COVID-19 and WesleyLife: Learn More and HELP NOW!

Recognizing our "Helpers"

"Helpers" badge

Fred Rogers, known to the world as the beloved "Mr. Rogers," once shared on his long-running show for children, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood": "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.'"

During this challenging time, WesleyLife is filled with "helpers!" Meet them below, and nominate someone today

May 24:

Today's helpers are WesleyLife Network Support Center teammates Marisa Gibson, Talent Acquisition Specialist, and Jodi Doyle, Director of Talent Acquisition. In nominating them, Amy Knight, Director of People and Culture for WesleyLife at Home, wrote:

"Marisa and Jodi have jumped in to find Home Care Aides, Case Manager-RNs, and Visiting Nurses for WesleyLife At Home service lines. I would not have been able to give the time and focus required to find candidates fast. We’re all doing more than one job these days, but Marisa and Jodi have taken a huge job off my plate. My hiring managers are grateful to know their open positions are getting professional attention from an awesome recruiting team!"

Thank you, Marisa and Jodi!


May 21:

Brio leadershipToday's "helpers" are ALL the team members at Brio of Johnston! In her nomination, a team member who asked to remain anonymous wrote:

"The health care industry encircles caregivers who thrive on helping others, especially in a time of need. During this pandemic, specifically in Long Term Care, I trust every community is rising in the level of caregivers that are becoming extraordinary helpers!  Brio of Johnston is no different but what I have observed and appreciated is certainly worth noting because Brio leads by example!! 

"Brio’s Leadership Team is leading the way by being frontline helpers and in turn gaining more 'helpers' within the community.  When it comes to compassion, teamwork, support, and encouragement – the leadership team at Brio chooses to lead by example.

"It’s inspiring to say the least on top of their daily responsibilities, several times a day a member of the leadership team selflessly offer assistance with direct care, food delivery, video calls, and participation with Fun Friday wellness checks to every resident on campus in their apartment!   Leaders have gone so far to sign up for needed assistance in the skilled households and memory care every day (including weekends).  Their gesture offers support, assistance and a much-needed break to the direct care team members.  More importantly, their actions say it all – 'We are in this together and we will work through it together.'.   

"Thank you, Brio Leadership, by being 'Helpers' and supporting the direct care workers!  Your sincere actions demonstrate to team members, residents and families alike that you truly care and will assure everyone is cared for because it’s a community of family!"


May 19:

HearthstoneToday's helpers are the entire team at Hearthstone in Pella, led by Executive Director Nancy Hamilton. The team was nominated by Hearthstone resident Fern Uitermarkt, who wrote:

"I'd like to nominate everyone! From the food to the entertainment, everyone is going the extra mile to be keeping us comfortable and helping us stay healthy right now."


May 16:

Bambi Press Today's helpers are the Meals on Wheels team, led by Bambi Press, Community Nutrition Manager, pictured at right. The team was nominated by a client who chose not to provide his name, but told his story to Melanie Lynch, Billing Specialist for WesleyLife. In his conversation with Melanie, the gentleman, age 94, said:

“I am so thankful my daughters and granddaughter pushed us to use WesleyLife Meals on Wheels. I am old and set in my ways, and I felt my wife and I didn’t need this service. I am so thankful for the delicious meals and delivery staff who make my day. I am glad that my daughters and granddaughter didn’t take no for an answer and set this up because they proved me wrong when I said I didn’t need such a service. I thank God every day that I wake up and can look forward to receiving my meal!"


May 13:

Jessica ReinkingToday's helpers are the culinary team at Brio of Johnston! In nominating them, Brio Executive Director Teresa Krueger referenced an email to Jessica Reinking, Brio Director of Food and Beverage, from residents Tim and Judy West. They wrote: 

"We would like to commend you and your staff for the great meal offerings we've been having.  We really enjoyed last night's meatballs and spaghetti, but are also partial to Jay's meatloaf.  We understand that current regulations have put the kitchen staff under some new pressure, but we think you all are handling it fine. Thanks for your good work!"



May 10:

Today's helper is Amy Knight, Director of People and Culture for WesleyLife at Home. In nominating Amy, Cindy Meek, Bereavement Coordinator for WesleyLife Hospice, wrote: 

Amy Knight"Amy has done an amazing job working with both the leadership team and all the team members of Hospice, Home Health, and Public Health during a difficult time. She keeps a cool head and always has a great sense of humor. She is famous for her uninhibited laugh! Amy puts in endless hours of overtime to respond to our barrage of questions regarding ever-changing coronavirus updates, team member resources, etc., all while doing her full-time job of recruiting and orienting new employees. She has a unique way of making each of us feel heard. Amy has wicked good skills combined with a compassionate heart. We are so lucky to have her on our WesleyLife team!"


May 7:

Today's helper is volunteer Kim O'Connor. In nominating Kim, Connie Bever, Sales Director at Edgewater, wrote:

Kim O'Connor "Kim has been volunteering for WesleyLife Meals on Wheels and even recruited an additional volunteer one day! She grocery shopped for Edgewater residents as well. She finished her shopping lists and then went back to help the other shoppers because she felt she finished early! Kim has no connection to WesleyLife -- other than I asked her if she would do these things! She is a very giving person who has a lot of energy."

Thank you so much, Kim! 


May 4:

Aree Baker Today's helper is Aree Baker, Director of WesleyLife Hospice, who was nominated by almost too many people to count! 

Elanna Fultz, Director of Quality for WesleyLife Home and Community-Based Services, wrote: "Due to keeping the office team members safe, many clinical leaders are working in the field and not basing their daily operations in the office.  As a result this has left Aree Baker the sole clinical leader to help guide clinical needs in regards to supplies, TB testing, and competency checks.  She has taken this on leadership role in the office without complaint and remains a source of strength within the office."

Renee Surh, Clinical Manager for WesleyLife Hospice, wrote: "Aree has been available day and night to answer any questions staff may have for patients regarding COVID-19. Aree has put in place plans that protect the safety of the staff, all the while finding ways to reach the patients so that they will not feel so isolated. There are many wonderful stories coming out of hospice of employees going above and beyond. Aree hasn’t missed a beat, recognizing each and every detail, however minute, to shed light on how each team member lifts up the COVID patients during these times. By doing so, she increases morale and the sense teamwork for the good of the patients and the hospice program."

Elaine Jones, Spiritual Care Counselor for WesleyLife, wrote: "Thank you Aree for your leadership and heart of service to our team and our patients!  During this ever-changing and challenging time you provide encouragement and assurance that we will all get through this.  Thank for your focus and steady approach to work through problems and the openness to listen to our concerns.  You’ve made sure every team member has all the supplies we need to complete our jobs.  I can only imagine how many steps you put in during the day as you gather our supplies!  Thank you for helping our team focus on what truly matters and being an encouragement, along with having a sense of humor when needed.  You are a BLESSING!"

Stephanie Nossaman, A WesleyLife Hospice aide, wrote: "Aree Baker, our fearless leader of Hospice. What an example of amazing leadership. She has been the rock that each staff person depends upon. She has called to check in and make sure I’m doing ok or if there is anything I need or any concerns. I don’t know if she realizes what an exemplary boss she truly is to me. With all the COVID changes daily, she has kept up with them and relayed to each of her staff plus being the support system for calmness and clarity. Aree, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do each and every day to support our TEAM...we appreciate you and are so grateful to be a part of this amazing TEAM."



May 1:

PPE TeamToday's helpers are the "PPE Team" at WesleyLife at Home in Urbandale. In nominating the team, Amy Knight, Director of People and Culture for WesleyLife at Home, said:

"Getting Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to our team members, who are mostly in the field, has been extra challenging for WesleyLife At Home. Lauren Swan, In-Home Services Scheduler, and Tara Sturgeon, People & Culture Assistant, were asked to take on the very challenging task of inventorying our supplies (a few times) and developing a process for how and when to distribute the equipment to our team members. It was a monumental task, on top of their full-time jobs. Neither of them hesitated when asked to help – they both said, 'Sure, what can I do?'

"Elanna Fultz, Director of Quality, has directed the PPE process and has done a great job helping Lauren and Tara navigate all the one-off requests that require PPE but were exceptions to our guidelines. Neither Tara or Lauren has a clinical background, so her guidance has been invaluable.

"Laurel Peake, Office Manager, has also been supportive by allocating expenses for the PPE received and helping to distribute it to team members.

Without this team, we would have been challenged to keep our team members and clients safe during this pandemic."


April 29:

Shannon Minshall Today's helpers are Shannon Minshall, Executive Director at Park Centre in Newton, and his team. In nominating them, Mary Ahrenholz, whose parents live in Assisted Living at Park Center, wrote:

"This letter comes with a grateful heart for all the wonderful care that my parents are receiving at Park Centre. There are those who are standouts who I feel need to be recognized and thanked continuously for all they are doing for them!!!

"You, Shannon, took time out of your busy day to help with the phone situation -- 2 times -- and tried to get things straightened out. You advocated for them in this situation and that was so appreciated! Plus you have called me on several occasions and we have visited about situations. THANK YOU SHANNON!!!

"Mark Howard -- how do I even begin to say THANK YOU to him? He has worked above and beyond what is required of him to make sure that mom has food/drinks that she can eat and will eat. When something sounds good to her, he is right there with it. He has gone out of his way to provide for her nutrition and then has so kindly let me know what he has done. I cannot say THANK YOU and BLESS YOU enough to Mark for all he has done. Plus he also has let me text him and then he responds with a solution. He has shown love and care for both my parents but especially mom. THANK YOU MARK!!!

"Kelsey has been an angel to keep me updated especially lately. She is a wonderful advocate for Mom and shows that love and concern in very special ways. I appreciate the time she takes with my parents and then calls me to keep me informed. The 'no visitors' policy that has been implemented which makes Kelsey even more important in our lives because of the communication that she shares with me. THANK YOU KELSEY!!!

"The caregivers in Assisted Living are awesome! Deb, Phyllis, Anna, Bobbi, Summer, Marvel, and I apologize for anyone that I have not named -- THANK YOU! They are working with my parents each day to make their lives a little better and happier. I know that at times
it is helping dad more than mom but it is all so appreciated! Your love for them comes out in many little ways and I so appreciate each of your as you share your love of your job by loving the clients. THANK YOU TO EACH OF THESE VERY SPECIAL CAREGIVERS!!!

"Margot has been a big help also -- answering questions and just being there and being patient with my parents -- my dad especially! Your love for your job and clients shows. THANKS to Margot!!!

"And Nancy has helped with some finance questions that they and I have had. I appreciate her also and the help she so willingly gives. THANK YOU, NANCY!!!" 


April 26:

Kari Grindberg Today's helper is Karianna (Kari) Grindberg, Lifestyle Coordinator of Brio of Johnston! Her nomination comes from Debbie Buchholz, the daughter of a Brio resident who is deaf.

"I pastor a deaf church in Olathe, Kansas, and our worship service and Bible study class are via Zoom. Thank you so much to Kari for helping my dad get on Zoom. He was so glued to the lesson I was teaching.  He didn't even fall asleep until the very end but we went over by 30 minutes. That means he watched for a little over an hour. He loved seeing so many deaf people and seeing the signing. Again, thank you so much!"

April 23:

Natasha NikkelToday's helper is Natasha Nikkel, Director of Wellness at Hearthstone in Pella. In nominating Natasha, her teammate Frank Tafta wrote:

"Natasha is going above and beyond her duties in order to make this time fun and enjoyable for our residents here in Pella. She is consistently thinking outside the box of how to keep residents active and functional in IL and across campus. With her creativity she has been able to create events that include room service carts, ice cream sundae carts, rc cars and Nerf guns, hallway bingo and scavenger hunts for the residents. With doing all of this she is still making sure that residents and family members are staying in touch via video chatting.

"Not only is Natasha making sure the residents are staying active and happy but she is also finding ways to keep team member morale and positivity up. She is doing this not only by herself and finding out what team members are looking for but working with other departments and getting other leaders and supervisors on board of helping.

"Natasha makes sure she always has a smile on her face and a positive attitude when at work. This makes residents and team members reassured that things are going great and going to get better.

"A resident has referred to her as a “Gift from above” and another one called her and angel.

"Natasha is an amazing helper and hero to residents and team members throughout this time."


April 21:

Karie Kesterson-Gibson Today's helper is Karie Kesterson-Gibson, Clinical Quality Specialist for WesleyLife. In nominating Karie, here's what Sharon Sprankle, Clinical Reimbursement Specialist for WesleyLife, had to say.

"During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Karie has put in countless hours researching all reputable sources, accumulating and formulating guidance for procedures and policies, and guiding our communities through this difficult time. Karie portrays and is an example to all to remain 'the calm in the storm.' Thank you, Karie!" 



April 18:

DonationToday's corporate helper is TPI in Newton! The organization, a wind-blade manufacturer, donated an amazing 725 disposable coveralls with hoods, 720 disposable cleanroom pants, 105 face shields and 1,200  highly sought-after N95 face masks to Park Centre, our community in Newton. We are so grateful to Josh Syhlman, general manager of TPI Iowa, and his team for donating the much-needed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which he and manager Ryan Hoenicke delivered to Park Centre last week. (Photo courtesy of Christopher Braunschweig with the Newton Daily News)

April 17:

Jaymie and Dad

Today's helpers include the entire team at Park Centre in Newton! Jaymie Banks-Westfield is the Director of People and Culture at Wesley Acres in Des Moines, and she's also the daughter of a Park Centre resident. Jaymie and her dad, Junior Banks, are pictured at right. Here's what Jaymie has to say about the Park Centre team:

"I'm a daughter first and a team member second, so I want to thank Park Centre and namely Shannon, Brett, Margot, Alyssa and Brittany for taking care of my dad. They’ve taken good care of him prior to COVID-19, so I wouldn't expect anything else! But during this time, when I’m unable to go see him and do things for him that I would normally do, I am grateful that he is being well taken care of and they are keeping him safe."


April 16:

Mia and AngieToday's helpers are Mia Fantauzzi-Anania, Admission Nurse at Edgewater, and Angie Saskowski, Therapy Director at Edgewater. They were nominated by Brent (BJ) Baskerville, Edgewater's Administrator/Associate Director, who received the letter below from Wes Ehrecke regarding the care and services that Mia and Angie provided to his wife. Congratulations to these two deserving caregivers!

"My wife, Cecilia Ehrecke, has been in your Edgewater skilled care the past 3 weeks and was discharged this morning. I just wanted to say 'thank you' for the professional, positive support team you have that provided care for her. I especially want to give kudos and applause to Angie Saskowski and Mia Fantauzzi-Anania; they were both so incredibly helpful, patient, and kind in working with me through the myriad of moving parts for rehab, PT and OT; and answering my countless questions with good suggestions and ideas for all the items that would be needed for a transition home, including home health services support. Plus, I am grateful for them to work with insurance on my behalf, to extend coverage one more week to be better prepared – that was very important to this process. Thanks again to them and Edgewater for the fabulous support and care!"


April 14:

Today's helper, Ashley from The Village in Indianola, was nominated by Monica Vail, the community's Wellness Director. Here, according to Monica, is what makes Ashley special!

Ashley at Village"This is Ashley driving the golf cart. She is the 'lead' team member of the Fireside waitstaff. Ashley has totally stepped up and has taken on many extra roles lately. In addition to helping deliver on average 80 meals a day to our Independent Living residents, she also delivered Easter Grams and dressed up as the Easter Bunny and made SO MANY of our residents' days brighter. She has led by example, and her team has stayed so positive and is so much fun to be around. She even did a fun TikTok video with our other Easter Bunny, Haley. She has just been awesome!"



April 12:

Pella BBQToday's helpers, nominated by James Hoevertsz, Director of Culinary Excellence for WesleyLife, include the culinary team at Hearthstone, a WesleyLife community in Pella. James says:

"I was able to join the team at Pella for a BBQ cookout for team members. They are trying really hard to keep spirits high! In addition to the BBQ, they are making breakfast for the team and have other activities planned as well. Frank Tafta, our Director of Dining Services at Hearthstone, and his team are true WesleyLife heroes, making good things happen every day, and promoting collaboration and hope."



April 9:

Halcyon House team members Today's helpers, nominated by Halcyon House resident Virginia Tschantz, are several team members from that community. Virginia's comments are below!

"I thank Shari and Lisa for allowing me to make my pies for the meals. It gives me a purpose and, I hope, makes people happy. It's also awesome to have great food prepared for me! 'Thank you' to the cleaning team members, who are so pleasant and cheerful. And Penny does so many things for us -- 'mail lady,' etc. -- and Becky gives us 'mind games.' Great job by all!"

April 7:

Kurt Oehlert Today's helper, nominated by the Information Solutions team, is Kurt Oehlert. Here's what the team has to say:

"This time isn't 'business as usual'; in fact it’s business-critical. It's a time of great stress and uncertainty. It’s also a moment in time when the work we need to do at WesleyLife doesn’t stop.

"From our frontline to our backline team members, what we’re all doing is so critical. Sometimes in order to keep our frontline working, we need the backline to step it up. There's no instruction manual for what we are going through, but the next best thing is Kurt Oehlert, Information Solutions System Technician at the Network Support Center.

"Most of the time, we don't all notice the hard work being done behind the scenes. The IS team has had to change our logistics quite a bit lately. From our hardware supply, purchasing, and processes to prioritizing stocking and delivering essential equipment to team members and clients, we are doing things a little differently these days.

"While our frontline employees are providing the vital care our clients need, they very much are depending on communication devices to be available and working. Kurt, working very long hours, has done an exceptional job of setting up the hardware needed to make it possible for our residents to be connected virtually to their family members and physicians.

"All of his hard work has really allowed others in this department to keep focusing on projects and supporting applications that need our day-to-day attention. 

"Kurt is a quiet, humble person. You may not even know that you've dealt with Kurt. You may have met him if you've needed equipment repaired. You might have had tickets answered late in the evening because he knows the importance of each request. We are glad to hear people saying 'thank you' and expressing their gratitude for all his help.

"Our entire IS team is lucky to have such a dedicated and dependable team member on our team! We would like him to know his efforts are being noticed, and we would like to say, 'Thank you, Kurt!'" 


April 4: 

Damon BuskohlToday's helper is Damon Buskohl, Executive Director at Wesley Acres. He was nominated by resident Sue Terry, who says:

"I wanted to express my thanks and gratitude for the early action taken by WesleyLife to keep all residents safe and well. I have been hearing reports from communities elsewhere that continue to have the virus spread. Some continue to have communal dining. Damon and his team have done a wonderful job here at Wesley Acres to keep us 'fed and watered'!"


April 3:

Glen Lewis Today's helper is Glen Lewis, Executive Director at Edgewater. He was nominated by Edgewater resident Lois McBroom, who says:

"I’ve been remiss in not expressing my appreciation to you and your team members sooner for the wonderful job you are doing keeping us safe, comfortable, active, inspired, updated/informed, and well fed! You are a great leader making good choices and putting together a winning team. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I love seeing the camaraderie between team members and residents. You can feel and see it! I admire your strong faith. We know the strength of God’s power! Love and blessings to you and to the team members." 


April 1:

Today's helper is Lindsey Loftsgard, Director of Lifestyle Services at Brio of Johnston. Here's what Shannon Draayer, Director of Health and Well-Being for WesleyLife, has to say about Lindsey:

Lindsey"Lindsey has gone above and beyond to support the health and well-being of Brio residents! She developed kits to support all areas of well-being and has made a challenging situation as fun as possible for the residents she serves. From 'rolling happy hours' to outdoor exercise classes on balconies to being her caring self, we are so grateful to you, Lindsey, for all you do!"


March 31:

Today, we recognize not one helper, but many -- the team at Brio of Johnston. They were recognized by Jim Clark, Chief of the Johnston-Grimes Metropolitan Fire Department, who shared in an email to Craig Weier, Director of Facility Operations for the community:

"I want to commend you and the Brio team for being very well prepared for (the challenge posed by COVID-19). I was impressed by the level of planning that you all have done and the seriousness that the staff has towards this event. It is wonderful to work with such great partners in protecting our citizens."

Brio Executive Director Teresa KruegerCongratulations to Executive Director Teresa Krueger and the Brio team for being recognized as our first "helpers."