Aldersgate Hero Fund: Innovative Workforce Support Solutions for Covid-19

Kathlene Hendrick: Hi. I’m the director of human resources at Aldersgate and you’re listening to Aldersgate OnAir.

[music]

Mike Peacock: Welcome back, friends, to Aldersgate OnAir. In the midst of the challenges that we all currently face, we wanted to brighten your day and share some positivity with you, to spread some holiday cheer, and to illustrate that, in these times, a little humanity goes a long, long way. Today, we are going to highlight just a few of the ways that Aldersgate is addressing the additional challenges facing their front-line workers and the families they work so hard to support.

Now, as we all know, the current pandemic situation has taken a toll on every aspect of society. It has affected employment and finances. It has affected childcare. It has affected education. It has affected mental and physical health. And, in so many ways, it has affected the ability of people to provide even the most basic needs for their families. And so, in direct response to the havoc wrought by COVID-19, Aldersgate has created a trifecta of amazing programs designed to help alleviate some of the stresses associated with the pandemic and, in turn, keep their employees working during a time when so many are being laid off.

We are joined today by Kathlene Hendrick, Aldersgate’s director of human resources, and Brooks Shelley, Aldersgate’s director of branding and community engagement. Kathlene and Brooks are going to share the details of these pretty amazing programs and I am absolutely positive that you will be inspired and touched by the amount of thought, effort, and heart that went into the creation and implementation of the Hero Fund, the Learning Lab, and the food pantry. Without further ado, let’s bring on our guests.

Hey, Kathlene. Thank you so much for joining us today. I appreciate you taking the time out of your no doubt very busy schedule to come on the show.

Kathlene: I’m so excited to be here.

Mike: Oh, that’s what we love to hear. Brooks, as always, good to talk to you. I feel like I just talked to you.

Brooks Shelley: Actually, I think we did.

[Laughter]

Mike: I know. We talk a lot these days, don’t we? Hey, Kathlene, I’m excited to chat with you about these really cool things that Aldersgate has going on. But before we dig into the meat and potatoes of all this awesomeness, let’s just get a little bit of background on you. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your job duties, kind of how you came to be at Aldersgate, and give us just a little bit of history so we know who it is we’re talking to.

Kathlene: Sure. I’m Kathlene Hendrick and I have been at Aldersgate for 21 years. I started working here, actually, in the finance department. I moved over to HR after about five years of finance when I was just done. Moved into HR. I’d never done it before.

I absolutely fell in love with it. I fell in love with working with our employees. I just felt a great love for that and a love for trying to find ways that we could honor our employees while they’re at work.

Mike: Awesome. Twenty-plus years—

Kathlene: Mm-hmm.

Mike: –and they either haven’t scared you away yet or they’re so afraid of you that they’re afraid to scare you away. Clearly, you’re making an impact on what they’re doing.

Of course, Brooks, you’ve been on the show so many times now; we all know who you are.

Kathlene: [Laughter]

Brooks: If you don’t by now, you’re a slow learner.

Mike: I know, right?

[Laughter]

Mike: Well, I want to talk about some really cool things that you guys are doing. Kathlene, Brooks tells me that you were pretty instrumental in the creation and implementation of these ideas. Of course, I’m talking about the Hero Fund, the Learning Lab and, of course, the food pantry. Now, is that true; you were involved in all this stuff?

Kathlene: Yeah, I have been involved in it and it really is – I don’t want to take credit for the ideas because it is honestly a group of our team members. We all come around the table together and we throw ideas out. If it’s something that we feel the employees need or if it’s something that someone feels super passionate about, we really try and make that happen. That’s how these things occurred.

Mike: Yes, I’m very familiar with the Aldersgate collective brainstorm sessions.

[Laughter]

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: They’re legendary at this point.

Brooks: Mike, this goes back to earlier in our conversation of the Aldersgate way.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: It’s to look at what we can do instead of focusing on what we can’t do.

Kathlene: Right.

Mike: Absolutely.

Kathlene: Right.

Brooks: Kathlene does a great job of leading her team and, the fact of, what’s the right thing to do.

Kathlene: Thank you for saying that, Brooks.

Brooks: But is it also the smart thing to do?

Kathlene: Yeah. Yeah.

Mike: Yeah. No, that’s actually a good callout because there’s plenty of stuff we can do, but is it what we should be doing? Right?

Brooks: Exactly.

Kathlene: Right.

Mike: No, that’s awesome. Let’s start with this Hero Fund. Kathlene, tell us about the Hero Fund. Is that officially what it’s called or is that just what I’ve been referred to it as?

Kathlene: It is officially our Hero Fund.

Mike: Okay.

Kathlene: It came about when we first learned about COVID and we were trying to find a way to recognize our frontline team members, our hourly team members, who really are the heroes here. They are the ones with the residents most of the time. They are interacting with them most of the time. They showed, in my opinion, great courage and bravery, particularly at the beginning when we didn’t know really what COVID was and people were nervous and scared.

Our frontline team members developed these just amazing relationships with our residents. They weren’t going to let them down. They were coming into work and just showing up.

When I heard from my colleagues across the city, across the state, and across the country that their folks were just kind of like dropping like flies, they were so scared. We wanted to be able to recognize our team members who just hung in there, and so we started a fund. Our director of philanthropy, she put together a pamphlet. I think, Brooks, you were very helpful in putting together this pamphlet. And so, we’re asking for donations in order to be able to provide our employees with funds beyond what Aldersgate is paying them. We want to recognize their great work.

Mike: This is actually, literally a fund of money.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: Not just in terms of things and stuff like that.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: These donations come from where exactly?

Kathlene: We are accepting donations from our residents and from resident family members, and other employees can donate as well.

Mike: Okay. Brooks, if I understand this properly, this is something that Aldersgate is matching funds?

Brooks: Exactly. Aldersgate matches it up to $100,000. It is truly about the literal hands of Aldersgate because these people are in it day-to-day and they are the frontline.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: Like Kathlene said, they did a phenomenal job. The amount of people that we heard from and our peers in the industry that were just struggling to make sure that they are providing care for people was amazing. Our folks really stepped up to the plate.

Mike: Yeah, I think that’s something that’s really notable in the fact that it’s not just, “Hey, let’s give these guys and gals a boost in terms of pay,” but it’s people that really need it have that extra level of, “I can get what I need to get me from point A to point B,” because everybody’s needs are going to be different.

Kathlene: Correct.

Mike: What is the mechanism by which if somebody needs a little bit of extra help? How do they go about requesting assistance from the fund?

Kathlene: It is going to be a situation where the funds are given out based on the number of hours that an employee works during this COVID pandemic. If someone works 80 hours in a pay period, they will receive more of the fund than someone who works less hours, someone who just works maybe 24 hours in a week compared to 40 hours in a week.

Mike: Okay.

Kathlene: It’s going to go across the board. It’s not just by request. it is actually funds that they’re going to receive.

Mike: Oh, it’s kind of an automatic–?

Kathlene: It’s going to be automatic. Correct.

Mike: That is freaken’ sweet. Brooks, you look like you kind of wanted to add to that for a second.

Brooks: Actually, I was going to add that it is not something that is requested. It is something that is provided.

Mike: Okay.

Brooks: It’s not provided to senior leadership or our management staff. It is purely for those people who were working the frontline.

Mike: Just a supplemental based off donations. It’s, “Here you go.”

Brooks: Exactly. It’s also a facet of, during COVID, there were a lot of places that shut down and laid-off employees.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: So, some of our team members may have gone from a two-income household to a one-income household of no fault of their own. Yeah, we just need to make sure that our people are taken care of, that our families are okay.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: Again, it is the right thing to do.

Kathlene: Right and, in addition to that Hero Fund that will go to all of our frontline team members, we provided additional moneys for folks who worked in an area, one of our clinical areas that had a COVID resident in that. For example, in our skilled building, we have six different households. Everybody in the building got an additional dollar per hour for working while we had a COVID resident living there. Anyone who worked on the household that housed a COVID resident, they received, in addition to that, two more dollars. I know you didn’t ask for that, Mike, but I think it gives a little bit more of an explanation of how we’re recognizing our folks working with our COVID residents, in addition to that Hero Fund.

Mike: Yeah. No, I think that’s awesome. I’m glad you brought it up. Really, what this comes down to is this wasn’t just something that was thrown together last minute and said, “Oh, crap. We have to do something.” This was a very well thought out, orchestrated, and implemented program that is put together in a fashion that makes it fair, equitable, and accessible. Everybody can benefit by it based off what they’re able to contribute.

Kathlene: Absolutely.

Mike: I think that’s awesome. What I appreciated, as being somebody from outside your organization can see, is the fact that it doesn’t have to be requested and the fact that it doesn’t have to have that element of, “Oh, man. I have to ask for this.”

Kathlene: Right.

Mike: It’s just like, “Hey. Check this out. We’re going to make this easy on you. Thank you for doing what you’re doing, being who you are, and helping out during this absolutely insane time.”

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: The smooth implementation of how that works, I think, is pretty remarkable.

Kathlene: Yes. Yes, thank you.

Mike: Yeah. Awesome.

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: Then, in addition to, obviously, the challenges posed financially by COVID, we’ve also, as you said, Brooks, a moment ago that people found themselves in a situation where they were maybe going from two-income to one income and then maybe having to rework the way that they lead their lives on a day-to-day basis. Now that there’s the added challenge of childcare thrown into this.

Now, you have a really cool program that ties in to not only helping financially, but also with kind of aiding and helping them get some assistance with the kids via the Learning Lab. Brooks, why don’t you tell us a little bit about the Learning Lab?

Brooks: The Learning Lab came about from doing the right thing but doing the smart thing. We benefit from it as well. When everybody went virtual, a lot of the kids were at home trying to navigate the different formats and different screens, and we were hearing stories of them having to go on a different format online for each one of their classes. They could be on five different platforms in the course of a day, and that’s a difficult thing to navigate when it’s, all of a sudden, just thrown on you.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: We had a lot of our team members who had to stay home and help their children with their education. That’s not optional. That was something you’ve got to do.

So, realizing that we had a workforce that had some type of hurdle, then Kathlene and her team came up with, okay, so how can we make this work? We took a room that is in a separate building from the rest of campus – it’s a very large room – and set it up. Spaced it out. Have the kids’ stations set up.

We sent out a survey and asked, “If we provide this, how many of you will make use of it? It goes from a certain age to a certain age. Would it be beneficial?” We had a really good turnout of folks that wanted to utilize it and are utilizing it. But it also enabled them to come back to work.

If we had some nursing staff and nurses are in high demand right now, if there was a nurse that was out because of their child and school, then it benefits us as well as the child as it does our nurse. Kathlene was very instrumental in this and it’s been one of her baby projects that she’s taken on. She’s got a couple of them right now in the water that are just incredible assets.

Mike: Yeah. Well, Kathlene, why don’t you jump in on that and elaborate a little bit more about the process?

Kathlene: Absolutely. We talked about it for a little bit of time on how beneficial it could be for our CNA med techs, the nursing team, because they were saying, “I’ve got to be at home with my child. I have to be at home with my child.”

We were kind of pulling it together. Brooks, you’ll remember this. Suzanne, our CEO, came in and she said, “I just had the worst morning of my life. I have been trying to help my son figure out how to get through and work through these classes that he’s having to do. He can’t figure it out. I can’t figure it out. I just don’t know what I’m going to do.”

That really pushed us to get this remote learning pod off the ground. We set it up for first shift hours and we have four teaching assistants. We call them teaching aides, teaching specialists. They are there, honestly, to – they have to know how to work electronics and be the liaison between the student and the actual teacher.

These folks are absolutely amazing. They have just made it such a wonderful environment for these kids. We currently are serving 18 families and it’s 19 children. We have, because of the different schedules that our employees work, we typically are serving about ten students a day and they get breakfast brought in and they get a lunch brought in, just like they would see through CMS or one of the school systems here.

Mike: Wow.

Kathlene: It is one of the most wonderful things I think I’ve ever seen Aldersgate do because the range of emotion of these parents not wanting to give up their full-time track in order to stay home with their child to help them or potentially not know how to figure out how to get through this and having these folks available has been life-changing for Aldersgate as well as these employees.

Mike: Yeah, you know, the added challenge with parents, if you will, not necessarily being familiar enough with technology—

Kathlene: Right.

Mike: –to learn how to operate, for instance, programs like Zoom or some schools use other kind of voiceover Internet protocol programs. But just how to get on that and then how to stay on a schedule, like, “Oh, my God. I’ve got a check-in at this time.”

Kathlene: Right.

Mike: “I’ve got a sign-in at this time. I’ve got to make sure I log in every so often. I have to interact in this way.” It’s like, how am I supposed to do that and have a job?

Kathlene: [Laughter] Exactly.

Mike: Really, you’ve created the perfect solution, which is, the parents have still proximity access should they need to, but then you’ve also provided that facilitating need for those that are familiar with how to navigate that technological infrastructure, which is awesome. And you’re feeding them, which is super cool.

Kathlene: Yeah.

[Laughter]

Mike: Now, when they come in, I assume – my brain tells me that maybe there are big tables or desks, and they’re bringing in their own computers if they have them. How does the setup work?

Kathlene: It is set up that way. They each have a small desk. It’s like an adjustable desk that raises up because we serve kindergarten through ninth grade. Ninth graders are really tall now.

[Laughter]

Kathlene: And so, they sit in an adjustable desk. They bring in their own electronic device.

This wasn’t an easy process. We were looking into the liability with our insurance companies. We had to go to CMS but, with Aldersgate, we’ve got folks who live in Huntersville, which is a different school system, so we had to set up contracts with each of these school systems.

We just kind of brought it all together so that they are making sure that there’s the required time outside. You have to provide some kind of break time for the kids. You have to provide different start times for each different school system of kids.

It’s not difficult and it was well worth – well worth all the hassle of putting it together. The reward of it has been ten times what the hassle was, or what we had to put into it, of what we’ve gotten out of it.

It’s a large room. Everybody is physically distanced appropriately. Believe it or not, there’s a little kitchenette right off the room where the food gets dropped off every day. I go over there every once in a while. Brooks, I don’t know if you’ve been over there.
Brooks: Mm-hmm.

Kathlene: The kids are just like, “Yay! We love it.”

Mike: [Laughter]

Kathlene: They have a really good time. They’re excited. They’re doing some of the normal stuff that they would do in school that I think kids are missing when they’re at home.

They were doing pajama day. They were doing dress up for Halloween. They’re doing dress up for the Christmas holiday. It’s a lot of fun. They’re having a good time.

Mike: So, they’re not just dropped off and forgotten about.

Kathlene: Not at all.

Mike: There is still a level of engagement on a personal level.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: They’re mixing with kids that are probably of mixed ages, all at the same time.

Kathlene: Yes. Yeah.

Mike: Then the teachers’ aides are kind of navigating different age groups, different learning skills, different kinds of activities. That’s pretty awesome. That’s actually a very old school concept of having so many people in a place together with different age levels and capabilities.

I hadn’t thought about the idea that there was going to be some logistical challenges with legal requirements.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: You handled that like pros, it seems.

Kathlene: Well, we did. Suzanne, our CEO, when I talked to her, I said, “I don’t know if our insurance is going to let us do this.” She said, “We’re doing it.”

[Laughter]

Mike: We’ll figure it out.

Kathlene: I went back to them and said, “Hey, you’re going to figure this out because this is something we’re going to do. We feel that passionate about it,” and it worked out. It worked out. We just had to push a little bit.

Brooks: The room setup is awesome.

Kathlene: It is.

Brooks: It’s a very stoic room. It’s kind of like a corporate room. It’s got the traditional pale-colored wall with the industrial carpet. But the teachers’ aides came in and just made it a classroom.

Kathlene: They did.

Brooks: They put a lot of color into it and a lot of creativity into it. It’s nice to see the kids’ self-esteem from when they first came in because they were kind of beaten down and frustrated to begin with.

Mike: Sure.

Brooks: Because it was tough for them to try to navigate it. Now they are having a blast.

Kathlene: Yeah.

Brooks: The room setup allowed us to space them out and to keep everybody safe. Everything is disinfected multiple times.

Mike: I was going to ask you about that.

Brooks: Yeah.

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: Yeah, I assumed that was the way it was going to be.

Brooks: Absolutely.

Kathlene: It is.

Mike: Yeah.

Brooks: It’s been a great experience so far.

Kathlene: So far, yes. Mike, they disinfect in the morning when they get there. They disinfect throughout the day. Then they also disinfect in the evening after all the kids leave.

Mike: Yeah. It’s a cycle. You guys are staying on top of it. Obviously, safety first. People are doing what they’ve got to do to get by.

Is anything an ideal situation right now? No, but you’ve got to kind of play the cards you were dealt and it sounds like you all had some plans in place and, as soon as these ideas popped in, you were like, “We need to make this happen,” rather than bat it around for four or five months before deciding on making this stuff go.

That’s a challenge because sometimes people have to work on their feet and it’s just like, go-go-go-go-go. New idea thrown out. Boom. Make it happen.

I don’t know. my perception is that you all are internally prepared to deal with those kind of scenarios anyway. It seems like you have very specialized people in all positions who really know how to help implement this stuff.

Kathlene: Gosh. I’ll tell you, Mike. Part of the thing that I love about our team, both our senior leadership team and our management team, they are experts in what they do. If you sit on something in this COVID environment, if you sit on an idea too long, things change so quickly that it has to happen. With building that pod, we involved almost every single department – you have to – and it just happened. I’m amazed at the work that this company does. It’s wonderful.

Brooks: I am too. I give credit a lot to Suzanne, our CEO.

Kathlene: Mm-hmm.

Brooks: Especially during COVID time. There are a lot of us that are doing things that really we weren’t doing before.

Kathlene: Right.

Brooks: She does a great job of going, “You’ve got a natural or a talent for this portion of it and I know it has nothing to do with the lane that you’re in. If you want it, take it and go. It needs to be done. Go.” She really plays to everyone’s strengths well and just lets people fall into what their heart takes them to.

Kathlene: I definitely agree with that.

Mike: Yeah. No, the mark of a true leader is recognizing the talent that your people have and letting people use those talents to accomplish a common goal. Yeah. Yeah, props to Suzanne and all you guys out there for being able to recognize that about each other and know who is the go-to for this and who is the go-to for that. That’s awesome.

Well, I want to bring up, then, the last element of this trifecta of awesomeness.

Kathlene: [Laughter]

Mike: Let’s talk about the food pantry. Brooks, we’ll start that out with you.

Brooks: Well, the food pantry is not the name that it’s going to end up being.

Mike: Okay.

Brooks: We definitely want it to have something more significant and we don’t want to rush into it and accept any type of name that’s going to be less than what we want.

Mike: Okay.

Brooks: Just know that that’s what we call it, but it’s not what it is.

Mike: Working title.

Brooks: Yes, we need a working – actually, that’s a great one, “Working Title.”

Kathlene: [Laughter]

Brooks: Back to the two incomes to one income, we realized that a lot of our teammates may have had impacts financially in their household because of COVID. We just can’t have that. We cannot honor elders and not honor our team members as well.

Kathlene and her team made a plan. We found a room that was used for something else in the building, re-tasked it, and went ahead and just set it all up for a food pantry.

Kathlene: Mm-hmm.

Brooks: Staple foods, just in the event that you need just a little something to tide over until the next paycheck, keep the family going, and yet, make it dignified so that people don’t feel like it is just a needy handout. We wanted to take every aspect of ego out and put as much dignity in as we possibly could. Kathlene and them made it happen.

Mike: That is so awesome. Kathlene, am I to understand correctly that there is some kind of a backpack or bag system in place? Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Kathlene: That is actually what we’re going to do for our employees at the holiday party. We’re going to give everybody a backpack.

But with regard to the food pantry and folks picking up and just to expound a little bit on what Brooks said about keeping it private for our team members, we’ve ordered different colored bags and different types of bags. Folks reach out to our inclusion and engagement coordinator and set up a time to come over. It’s just very private. It’s over here close to HR where there’s not a lot of traffic back and forth.

Mike: Are you telling me that HR is not the life of the party?

Brooks: [Laughter]

Kathlene: Listen. HR is the life of the party. It’s not like Toby from The Office over here.

[Laughter]

Mike: Wah-wah.

Kathlene: Poor Toby. [Laughter]

Mike: Clearly, you are the life of the party because you’re making all this stuff happen. I really interrupted you. Please continue.

Kathlene: I don’t care. It’s totally fine.

Folks come and they make their appointment. They come in and they grab whatever they need. There’s no limit. We do ask that when they’re given the bag and each bag looks different, so people really don’t know that they’ve gone to the food pantry.

They fill up a bag. We’ve got gas cards in there as well. We don’t do a lot of paper products, but we want to move in that direction. They get what they need.

During this Thanksgiving season, we did a shoutout to folks and asked for donations related to what someone would want for a Thanksgiving meal. We had a lot of Thanksgiving-related donations.

Our residents, when they heard about this, we have gotten a donation at least twice a week from our residents. Our employees are donating regularly to this.

The pantry is specifically for our frontline team members, for them to use it. But if someone came to us and said, “This is what my need is,” we wouldn’t turn anybody away, honestly.

Mike: Right. The donations are coming from multiple sources though.

Kathlene: Yes. Yes, now we’re not taking outside donations currently for the pantry. We’ve got an upcoming lighting. I don’t know the name of it, Brooks. What’s it called?

Brooks: Christmas tree lighting or the Festival of Lights?

Kathlene: The Christmas—

Brooks: Yeah.

Kathlene: The Festival of Lights, and we’re asking the community to come in and donate canned goods. That’s their entrance fee. That will go to Second Harvest Food Pantry.

Right now, we’re just taking donations from our residents, other team members, and family members for the food pantry. The response has been amazing. We opened the food pantry in mid-October and we’ve already had 48 team members use it, which I think is outstanding.

Mike: That is outstanding. Again, it’s just this completely self-enclosed, self-encompassed program that touches all aspects of what your team members are having to deal with.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: It provides them the ability to lead their lives with as little interruption to their routine as possible and kind of help them get through those times when maybe it gets a little tight or a little tough or a little hectic.

Kathlene: Absolutely. I’ve been in situations here at Aldersgate where an employee is sitting across the table from me saying, “I’m just not sure where I’m going to get my next meal.”

Mike: Yeah.

Kathlene: For us to have this pantry, it just is amazing because we’ve got certain things that we can do for people but it’s limited. From an HR perspective, it’s been limited how we can help people financially. But with this food pantry, it’s just changing the way we handle things and I love it. It’s wonderful.

Mike: Yeah. Well, obviously, Aldersgate cares about not only its residents but, really, you’re all thinking about your employees, in general, year-round, but especially at a time like this.

Kathlene: Oh, yes.

Mike: It kind of speaks a little bit of leaps and bounds why you’re just that much farther ahead than, say, your contemporaries. In a time when employees are being laid off or having to leave their jobs because they’re making those tough choices, this is allowing you to kind of help at least retain some of that employee—

Kathlene: Absolutely.

Mike: –I don’t want to use the word loyalty, but you’re able to keep people and you’re able to make them feel like they have options.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: As opposed to it being completely hopeless.

Kathlene: Absolutely. I would just mention one more thing. We decided when COVID, the outbreak, started, we decided we are not going to lay off any person. That goes back to what Brooks said earlier about, “Hey, this might not be your wheelhouse, but we’re going to keep you employed.”

For example, we had to shut down the spa and salon area because they couldn’t work, so we had all the folks that were in the spa and salon go do shopping for our residents every day. They went to the grocery stores and they shopped. We were able to keep those folks employed while also just really doing what the residents – they couldn’t go out and shop, so we did it for them. It was cool.

Mike: You created a pivot program for your employees, basically.

[Laughter]

Kathlene: We did.

Mike: Yeah.

Kathlene: We did and we have not laid off one employee. I’m very proud of that.

Mike: That is – I almost threw out the F-word – freaken’ remarkable.

[Laughter]

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: It’s mind-boggling.

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: It’s not just a bragging right, but it’s the amount of effort that you went through to not have to do that was fantastic. Yeah, it creates employee loyalty, obviously, which helps with turnover and helps with obviously the more long-term your employees are, the better, more productive they’re going to be, yadda-yadda-yadda-yadda.

From just a fricken’ awesome human being standpoint, you guys win the universe. I’m just saying.

[Laughter]

Kathlene: That’s kind.

Mike: How does being a not-for-profit organization help enable you to have these kinds of programs as opposed to, say, being a for-profit company where things are maybe a little bit super tightly regulated?

Brooks: I came in from a different discipline. This is not the industry I was in originally. I have to say, I think people overlook the amount of not employee perks but just the absolute family caring aspect of a not-for-profit.

We have a clinic onsite, so if you have an issue, you go to the clinic. My doctor is 30 minutes away from here, but I can have my blood panels done here and uploaded to him. I can do all that in 15 minutes with an appointment here instead of taking all that time out of my day, all of that production time out of my day, and it makes perfect sense.

We’ve got the EAP, which is the Employee Assistance Program. That allows for any type of counseling things that you may need or your family member needs.

We have a dietician. The dietician meets with our team members, if they want, and helps review plans and set up plans.

It is just amazing the amount of flexibility and some of the stuff that is overlooked by people who really are accustom to things like that in the not-for-profit world. But in the for-profit world, it’s unheard of.

Kathlene: I also think, Mike, that Aldersgate has such an amazing story, especially when you consider our diversity, inclusion, equity, and the job that Brooks does engaging the community around us. I think that Aldersgate has a true story of giving back.

When it comes down to it, people want to give because of who this company is. They really do. When we reach out and we talk to our residents about, “Hey, we have employees in need,” they are the first ones jumping forward and saying, “Hey. They do for us and we want to give back to them.”

Mike: Yeah. That’s awesome. Clearly, you all are a family. Residents, team members, you name it, everybody that’s at Aldersgate has a mutual love and respect for each other, at least on the broad scope. I’m sure there are probably some fisticuffs that happen from time-to-time.

[Laughter]

Mike: All the good stuff, I call it. Clearly, you’ve created a family environment where people feel welcomed. They feel comfortable. They feel not threatened. They feel like they can reach out. They feel like they have resources available and they don’t have to jump through hoops to make it happen.

Kathlene: Absolutely.

Brooks: It’s very authentic.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: Yeah. Thank you.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: That’s a great word. It’s very authentic.

Kathlene: Yep.

Mike: Clearly, it’s a challenging time, right? We’re dealing with this. We don’t know how long it’s going to go for, but these programs that you’ve implemented, is there the potential for just long-term viability to kind of help keep these things in place when we get to the next phase and maybe there aren’t so many restrictions but we want to consider having those programs just stick around forever? Is that a possibility?

Kathlene: A thousand percent, yes. I know that the food pantry is here to stay.

Mike: Okay.

Kathlene: Now, the remote learning pod, that is something that is just so special that I would hate to think that when COVID, when we’re beyond COVID, that that would go away. But I think we would have to really think about how we could use a type of service like that.

Brooks: Well, and we’ve got things that were pre-COVID that are still occurring. Today, for instance, we are all taking turns giving away the bird.

Kathlene: [Laughter] Yes.

Brooks: We give all of our team members a turkey.

Mike: You give all your team members the bird.

Brooks: Exactly.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: Yeah.

Kathlene: Brooks is an expert on giving the bird. [Laughter]

Mike: That’s amazing.

Brooks: I want so bad to create a shirt that says, “I gave my team members the bird.”

Mike: I love it.

[Laughter]

Mike: I’m glad you brought that up because I completely spaced. You guys dropped that bomb on me today, but you all are giving away turkeys.

Kathlene: Yes.

Mike: Brooks, continue onto that because I kind of sideswiped you there.

Brooks: Well, and again, it goes back to me coming from outside of this industry and for-profit. The first time I was here and they said, “Okay, we’re doing the bird giveaway,” I had no clue what they were talking about.

We signed up and I went out and we’re packaging up turkeys. Our team members are coming by at the beginning of the shift, at the end of their shift, on their lunch break, whatever, and we’ve got team members out there giving out turkeys for the holiday.

We’ve got a lot of team members that are donating theirs to other team members because, especially this year, not everybody is gathering. Some families are larger just by context of them all being in the same house.

Mike: Right.

Brooks: One bird may not do it, so we give multiple birds.

Mike: Yeah, so this is something that basically everybody can get?

Kathlene: Mm-hmm. Every employee gets a turkey at this time of year, every year.

Mike: “Here you go. Here’s a turkey.” Just like that?

Kathlene: Just like that. Happy Holidays. Yes.

Mike: Awesome.

Kathlene: The energy that is out there – Brooks, I don’t know if you’ve been out there yet today. We started at 6:30 this morning. We’ve got holiday music playing and people are coming by. We’re giving coffee out and hot chocolate. It’s just such a great feel. I think it’s one of the things that our employees, every year when we do the engagement survey, they always say, “We love the turkey giveaway,” just because it just is a fun event and we just enjoy doing it. It cool.

Brooks: It’s a great way to see staff members that you typically haven’t seen in a while.

Kathlene: Oh, yeah. Right. Yes.

Brooks: And from different shifts. Especially now during COVID, we don’t see each other as much as what we did.

Kathlene: Right.

Brooks: Yeah, it’s a blast.

Mike: Yeah. Have you guys got to pardon any turkeys yet?

Brooks: No.

Kathlene: Oh, we should do that.

[Laughter]

Brooks: Oh, we should.

Kathlene: We brought up a conversation today. Have you been here on our campus?

Mike: Not yet.

Kathlene: We’ve got 230 acres, so we had about five turkeys that ran around our campus. [Laughter]

Mike: Yeah?

Kathlene: We need to catch one of those and pardon him.

Brooks: [Laughter]

Mike: There you go.

Kathlene: Yeah.

Mike: Just saying.

[Laughter]

Mike: You’re the lucky one, Tom!

Kathlene: That’s right. That’s right.

Mike: Today, it’s all about you.

Brooks: Run free!

Kathlene: Today is your day, buddy.

[Laughter]

Mike: Well, I for one am just mind-blown with the epic levels of awesomeness that you all throw out there to the cosmos. I think it’s a pretty special thing. I think it’s unique.

It’s sad that it’s unique, when you think about it, that it really should be something that is done. Hopefully, the goal is that we have this conversation, we put this out there in the universe and people say, “Hey, I can do that. Why can’t we do that?” Something that changes the course of regular thinking that we are programmed to say, “We just can’t do it,” and to find a way to make this stuff happen.

Sure, there are some challenges. Maybe there are some legalities. Maybe there is a lack of comfort because you’re going to a place that you’re not familiar with. Maybe there’s some fear and apprehension based off, “Oh, I don’t want people to know this or that.”

Really, you guys have figured it out, so I don’t know if it’s a formula or if it’s just a matter of all of the right people in the right place at the right time. But you all are wizards just working the magic. Holidays aside, year-round, everybody at Aldersgate just continues to absolutely crush it.

Is there anything else that you all want to share with the world before we all get back to our days?

[music]

Brooks: I just love talking to you and getting that ego boost every time. [Laughter]

Kathlene: [Laughter] Yeah, that’s awesome. I just appreciate so much you letting us have the opportunity to share the amazing things that Aldersgate is doing because I just can’t think of another company that has this group of people that just is always thinking about what can we do next, what can we do next. I love it and, Mike, I think you’re awesome.

Mike: Aw.

Kathlene: This has been a great time sharing with you.

Mike: Oh, well, likewise. Kathlene, Brooks, thank you for hanging out on Aldersgate OnAir. All of you out there in radio and podcast land, seriously, if you are not familiar with Aldersgate, get on the website, check them out, see what they’re all about, follow their awesomeness, and do what you can to help the world. Thank you, guys. I’ll talk to you again real soon.

Brooks: Thank you.

Kathlene: Thank you.

[music]

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