Emily Toering was a hairstylist for 25 years and is now the activity director at Good Samaritan Society – Le Mars, Iowa. In both careers, she’s had a passion to serve people, build relationships and help others feel their best.
“I absolutely love people,” says Emily. “I’ve always had a heart for the elderly. This job came to me and I felt God calling me to come here. It has been a great and blessed decision. I fell in love with everybody from the beginning.”
Emily likes to plan activities that give residents purpose and help them feel special. She also helps foster friendships between residents by encouraging them to reach out to others who might be feeling lonely or needing encouragement.
“Emily exudes joy and wants to put the residents first,” says Rob Gotto, administrator at Good Samaritan Society – Le Mars. “We fill up our community room quite often with the different activities she’s producing. She’s brought in animals and different musical groups. And the staff gets involved in those, too.”
Activities bring joy
Emily’s role gives her the opportunity to bring fulfillment and fun to residents. Her goal is to come up with activities and events that spark their interest. She spends a lot of time walking the halls and finding out what residents like.
“I really take into consideration what they’re interested in,” Emily says. “My husband will tell you that I come up with ideas in the middle of the night.”
One of those ideas is penny pitch – a favorite with residents. Residents throw pennies on a board game. If they hit the jackpot, they get all the pennies.
Emily states, “My residents are very, very competitive, but they cheer each other on.”
Another favorite of residents is armchair travel. Emily invites someone who has traveled to a particular destination give a short talk and bring souvenirs to show. Residents get a boarding pass and a passport that gets punched. Then they watch a YouTube video to complete the experience. Residents have “traveled” to Hawaii, Ireland, Las Vegas, Alaska and more.
“They love learning,” says Emily.
Residents also play bingo and do crafts, in addition to playing a lot of games. Monthly events include birthday parties and manicures. Each event has a theme that includes tablecloths, decorations and snacks. Outdoor events happen as often as weather permits.
“All of my activities are based on making them comfortable and getting them out with each other and being social,” says Emily.
A director and a friend
Besides holding group activities, Emily also visits residents in their rooms.
“I make a point to read their devotions in the morning and just take those 5 or 10 minutes. This is not a lot and it makes a huge difference,” Emily states.
One of the residents Emily visits is Joan McCarty, who moved to the center last spring.
“She sometimes reads my prayers because I can’t see them,” says Joan. “She’ll sit down and talk, and if you’re feeling really sad, she’ll hug you.”
Stanley Meyer moved to the center in January of 2023. He appreciates Emily and how she cares for residents and encourages them to interact with each other.
“Activities have helped me with my speech. I had a brain aneurysm. When I came here, I could hardly do anything, and it’s helped me talk better. I interact with people more,” he says.
Volunteers lend a helping hand
The activities at the Le Mars center are so successful partly because of the volunteers Emily has recruited from the community. She even has some children who volunteer.
“I’ve really been working on that because they love kids and the kids love them,” states Emily. “I think it’s so important for children to be involved.”
Her role really comes down to bringing people joy and making people happy.
“That’s what brings me joy and that’s my purpose,” she says.