During his opening remarks on the second morning of the annual Schlegel Villages operational planning retreat in Niagara Falls in late September, president and CEO Jamie Schlegel invites the newly arrived Success Award Winners to stand and be noticed.
The conference hall erupts in a raucous applause while throughout the room, those upon their feet grow red in the face, nod in humble acknowledgement and in some cases, shed a tear or two. These people have been chosen to contribute to the final two days of education and discovery because they are exceptional direct care partners that help their villages thrive. As personal support workers, housekeepers, nurses, cooks or servers, they offer deep understanding of those they serve and quiet leadership within their neighbourhoods.
They offer insights and understanding that village leaders crave, they are critical to the development of operational plans moving forward, and they are welcomed with the honour they rightly deserve.
When the applause finally quiets, they move to take their seats and are urged to remain standing; Jamie wants to address them directly.
“I am so excited about having you join us for the next two days,” he says. “You are the stars of our organization. Of all the thousands of team members we have, all of whom are fantastic, you are the cream of the crop.”
Applause erupts again, offered by the rest of the gathered crowd of 360 village and support office leadership team members, researchers with the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, family members and residents.
“I’m looking forward to the perspective, the wisdom and the ideas that our success winners – our neighbourhood team members – inject into our discussions together,” Jamie continues, “formulating plans for the future in terms of how to make our organization, which is already fantastic, even better.”
Robin Ducharme and Kate Davidson have come from The Village at St. Clair in Windsor as success award winners, and after a morning of discussion about the roots of Schlegel Villages culture, they reflect on how they came to be in Niagara Falls.
“I was so surprised to get a success award,” Kate says. “It feels to so good to know that people thought enough of you to even nominate you and through that, you get to come and learn more about Schlegel Villages and get reenergized to keep moving forward.”
Robin has been at St. Clair since the day it first opened its doors, working nights as a personal support worker. She was “shocked and completely overwhelmed” when she was invited to come as success award winner, and was rejuvenated after only a short time by her immersion in the Schlegel Villages culture during this first morning.
“The whole family, their story,” Robin continues; “it’s very heartwarming to see how a small family can have such a large impact.”
The idea that big change comes from small efforts inspires both ladies, and they’re honoured to play a role in helping propel their village and the organization as a whole forward by offering their insights at this event. Beyond that, they say the greatest impact may come when they return to the village, eager to share their enthusiasm with their teams, neighbours and the families they support every day.