You can stuff a lot of memories into 44 years at one Good Samaritan Society location.
“I felt I could make a difference here,” Mary Ellen Scholz says about her time at Good Samaritan Society - Atkinson in north central Nebraska.
The long-term care community’s first social worker began her service in 1978 after seven years as a local teacher.
“The first day I came to work I was scared to death. I hadn’t had a lot of exposure to nursing homes,” Mary Ellen says. “We had to have a social worker but I don’t know if anybody really knew what we were supposed to do."
Putting a degree in social work from Mount Marty to good use, she developed a program for Atkinson's residents.
“When people came in, I think we had to realize that they had a story. Each of them had a story,” Mary Ellen says.
Sharing passion for residents with family
Deeply invested in those stories, the South Dakota native began sharing her passion with husband Roger and their three children.
“I always joke that I was the kid being ‘voluntold’ what to do as she worked and they’d have community picnics or various things like that,” son Dustin Scholz says.
Between chores at their nearby dairy farm, Dustin started chipping in around campus, cutting grass, as a teenager.
“He said, ‘I will do that but I will not go in the building,’" Mary Ellen recalls about Dustin's first few days. "Now, I don’t know if you know Dustin or not but, ‘not go in the building?’ I said OK. I thought this will be interesting. Within two weeks, he knew every resident in the building."
After 30 years with the organization, Dustin is now a Society executive overseeing locations in three states.
“For me, I can really not remember a time when the Good Samaritan Society hasn’t been a part of my life,” Dustin says.
He credits mentorship and encouragement from Atkinson's administrator during those early years for his career choice.
'Left it a better place'
Dustin's siblings, Nicole and Ross, would also serve for a time at the Society in Atkinson.
“We kind of laugh because we never really knew what department (Nicole) was working until we saw the uniform she put on for the day. Not only a CNA but she did laundry. She did housekeeping and helped Roger in maintenance,” Mary Ellen says.
Roger just retired from his full-time role at the Atkinson center this past April following 27 years.
“When I left here, I left it a better place than when I came,” Roger says.
Dustin gave him his initial training in environmental services and Roger ran with it from there, spearheading many improvements to the building.
“It means a lot to me because I put my heart and soul into it,” Roger says.
From a laundry addition to updating rooms and creating a gazebo, Roger has helped upgrade every space.
The Scholz family also had a big hand in developing an assisted living location in Atkinson.
“It was very hard for me to just walk out the door even though it was time,” Roger says. “We’ve got cattle and we run a 400-acre farm, so I have plenty to do."
'They prayed for me'
Roger isn't the last Society connection for the Scholz family.
“Fast forward through the years and some of my best friends and greatest relationships, ultimately a spouse that works for the organization as well, has all been a part of that history with the Good Samaritan Society,” Dustin says.
Yep, Dustin even met his wife Kellie at the Society’s National Campus in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 2003.
“They have hearts of gold. It shines through in their years of service to that community,” Kellie says about the family she married into.
Being a member of the Good Samaritan Society family also means a lot.
"I’ve been through some really high times and a really low time in my life. I was here (at the Society) for that. I lost my parents shortly after I began," Kellie says.
Kellie's parents, Jerry and Pam Ortman, died in a motorcycle accident in Minnesota on Memorial Day in 2004. She was seven months into her new job.
"My Good Samaritan family was here to support me through that. That was very difficult. Glad to have been in an organization like this where people are supportive," Kellie says.
“People who didn’t know me. They donated their PTO to me. They prayed for me. Showed a lot of support."
She's grateful for a culture inspired by a faith-based mission.
“It’s the mission. It’s the vision of the Good Samaritan Society that has kept me here and I enjoy it very much,” Kellie adds.
She's now a lead human resources technology analyst for Sanford Health.
'That driving motto'
As the Society celebrates 100 years as an organization, it's important to lift up stories of people faithfully serving others.
“We’re there to meet the needs of all people. 'In Christ’s love, everyone is someone' has been that driving motto. For me, in the roles that I’ve been in, it’s been fun to find creative ways to do that,” Dustin says.
“I think what kept me here was I truly believe in Good Samaritan’s model that, ‘In Christ’s love, everyone is someone.’ I hope they never change that,” Mary Ellen says.
Quoting scripture from Hebrews, Mary Ellen adds, “He will not forget how hard you have worked for him and how you have shown your love for him by caring for other believers as you still do."
Mary Ellen and Roger still drive residents to appointments and help out at the center and nearby assisted living when needed.