for that. And so we think about the board structure and the board the way the board operates similarly. And so that's been really great. So I the partnership with her is is probably the thing that I will miss the most because I talk with her frequently. We have a pact that if something is happening that she thinks I need to know about, she'll pick up the phone and call me. And so I'll miss that interaction know. And I pledge to Tom Regan that I won't like continue that because that would be undermining. So I'll miss that.

[00:51:13] And I guess I'd say I'll miss setting the board direction that I've enjoyed doing that, how we operate, how we how we interact with each other, how we structure the board time together. And so I think that's been a I think that's been one of my contributions is to make board as effective as it can be. So I'm going to I will miss that now. Now, Tom is very open and he's like, well, you're going to help me, right? And you're not going to just leave me out here, are you? Right. I was like, it's not so that those two things. I'll miss that a lot.

Bryan Reynolds [00:51:51] Yeah. So so with that said, I just want to ask one question, because you have your last year has certainly been a doozy and we've been dealing with this pandemic for the past 10, 11 months. And how do you feel about the way your ass has handled the pandemic? As you said, you you've been in touch with Laura quite frequently and the same old thing. Front rows, right?

JoAnn Hagopian [00:52:23] Well, I would just start out by saying I'm very proud of how the organization has handled this pandemic. It has been so difficult on everyone. You know, it's it's just disrupted every single work process, every single action at ERS from everything, you know, all aspects. And so I again, I'm so impressed with how creative that organization has been, how resilient they have been, and again, how leading age they have been. You know, they have been on the front lines of this way ahead of taking very bold action, always with the with the eye of is to to make sure that our residents are safe. The safety and security of our residents is paramount. And I hear that in every conversation. I hear that in every decision. Is this the right thing to keep our residents safe? So we know it's been hard on our residents. What the board reps said. Yeah, it's the staff here is fantastic. It's wonderful, she said. But it's like being in a jail run by Martha Stewart.

[00:53:38] And so she's I mean, so I'm sympathetic. I'm sympathetic to how tough it's been, but I just couldn't be more proud. I, I think that the staff has rallied. They've been flexible, they've been creative. They know, like I said, resilient. And I know from conversations with Laura that lots of other organizations look to us to model.

Bryan Reynolds [00:54:05] Right.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:54:05] Like, what are you doing? How are you handling this? ERS is doing it so it must be right. And so I just I couldn't be more proud. I'm amazed that how resilient the organization is. I just, you know, that's and how courageous really in the light of every single thing has changed. And they're without family there, without friends there without contact. You know, they can't do things socially that, you know, the joy of being there is that it's such a great atmosphere. So I completely appreciate how how difficult it's been. But like I said, I couldn't be more proud there. You know, we've had some unfortunate situations, but that organization has just really rallied to make the best of it.

Bryan Reynolds [00:54:54] Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it's certainly been tough on so many different levels, but I think we're we're starting to see that hope. You know, tomorrow we announced we're going to start vaccinating now and ECH and then we've got some dates coming up in the future for our communities here in Cincinnati. So we're we're seeing light at the end of the tunnel.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:55:17] That is just that's just the best news we've had. That's the best news we've had in twenty twenty, I would say is that yeah. There's three dates on the calendar for vaccinations. Like, yay!

Bryan Reynolds [00:55:30] Right, right. And just to imagine that this only started ten months ago and it feels like a lifetime ago so many ways. But the fact that we have a vaccine that quickly is very grateful for them.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:55:44] Well again, I just thing I didn't mention that I'm always really proud of this. I'm an engineer by training, biologist by Georgia. And what I love is we've always followed the science, Jamie. Always been guided by the science, by hyperbole, not by opinion about it's like, what does the science say and what do we know? And we've learned I mean, I think science has learned a lot of stuff along the way. Sure. We're always guided by science, which I love, because it's just logical and thoughtful and unequivocal.

Bryan Reynolds [00:56:20] So, again, wish we wish it were different. What doe Laura allways say we are where we are. We wish we weren't, but we are where we are. And so we're going to make the best of it. Yeah, absolutely. So.

Bryan Reynolds [00:56:33] Well, Joanne, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you so much for your dedication to the organization or I'm personally so grateful to you. And I know there's so many in the organization that have been the good news is this isn't goodbye because you're, again, going to still be here. But again, thank you so much, and Merry Christmas to you.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:56:52] Well, thank you very much for this opportunity to speak on this podcast, and I appreciate the support of everybody there. I couldn't have done it without the support of all of you and Laura and the city and the board. And so I am very appreciative of the opportunity. Like I said, I'm very proud of my my association. When people ask me and I say proudly that I was the chair of the board of ERS. So it's very it's very, very gratifying. So thank you and merry Christmas to you and your family.

Bryan Reynolds [00:57:22] Thank you. Thank you. Talk to you soon.

JoAnn Hagopian [00:57:24] Bye.

Kristin Davenport [00:57:28] Bryan, it is always wonderful to hear from Joanne, she's been such an important leader for our organization, being the chair of the board, and it's great to hear that she's going to continue to be a presence on the board. And and it was just wonderful to hear her reflections on her time as board chair.

Bryan Reynolds [00:57:50] Yeah. She's just such a positive person and and has had such a great mark on this this organization. You know, she talked about her great relationship with Laura and for so many of us throughout the organization. And I'm thrilled that she'll still be around and and just look forward to our future, future time together and her impact on the organization. So I'm very much, very much a pleasure.

[00:58:24] So with that being said, speaking of pleasure, I had the opportunity to have another interview, as you did, Kristin, with a resident from Deupree House, Patt Donaldson. That is a long time resident and just a wonderful person to always talk with and a great opportunity to sit down and talk with her again and catch up on on how she's doing throughout this pandemic.

Bryan Reynolds [00:58:55] So I'm here this week with one of our residents from Deupree House, Pat Donaldson. It's good to catch up with you again. I know you were our our first guest for our first podcast, and we thought it would be a fun opportunity to kind of catch up. What, gosh, seven, eight months now since, uh, since we first talked.

Pat Donaldson [00:59:19] A lot has happened between that time and now.

Bryan Reynolds [00:59:23] That's right, right. So I think I'd just like to ask you the question and check in again. And how have you been?

Pat Donaldson [00:59:31] Oh, I've been fine on the whole, I think I've made up my mind early that I was going to get past this and not through it and and that I wasn't going to complain. I'm too fortunate to talk about that a little bit more when you said you're going to get past this rather than through that, because that really fascinated me when you when you mentioned that earlier, when you get through it, it's through something, it sounds as if you're plotting and each step is heavy. And so but if you get past it, you've moved past, you've gone by it and you've got a fresh outlook. And friend of mine gave me a magnet to put in your refrigerator and it said Pause. Pray. Proceed.

Bryan Reynolds [01:00:19] Mm hmm. Pretty good advice. Yeah, that's that's beautiful. That's beautiful. And Pat, I know you want one of the things that I've always appreciated about you is, you know, you've stayed so active and followed your passions. And before I get to that, you know, what are the things that you've been doing over the past six months to kind of stay active and engaged in allow you to get past it rather than through it?

Pat Donaldson [01:00:49] Well, with the help of the staff at Deupree, I must apply them every time I wanted anything from the thumbtack to a piece of tape for a project they've been. Oh, sure. You're more than willing to give it to me. So we'll start with. They allotted me an area in the garden outside and I use driftwood and rocks and plants. To just make an attractive area, uh huh, and then I bought 30 small birdhouses, different sizes and shapes, painted them different colors, and we grouped them in groups of six and put them against a brown wall that we had outside in the courtyard and with them with the different colors and all. It makes it kind of interesting, a little more interesting. And then we went down. We have a gazebo area, Bryan. I don't know whether you are familiar with that. Yeah, yeah. It's a lot of a lot of us eat lunch down there or have the last six months and we adopted an area down there that needed some cleaning up that did the cleaning up, put a couple of benches and a chair. And a lot of bird feeders and. I painted the big wooden pallets they use in shipping, yeah, for four of those, one for each season, spring, summer, fall, and right now the winter was part of that area down there.

Bryan Reynolds [01:02:36] Well, that sounds wonderful. We're going to have to get some pictures and put those up on our Facebook pages to share with all our lives and our listeners and our our blogs as well. Well, and I think that's one of the things that you've always been so, so artistic and expressing yourself through your art. And I know not only did you do that the pallets and the bird feeders, but I know you worked with Arlen Graham, our creative director, recently, to help design some art for our Christmas cards as well. Correct?

Pat Donaldson [01:03:14] Yes, yes, I did. That was fun. We also have Bryan, I just remember we also have two huge cases here downstairs out near the fitness center ones about 12 feet long. And we've been placing different themes in it. Right now, we have a Christmas theme, of course, and I made a cup for kids that are about four feet tall. I had a car car with a Christmas tree on top. You've all seen the pictures of those?

Bryan Reynolds [01:03:46] Yeah.

Pat Donaldson [01:03:48] And I went to the staff and I said, can you get me some big cardboard? Absolutely. In the next day, I have these two huge pieces of cardboard and sitting in my kitchen, but and then we took a broom. And use just the head of the broom for a person, and it's Halloween, it was a scarecrow kind of person. And then Thanksgiving we made made it into a pilgrim with a with the black and white. And right now, she's Mrs. Santa Claus.

Bryan Reynolds [01:04:26] She's she's evolved over the over the seasons. I take it.

Pat Donaldson [01:04:31] Well, yes, we could just use her in all our ideas again, the staff and everybody.

Bryan Reynolds [01:04:37] Yeah, yeah. And I know you said for you to exercise is important to kind of keep going as you age. You had mentioned you gave some advice to your great grandson, four, who asked about the secrets to getting older in a healthy way. What was that that advice you get you gave to him?

Pat Donaldson [01:04:58] I sincerely mean this. There are two big factors that work well for me. The first one is learning. Always keep learning some things someplace. And the second is keep moving. Yeah. Do your exercise at night. I try to walk a half a mile each day and I swim three times a week, so I'm keeping busy.

Bryan Reynolds [01:05:23] Wow. That's that's great. And so, you know, I know you've been a resident of Deupree for quite some time. And how has, you know, living life at Deupree allowed you to kind of follow your passions and live well?

Pat Donaldson [01:05:42] Well, I've always been open to my ideas when I wanted to do a project, and they give us the facilities. You know, we have a swimming pool that we can use usually most of the time. Right now, it's as restricted as far as the hours are concerned. Yeah. And if you want if you run out of something, you can go to the staff and they'll say, wonderful. Yeah. Now, buy things for you now that we can't get out. I say, do you need anything at the store? Can we get you something? Do you need to supply an art supply?

Bryan Reynolds [01:06:19] Yeah, well, so speaking of that, so today is the first day that they're starting to vaccinate people. I know there's many health care workers are starting vaccination, but many of the residents of of senior living communities are also included in that group. What are you looking forward to getting back to once your life starts becoming available again to kind of get out safely?

Pat Donaldson [01:06:50] I want to see my family. Yeah, I want a hug and I touch again. Yeah, that's that's the major thing. Otherwise, everything else could be on hold for a while longer. But I do miss that. Yeah.

Bryan Reynolds [01:07:06] Yeah. Well, hopefully it's not too far. It's been amazing to see, you know, between the first time we talked and now here right before the holidays. But is that a vaccine is now coming out. So that I hope that gives everyone a little more hope.

Pat Donaldson [01:07:23] Oh, it does. May I share with you Bryan I talk to you about those showcases?

Bryan Reynolds [01:07:28] Yeah.

Pat Donaldson [01:07:29] I'm going to make a giant four or five foot seven, and I'm going to put make a sign next to it says yay and put that in one of the showcases downstairs.

Bryan Reynolds [01:07:41] A giant syringe and yay right next to it.

Pat Donaldson [01:07:45] That'll say it all.

Bryan Reynolds [01:07:48] That'll say it all. Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, good. Well, Pat, I really appreciate you joining us again, you know, to to catch up. And it's so, so good to hear your voice and so glad to hear how positive you you've remained through all of this. And I'll take one of those hugs when we went.

Pat Donaldson [01:08:10] Oh, I'd love to be able to. You can get in line Bryan!

Bryan Reynolds [01:08:16] Right behind your family.

Pat Donaldson [01:08:18] Right.

Bryan Reynolds [01:08:19] All right. Well, thanks, Pat.

Pat Donaldson [01:08:20] You're very welcome.

Kristin Davenport [01:08:25] Bryan, it is heartening to hear that Pat still pursuing her purpose as an artist and being creative, even in these times she's finding ways to add her her touches of of creativity and and beauty throughout where she lives at Deupree House.

Bryan Reynolds [01:08:45] Yeah, I just love the way she kind of fulfills her purpose with her art and and really just being active and involved throughout the community at Deupree. And I can't wait to see that gazebo area that she's been working on and the joys that she spreads through through her art. So it's just good good to catch up with her again and and hopefully with the vaccine on the horizon. And we'll get to see her real soon.

[01:09:15] So that's it for this episode of the Linkage podcast by Episcopal Retirement Services, the last one of twenty twenty. And we'll look forward to joining everyone and catching up with everyone again in twenty twenty one soon after the New Year. For more information about us, you can visit our website at Episcopalretirement.com. We have a lot of great content, including our language online blog resources to learn more about aging and the services we offer and so much more. You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube to see what's going on with the ERS and our communities. The many questions or feedback for us, please email us at info at ERS. Livestock or the Language podcast is produced by Kristin Davenport and Bryan Reynolds. Feoshia Davis is our associate producer and our technical director is Michelle Hoehn. I'd like to thank our guests, including David Lowery, Patt Donaldson and Joanne Hagopian. And of course, a special thank you to President and CEO Laura Lamb, who makes herself available week in, week out on behalf of myself, Bryan Reynolds and Kristin Davenport. Thank you so much for joining us. Happy holidays and a great New Year. And we'll look forward to catching up with everything with our next podcast next year. Thanks so much, Kristin.

Kristin Davenport [01:10:37] You bet. Looking forward to next year.


 

Kristin Davenport
By
December 23, 2020
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director in Cincinnati. Kristin is passionate about making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city. She is a Lead SAIDO Learning Supporter and a member of the ‘Refresh Your Soul’ conference planning team at ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex, live in Lebanon, Ohio with their 2 daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon.

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