Three neighbors spend 40+ years serving up food, friendship

Nestled in a Maplewood neighborhood, just north of the Twin Cities, is a Good Samaritan Society skilled-nursing facility staffed by long-time locals.

“I grew up right down the road that way,” Sue Peka says.

Donna Neihart did the same. “Right across the street,” she says. “I’m number nine out of 10 children, and all the siblings worked here. So, I followed suit. Here I still am."

Donna Bordsen also enjoyed the convenient location.

“I just needed a job at the time, and it was close. I didn’t have to worry about having a license and driving,” Bordsen says.

All three work in food service.

“Everything kind of fell into place,” says Bordsen, Society food service assistant.

All three, Donna, Donna and Sue, with more than 40 years of experience at this same building.

The other Donna and I grew up together. She lives three houses down from me. We’re still very close. Best friends,” says Neihart, Society nutrition and food services supervisor. “I think that her mom liked my name so much that she named her after me. Actually, her dad’s name is Donald."

'Didn't have to fill out a resume'

Each one started here as a teenager, and then never left.

The center’s cook called Sue’s mom, decades ago, asking if she had kids who could work. The rest is history.

Sue shares the story: "(Mom) says, ‘Oh yeah I do.’ So I didn’t have to fill out a resume, nothing. Just, you’re hired."

When asked if she was happy about that, she replies, "Well, not at first but I love it here now. I love the residents. I love my staff. And I know a lot of residents that are in here from the neighborhood."

40-plus years later and still dishing it out.

“To stay here that long we all had to have really liked it,” Bordsen says.

Neihart says with a chuckle, “We don’t like change. I don’t know."

'Five-star facility' because of staff

Maplewood administrator Susan Jensen has been with the company, you guessed it, more than 40 years.

“I think it’s a tribute to the facility and to our residents that people have wanted to stay and have really dedicated their lives and careers to this facility as well as to the whole industry,” Susan says. “We’re a five-star facility. That’s how you get there – it’s the staff."

Variety of work and being of service to others keeps her motivated.

“You never know what a day is going to bring,” Susan says.

A family finding purpose around food and skilled care.

Putting in a large helping of effort to improve residents' quality of life.

"Because I love them," Sue says with a shrug and tears in her eyes.

Care in this building is personal.

“Every single one of these residents is a treasure. It’s a miracle that I get to talk to them and know them and get to love them,” Bordsen says.

'Everybody needs to be loved'

As they all near retirement, it's impressive to look back on all they've accomplished side-by-side.

“You just work together and 40 years – that’s a long time,” Neihart says.

Bordsen jokes about the other Donna, “Hopefully I retire before she does. She might get lucky and be able to retire before me and then I’ll be really jealous."

No matter how many years go by, the mission in this Maplewood kitchen will remain.

“We do want to make the residents feel at home. This is their home,” Neihart says.

Bordsen adds, “I feel like everybody needs to be loved and everybody needs to be taken care of."

The Society's Maplewood location features an experienced staff, including six employees who have more than 40 years of experience. It's tied for the most in the organization.

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