A Blizzard of Teamwork

ILLINOIS (February 2011) – While many people will talk about the Blizzard of 2011 in terms of inches of snow or degrees of cold or number of hours stranded on Lake Shore Drive, people at Providence Life Services communities are more likely to share stories of warm fellowship, bright smiles, and going the extra mile.

At the Providence community in Downers Grove, Illinois, staff set up “Camp Saratoga” in preparation for the storm. Department heads did double, even triple, duty, serving lunch and dinner on Tuesday night, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day — so all the residents were well cared for.

For example, at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of South Holland, Administrator Richard Nolden stayed on duty more than 24 hours. His primary responsibility during the February 1–2 blizzard was to drive his four-wheel-drive truck to employees’ homes and transport them safely to work. “Our people were willing to come in,” he says, “but in many cases they just didn’t have a means of getting here. That was one way I could help.”

The Wednesday morning shift was short on kitchen help, so the Social Worker and Activity Director (who had stayed overnight) donned hairnets, gloves, and aprons to make breakfast. Kitchen worker Janet Kooy walked from her home a mile away and arrived in time to serve. Staff from the corporate office in Tinley Park, which was closed due to the weather, showed up at the community to pitch in wherever they could — serving trays, wiping tables, and bringing people to the dining room. “It gave me a new appreciation for the work that is done there by our staff each and every day,” wrote one corporate employee in an email the following day. “I was extremely impressed.”

Down the road at Village Woods Retirement and Assisted Living Community, staff were also able to extend aid to seniors from a Crete mobile home community that lost power. The Crete Fire Department transported people to Village Woods, where they received hot breakfast and warm fellowship before returning home after power was restored.

At Saratoga Grove (Downers Grove, Illinois), staff set up “Camp Saratoga” in preparation for the storm. “I think we had about 15–20 people who stayed overnight in order to be able to keep working,” says Francine Myers, the Community Relations Director at Saratoga Grove. “Department heads did double, even triple, duty, serving lunch and dinner on Tuesday night, and breakfast, lunch, and dinner the next day — so all the residents were well cared for.”

Providence COO Cheryl Widdowson was one of the volunteers helping in South Holland that snowy Wednesday morning. She had this to say about the blizzard of teamwork that kept Providence communities functioning during the third worst snowstorm in Chicago history: “I’ve always believed that what sets Providence apart is our people, and this only proves it. We often say we consider our work a ministry, but those words were given new depth this week. I’m grateful to be part of an organization where that spirit of ministry is real and alive and at work every day.”

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