A View From the Top
Continuity, Capability, Caring
The Staff at the Heart of Sunridge Village
By Marge Shoemaker
In the past eight years of writing articles about Sunridge Village Retirement Community, I’ve had the opportunity to interview a variety of residents, including couples and singles, men and women, and even some of the residents’ families. A review of all their comments has led me to the conclusion that the heart of Sunridge Village is the staff!
Sunridge Village, opened in 1998, it is a family-owned and -operated retirement community nestled in a west Omaha neighborhood. One of the major assets of Sunridge is the continuity of its staff, which has a combined total of nearly 100 years of service. This includes Michale Kavan (Marketing Director), Gene McKenna (Chef), Tricia Metz (Life Enrichment Coordinator), and Debbie McMahon (Office), who each have over 17 years of service, and many other staff members. For this interview, owner Richard Anzalone, Michale, Gene, and Patrick visit about why you should consider Sunridge Village Community as your next move.
Richard Anzalone and his wife, Heidi, are truly at the heart of Sunridge Village. Richard first learned about senior housing from his grandmother, Emelie Jonusas. In 1968, she opened the Omaha Nursing Home. In 1988, she opened Southview Heights Independent and Assisted Living, and, in 1998, she opened Sunridge Village Independent Living Retirement Community with Richard.
Richard learned the value of developing relationships with local vendors, many of which are also family-owned businesses. Those established relationships have really helped out when there has been an urgent need when Richard was out of town. “They know the Sunridge staff and are quick to respond,” Patrick comments.
Richard is a hands-on business owner. According to residents interviewed in the past, he is on site almost every day and comes to their special events. “My grandmother considered family important,” Richard says. “Our residents are like family. We now have second generations from former residents that live here. That means a lot!”
Gene has spent most of his life in food service and is well aware of what makes a restaurant successful. When cooking and baking, he uses only fresh ingredients. Perishables are rotated so there’s little or no waste. Gene thinks of the Sunridge dining room as “my little restaurant” when making up his menus. Each day, he prepares for a home-style dinner. “Every apartment also has a full kitchen,” he explains. “If the residents have special diets or a food allergy, they have the option of preparing their own meal.” Sunridge Village offers a flexible dining option for those residents. Lunch is an optional program. Sunridge Village has weekly lunch outings to different restaurants in the greater Omaha area.
Weekend meals are served “family style” and usually include roast beef, baked ham, fried chicken, and many other resident favorites as the main entrée. Pastries or light snacks are often prepared for group gatherings such as socials and special events.
The wait staff is made up of high school students. Gene works with the kids, encouraging them to communicate with the residents. He expects his wait staff to be “competent, attentive, and ready to serve.” Gene is passionate about what he does, and he believes that the simple things count.
Patrick worked at Sunridge Village for about a year when it first opened. “I started here as a security guard at night when I was 23,” he recalls. As he got his career started, he wanted to try different employment opportunities, so he left Sunridge Village and worked for several years with different corporate-owned establishments. At those workplaces, he says, “I experienced an attitude of ‘That’s not my job!’ That didn’t suit me or my personality.” When he applied at Sunridge Village about a year ago, Richard remembered him and welcomed him back to the family. “The attitude here,” Patrick says, “is ‘How can I help?’ I think that’s important. I’m glad I came back!”
The Ambassador Program allows residents to customize handyman services as needed, including such tasks as hanging curtain rods and artwork, installing ceiling fans, and much more, in addition to changing light bulbs and furnace filters. Patrick works diligently to keep the building and apartments in tip-top shape.
Tricia Metz is the Life Enrichment Coordinator. Her job is to organize daily events such as exercise, socials, and outings. She schedules a variety of games, including bridge, poker, Mahjong, Pokeno, and many other board games that are of interest to the residents. Group outings as well as large-scale parties and celebrations on site are also under her direction. She stages local entertainment groups, outdoor gatherings, anniversary and birthday parties, and a variety of other activities and celebrations that are also open to families. Tricia is also a tremendous help to residents with online shopping.
It’s obvious why residents praise the Sunridge Village staff. They can all feel the importance of being part of the Sunridge Village family!
Sunridge Village Retirement Community is located at 13410 Blondo Street, in Omaha. To learn more, call 402-496-0116 or visit Sunridge Village online at sunridgeomaha.com.
L-R: Michale Kavan,
Richard and Heidi Anzalone,
Gene McKenna, Tricia Metz