Trinity Oaks operations run smoothly despite the weather

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 15, 2014

There’s a popular song called “Get Here” that features these lines: “I don’t care how you get here. Get here if you can.”
Despite a snowstorm that shut down much of the county, workers at Trinity Oaks did just that, doing whatever it took to get to the campus on Klumac Road for their shifts, even as most people were hunkering down in their jammies wondering when to have a second cup of coffee.
The Trinity Oaks campus includes a skilled nursing home (Trinity Oaks health and rehab) and retirement or independent living cottages and apartments.
“We’re fully staffed,” said Trinity Oaks Campus Executive Director Bill Johnson on Thursday as the snow continued to fall. The flakes didn’t have a chance to pile up, however, thanks to the efforts of Grady Hedrick Landscaping.
“When you’re caring for people whose lives are at stake, you can’t miss a beat,” said Admission Coordinator Steve Drinkard.
“The staff know what’s expected,” Johnson said.
The much-anticipated storm wasn’t Johnson’s first snow-deo er, rodeo. With eight years under his belt as administrator of Trinity Oaks health and rehab, experience has taught him how to keep everything running smoothly and safely during a major winter weather event. And much of that has to do with making sure workers can get in and spend the night if necessary without paying out of their own pockets.
Johnson and Mike Walsh, executive director of retirement services at Trinity Oaks, arranged for some employees to spend Wednesday and Thursday nights in the senior living community’s vacant cottages and apartments one of which also provided a temporary crash pad for Johnson, Walsh and Bob Yost, director of maintenance.
Sherron Barnes, unit secretary in the rehab wing, stayed in a cottage so she wouldn’t have to drive back and forth from Albemarle. She and other workers appreciated that food service director Sherrie Burgess and her staff provided meals for employees chili Wednesday evening and sausage and gravy biscuits Thursday morning.
“They always do that during snow days,” said Barnes. “They take care of us here. I miss my family, but I’m with my other family, so I’m cool.”
“They make it fun,” added Gail Jacobs, another rehab staff member.
Trinity Oaks reserved 13 rooms at the Quality Inn on Klumac Road for workers who needed to spend the night.
“I’m grateful they offer us a place to stay and put us up,” said Terry Williams, a charge nurse on the rehab wing who took advantage of the nearby accommodations.
Employees in town who didn’t feel comfortable driving to work got rides from Trinity Oaks maintenance staff. In anticipation of the snow, Johnson also rented a four-wheel drive sport utility vehicle to add to the fleet of maintenance vehicles that might be pressed into service as taxis.
Many employees managed to drive to work despite horrible road conditions. Gail House, a certified nursing assistant, came from Granite Quarry, courtesy of her husband. Joan Perry in housekeeping services began the slow drive from her home in Spencer at 5:30 a.m. Thursday so she could make her 7 a.m. shift. Unit Manager Robin Rogers and Director of Nursing Todd Rogers made it in from Richfield, their normal 35-minute drive stretching to an hour and 20 minutes.
Dining services employee Brandon Fisher showed his dedication by walking 3.5 miles Thursday to be on time for his morning shift.
Neither wheelchairs nor walkers deterred the more adventurous residents from getting out to play in snow. Snow cream, snowmen, and snowballs were on the agenda. Inside, activities like Zumba with social worker Becky Norman continued as usual, but with a more festive feel.
Katie Davis, staff development coordinator, poked her head into Johnson’s office Thursday afternoon.
“Are we going sledding?” she asked.
With parking lots and sidewalks clear and the important things under control, Johnson and Walsh grabbed some dining room trays and joined Davis and certified nursing assistant Talley Medina to slide down the steep hill between the skilled nursing home and the retirement center. Later, Bobbi Hartsell and Chasity Kiker, Trinity Oaks assisted living staff, came to join the fun, as did Drinkard.
And when the hill was conquered, it was time to get back to work.

Katie Scarvey is a communications specialist at Lutheran Services Carolinas, which operates Trinity Oaks.