If you ask staff at United Hebrew of New Rochelle to name one thing they love about working on the senior care campus, you may get a puzzled look.
“Just one thing? That’s hard to do — I can think of several,” says Gilbert Yutuc, a cook at Willow Towers Assisted Living. “It’s the people. The residents. My co-workers. My managers. They respect you. They look out for you. It’s so comfortable here.”
Yutuc has worked on United Hebrew’s campus for the past six years, starting out as a waiter in the Willow Towers dining room. He says that job brought him great satisfaction because he was able to get to know the residents and ensure their meal was an enjoyable experience.
When a cooking position opened up, he welcomed the chance to pursue his love of cooking professionally. “When I see a resident smile because of a meal I cooked, there’s nothing like it,” he adds.
Seniors Bring Joy
Earning those smiles is something Yutuc is passionate about. “I take the time to ask the residents about their preferences and we work hard to make meals that are prepared just the way our residents want them to be,” he explains. “While I’m doing that, I hear their stories. They tell me about when they were younger: the jobs they’ve had, the children and grandchildren they have. The hard part is that some of them have lost connections to their families. So, I like being there for them. I learn from their wisdom and apply their lessons in my own life. My relationship with the residents is one of the best things about working here.”
Gary Hazzard also enjoys a relationship with the seniors at United Hebrew’s nursing home. As a lead maintenance mechanic, he works to ensure all systems are functioning to create a comfortable environment. Throughout the course of his day, he has the opportunity to interact with residents and get to know them.
“To listen to their stories is so enlightening and such a pleasure, “ notes Hazzard. “Each resident has a unique story. I love hearing from the veterans—I’m so grateful for their service. Hearing their experiences offers me life lessons.”
The rewards of helping seniors also resonate for Tara Pye, assistant housing manager. She works with residents of United Hebrew independent senior housing Soundview and Meadow Lane Apartments. Pye helps the residents access critical services including federal nutrition assistance, Medicare and Medicaid insurance, and healthcare services. On any given day, she’s might be helping them to understand complex forms, how to sign up for services online, or recertify them for the federal subsidy that helps to pay their rent.
“Every day, I’m helping our residents with things that directly contribute to their quality of life. It gives me purpose,” she says. “I feel that we are all here to help one another and give back. They really appreciate our help. This work is very gratifying.”
Personal and professional growth
Being mentored is another plus, adds Pye. “I have had access to many tools and resources,” she says. “I’ve taken courses that help me to my job better. Our CEO, Rita Mabli, and [VP of housing] Joanne Lanza have been role models for me. They have been so supportive. Their career paths and the way they have moved up in their fields have been an inspiration to me.” Pam Peterkin-White, vice president of human resources, notes that United Hebrew makes a special effort to recognize hard-working employees.
“We’ve had people start one place and end up in another department entirely,” she explains. “I’ve found that our supervisory staff is happy to help employees learn new skills, earn greater responsibility, and grow professionally. And, our benefits are quite competitive, and even include resources for tuition reimbursement. We fill quite a few positions from within the organization, a good thing.”
Facilities Supervisor Mickel Dussuaud is one such employee. He started on the wait staff in 2013 and moved to a front desk concierge position a few years later. He shifted to the assisted living building maintenance team and was eventually appointed facilities supervisor.
“I was offered so many opportunities to reach higher,” Dussuaud explains. “I started as a waiter and now I oversee 12 employees. I’m always learning something new. I worked hard and was recognized for it. That says something about how United Hebrew is run. The leadership here is fantastic.”
When Dussuaud leaves his home and arrives at work, it’s like walking into another home, he says.
“This is the first job that I’ve stayed at so long. I’ve been here eight years and it’s because of the culture. My co-workers and I work hard, but we also laugh and enjoy each other’s company. And I love our residents; we learn about each other’s families. It’s a welcoming environment to be a part of.”
Hazzard agrees. “I know everyone in my building — nursing, dietary, housekeeping, the leadership. Rita (Mabli, CEO) makes us all feel like a family. To work here feels like I’ve found treasure.”
Clearly, the atmosphere is one of mutual respect, adds Joanne Ferrara, activities assistant at Willow Towers. “There’s a warmth and a closeness. We all know each other on a first-name basis. We are taking care of the family members of local teachers, first responders, and others in the community. We’re integrated into the fabric of New Rochelle and it just feels like home.”
With a tenure of 18 years, Ferrara is the assisted living community’s longest-serving employee. Many United Hebrew employees have been here 10+ years.
“Our employees stay with us a very long time because it’s a great place to work,” notes Peterkin-White. “We have outstanding benefits, a beautiful campus with a five-star rating, an excellent reputation, and happy people who love what they do.”
How fortunate they are.