Administrator inspires staff, residents to ‘be who you are’

Fruity drinks, flowery-dressed staff members and the relaxing sounds of a steel guitar are turning Good Samaritan Society – Howard Lake into a virtual Hawaii for lei-adorned residents. Creating quite the party in rural Minnesota.

“It uplifts everybody,” Society environmental services supervisor Kellie Johnston says. “It really brings and sets a vibe for the day. We try to do this as much as we can.”

Not only do themed days like this make it fun to come to work, but it also gets people out of their rooms and saying “aloha” to their neighbors.

“Oh, the laughter and the smiles that the residents bring is just incredible,” Society administrator Laura Salonek says.

Dorrie Miller moved into the long-term care center about a year ago and can’t believe the effort employees make to bring her comfort and keep her active.

“They’re friendly. Friendly and they care about us and that’s what counts,” Dorrie says.

'She does it all'

That whole “vibe” seems to come from the top.

“We constantly remind each other the residents are the boss here,” says Laura, who is responsible for running the center. “We’re all caregivers at heart. We’re all people who love to give. Without them, we don’t have jobs.”

Laura admits she’d never heard of Howard Lake before she landed the administrator role here 15 years ago. A college internship with the Society in Lodi, Wisconsin, introduced her to the organization and she’s never looked back.

“There’s three core values that we live by,” Laura says about her center’s culture. “One of them is everyone matters. The little things mean everything is another one, and you can be who you are. That really sums it up.”

What lead maintenance mechanic Larry Davis wants to be is more like his leader.

“I would say Laura is the kind of person I aspire to be,” Larry says.

“She does it all. She’s the administrator. She does maintenance. She’ll do housekeeping. She helps on the floor. She doesn’t hide behind her desk. She’s right there, elbow in elbow, right with you.”

Kellie adds, “She’s hands on in everybody’s life here. She’s there to answer questions and be there whenever needed. Her kindness isn’t just on special days. It is literally every day and that is why I nominated her.

“I nominated Laura because I aspire to be like her.”

National Ever Forward Administrator Champion

Award nominations from more than a handful of teammates are leading to national recognition. Laura is being named the Society’s National Ever Forward Administrator Champion.

“To me, just being nominated is very humbling,” Laura says. “That in itself is the best gift ever.

“We’re a team. This award to me is for everyone. It’s for our building because everyone is so great. We’ve got a good team. We’re just clicking very well together, and I couldn’t do it without them.”

Ecstatic when the news came down, Kellie adds, “I was so excited. I was clapping and I was like woohoo!

“Laura is huge because she makes us all want to be better for the residents.”

The spotlight is spreading pride throughout the center.

“We cared that she won it. She won it because of the way she treats us,” Dorrie says.

Coming here following a fall and a few strokes, Dorrie says she’s finding an extended family who treats her like a person. Not a number.

“This is home and that’s what we need at this age. A home place. And that’s what I’ve got,” Dorrie says.

'Why wouldn't you be kind?'

Feeling loved by her team, Laura plans to continue leading by example and focusing on the Golden Rule.

“When I started as an administrator, my first thought was, I need to make decisions. That’s my job is to make decisions,” Laura says. “That’s not my job at all. My job is to support my staff. Give them the tools and the resources that they need to do their jobs and then get the heck out of their way.

“We roll up our sleeves and we work together every day because why wouldn’t you? Why wouldn’t you help somebody out? Why wouldn’t you be kind?”

Great questions this “ohana” is answering by carrying out the mission of the Society daily.

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