Tucked away in a charming neighborhood sits Belvedere Senior Housing. When you walk in, you immediately feel the warmth and joy the center offers their residents. Part of that warmth and joy is due to the work that Resident Services Coordinator Georgiana Balas performs every day. Her work stems from a lifelong passion, and she approaches her routine duties with a sense of purpose and joy.
When she was just 19 years old, Balas took a job working in the kitchens at Saint Anthony Hospital. It was there that she realized working with the senior population was something she enjoyed. When she crossed paths with a persnickety woman that the other staff didn’t want to serve, Balas stepped up and served her with a smile on her face. She took the time to make a connection.
“Having that connection with her and trying to do my best to make her happy just gave me great pride,” Balas said.
Balas took time off to raise her four children and when she was ready to step back into the workforce, she knew exactly where to start. Taking a position in housekeeping at a local facility, she was back in the senior community. Housekeeping was one of the most meaningful positions for Balas as she was able to have a closer, more personal connection with the residents.
“I loved housekeeping because I got to be in their room, in their personal space with them and all their prized possessions. We got to talk, and it was just a nice feeling to get to know who they were and all their history,” Balas said. “There was a 100-year-old woman who used to fly planes. And that was in 2010, so just think—this woman had to be one of the first women ever to fly.”
As other opportunities arose, she stepped into new roles. When a position in the activities department opened, Balas knew it would be a great fit. As the person in her own family who plans all the activities and events, she found it a natural role to take on.
“To work in activities kind of made sense, and my family thought it was perfect for me,” Balas said. “In the kitchen, you don't get to see the residence on a daily basis, and I really need to have contact with them and know who they are. I want to know their history and thoughts and lives.”
Balas has thrived working in activities and life enrichment over the years. She knew about Belvedere Senior Housing long before she started working there, and when she learned about the Resident Service Coordinator position, she knew it would be a good fit for her. The unique service of providing quality senior living to those on Medicare/Medicaid is something that really drew Balas to Belvedere Senior Housing.
“The residents really appreciate everything we do for them. When you throw a birthday party and you provide a cake and a few puzzles, they're thrilled to death and it’s very heartwarming,” Balas said.
Making connections and spreading joy is at the core of what Balas does every day. Whether it is organizing a Bingo game or driving the residents to and from doctors’ appointments or shopping, she uses every opportunity to talk with the residents and get to know them. She also encourages their independence and seeks to give them the opportunity to take ownership of their activities.
From including the residents in decorating for the center’s large events to having them run some of the daily activities, Balas knows that having them involved is a way to keep them motivated and active. When she can find just what a resident is good at and give them the ability to contribute, it means so much to her.
“It gives me goosebumps and it makes me feel like this is the best job in the world,” Balas said.
Balas is even hoping to create an ambassador group at Belvedere Senior Living, similarly to a group she created in her former position. These ambassadors would help run the activities and be a part of the creative planning of events and activities. They would also be able to get their fellow residents to join in the fun. The program was a great success, and Balas hopes it can be implemented at Belvedere.
“Not only did the ambassadors help decide what activities we should put into place, but they were really good at gathering the other residents and encouraging them to come out to the activities,” Balas said.
One of Balas’ biggest successes was seeing a resident who rarely came out of his room, let alone joined in on activities, get involved with their recent Carnival Day. Balas learned that he really liked to work with his hands and had carpentry skills. She recruited him to help her build the dunk tank for the Carnival Day, and the pride he took in his creation was evident.
“He sat down there the whole time and just enjoyed watching people enjoy his creation,” said Balas. “Now, we’re best buds and I have a connection with him. He hardly ever came out of his room, and now he’s out all the time.”
It’s stories like this that keep Balas working hard each day. She knows that those connections are important—not only to her, but to the residents she serves. Any small activity or word can spark joy in someone, and that is something Balas strives for.
She summed her role up well when she said, “When you have a moment of joy, that feeling will last all day.” To find out more about Belvedere Senior Housing, visit their website here.