Sandra Franca, a Laundry Aide in the Smith Care Center, is one of our 2019 scholarship recipients. She was awarded the Bea Davis memorial Scholarship and will be using the scholarship to obtain a Master Herbalist and Aromatherapist Certification.

While researching herbal remedies to complement her health care plan, Sandra became curious about how she could use natural products in conjunction with modern medicine to support a balanced, healthy life. “Eastern and Western styles of medicine are opposites, but they can work together,” she said.

Sandra is currently enrolled in a one-year online program based in North Carolina with Demetria Clark, CH AT. Demetria founded the school in 1998 and has since served over 25,000 students worldwide. “I love the program because I am able to talk with the head instructor one-on-one,” Sandra said.

In 2016, Sandra was diagnosed with breast cancer and began receiving chemotherapy. During her therapy treatments, she discovered how eating natural oils like flaxseed helped re-energize her body. “It feels amazing to give your body the nutrients it needs and wants, and my body responded well to the natural products,” Sandra said. Incorporating oils, herbs, and other natural products into her own care plan has helped Sandra and her body fight her cancer, and now her numbers are starting to drop back down to normal levels. “This is why I believe so much in nature’s remedies,” she said. For Sandra and her husband Marco, an E-Tech here at Plymouth Harbor, nothing is more sacred than the environment and Mother Earth, which is part of the reason why Sandra was so intrigued by herbalism and aromatherapy.

Upon completion of her program, Sandra will either practice as a medicinal herbalist or as a more relaxation-based aromatherapist. She isn’t sure yet which way she will go, but either way she knows she just wants to help others feel better. “I feel so blessed to have received this scholarship,” Sandra said. “Once I earn my certification, I want to share with others the benefits of doing things the natural way.”

When you work with the Plymouth Harbor Home Care Department, you have access to over 100 years of nursing experience, just at Plymouth Harbor alone. Our nurses have helped our residents through the continuum of care, and their incredible amount of experience has proved time and time again to be a reliable “first line of defense” whenever an emergency arises.

“These folks have cared for independent residents in their own home, perhaps once or twice for an emergency or over a period of years, and it must be comforting to know that in their time of need a familiar face shows up at their door,” said Joe Devore, Senior Vice President of Health Services.

Anna Johnson and Joan Brown have both been nurses in the Home Care department since 1989, making up 60 years of total Plymouth Harbor experience just between the two of them. During their tenure here, they have supported residents during times of need, both physically and emotionally. “As a nurse, you are given the privilege and responsibility of caring for the injured and sick, and you are able to give compassion in a time of need,” said Anna Johnson, LPN. “To know you have helped someone in a trying time makes you feel as if you are a part of something wonderful (Plymouth Harbor).” Other members of the Home Care team include Liz Clark (32 years at Plymouth Harbor), Cindy Taylor (18 years at Plymouth Harbor), Bridget Chapman (18 years at Plymouth Harbor), and Debbie Perren (6 years at Plymouth Harbor).

Every day brings something new, and our team is well-equipped and trusted to handle each situation with the proper care and genuine compassion. But looking back at their careers at Plymouth Harbor, it isn’t so much the emergencies that stand out; it’s the small, quiet moments. “What stands out most to me was how residents and employees worked together during the hurricanes,” said Joan Brown, LPN. “Everyone pitched in, doing chores that weren’t expected of them, and it certainly made what could have been a bad situation much more pleasant.”

Our residents know that their health and wellbeing is Home Care’s priority, and they can be counted on to deliver. “The Home Care department is the jewel of Plymouth Harbor,” said resident Randy Bishop. “The nurses and their devotion and helpfulness, both psychologically and physically, is not to be underestimated. They are the most important thing about Plymouth Harbor.”

The appreciation goes both ways. “Working in the Home Care Department, I learned to be a confident, independent nurse, and I can thank my Co-Workers and Plymouth Harbor Residents for that,” Joan said.

“Residents often reminisce with me about a time that I have helped them,” Anna said. “We laugh together at what we did and said. They are happy moments.”

Plymouth Harbor prides itself in offering a safe and supportive environment for its employees that aids them in reaching their dreams and goals. Through its annual scholarship programs, Plymouth Harbor has helped many employees go back to school and continue their education.

Tara Mitchell came to Plymouth Harbor in 2006 as a CNA and is now the Smith Care Center’s Assistant Director of Nursing (ADON). “Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine this happening, but the scholarships helped with a lot,” Tara said.

Tara earned her LPN in 2010 from Manatee Technical, went back to school in 2013 to fulfill her pre-requisite courses for her RN degree, and earned her RN license in January 2018. Even as a full-time student, Tara continued to work at Plymouth Harbor as a flex nurse. She received her first scholarship in 2013, and then received the Doyle scholarship in 2015. “It paid for my nursing and bachelors degrees, and also helped me support my three children,” Tara said.

Tara grew up wanting to be a cosmetologist, but when she became pregnant for the first time she realized nursing was her true calling. “My nurse, Barbara, was the most awesome nurse ever,” Tara said. It was after this interaction that Tara decided to become a nurse, and she hopes to one day work with mothers and babies.

Now that she is the ADON, Tara’s responsibilities are more administrative, but that doesn’t stop her from making sure she spends time bedside helping residents. “Whenever I have time, I ask our nurses if there is anything I can help them with,” Tara said. “I choose to still be hands-on and keep up my skills. I’m just that way.” She also makes sure she keeps her bedside skills sharp by working at Sarasota Memorial Hospital.

Claudia Cavero is also a nurse in our Smith Care Center. For the past 16 months, Claudia has been enrolled at Rasmussen College in Tampa pursuing her RN degree. She received the Gaylord Scholarship in 2018 and used it to help pay for her tuition and books. This scholarship is specifically for those pursuing a career in the nursing field.

During her RN program, Claudia was commuting to Tampa three to four days a week for classes and clinicals, all while working full time and raising her 13-year-old son. “Plymouth Harbor was so flexible with my schedule,” Claudia said. “I worked as a private duty and night shift nurse, which allowed me to come to work and take care of my residents while also going to school.” During her down time while on night shift, Claudia would study and do her homework.

Claudia completed her courses in April 2019, took and passed the NCLEX (nursing boards) in May, and is proud to say she is officially a Registered Nurse. She is “so grateful to Plymouth Harbor” and the Gaylord Scholarship for helping her achieve this goal and is “planning to grow here and see how far I can go.”

Both Tara and Claudia are examples of how far people can go with just a little extra support, and they both echoed the same sentiment: a great big thank you. To those who have donated to the Foundation Scholarships program or plan to, your kindness and generosity is forever appreciated.

Plymouth Harbor has a tradition of honoring our nurses and nursing assistants during Nursing Home Week, and this year was no exception! Nurses and Nursing home appreciation week falls in May, and we like to take this time every year to thank our nurses for all that they do, for they have changed many of our lives for the better. Nursing is not for everyone, and it takes a special kind of person to dedicate their life to this profession. The driving force for many is the simple desire to help others.

Cindy Taylor has worked as a nurse at Plymouth Harbor for over 20 years, always with independent residents through the Home Care department. Her drive to become a nurse stemmed from seeing her grandmother struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. When Cindy saw how much the home health workers brightened her grandmother’s day, she decided that she would become a caregiver. “I knew that this is what I came here to do,” Cindy said. As a nurse, Cindy is challenged daily and finds satisfaction knowing that she is making a positive difference in someone’s life. Throughout her 20 years at Plymouth Harbor, Cindy has gotten to know residents well. “I have known them as independents, and I get to be with them as they need more care,” she said. “I cherish the relationships I have made here.”

Liz Clark has always felt that nursing was for her. Her mother had polio from the age of 10, and has been in a wheelchair ever since. When Liz was 13, she became a candy striper and worked on the cancer floor of the hospital. She loved being able to help others and from that point on, she “did nothing but nursing.” In high school, she continued to work at the hospital, and in 1978 she took on another position working 3-9 p.m. in the infirmary at Plymouth Harbor. Liz has worked at Plymouth Harbor on and off ever since, becoming an LPN and raising kids during the time in-between.

Katie Sowers is one of our newest nurses on campus, and she echoes a similar sentiment. Katie knew she wanted to help people, so she earned her degree in family and marriage counseling. Soon after, she realized she wanted to help in a more hands-on way, and went back to school to become a CNA. She has now been a nurse for almost a year. To her, nursing is a universal way to connect with and help others. “Everyone knows someone who needs help, or has grandparents who are aging,” she said. “As a nurse at Plymouth Harbor, I am able to help people at this stage of life and hear their stories.”

Plymouth Harbor is blessed to have dedicated, kind nurses on our staff. Please take a moment to thank them for all that they do!

Plymouth Harbor staffs over 300 employees, of which 113 have origins outside of the United States. Our employees come to us from all corners of the world, bringing with them their own unique knowledge, skills, ideas, and talents. With such a broad background, our staff comes together to create an inclusive, diverse Plymouth Harbor atmosphere that makes employees feel part of a true family. Each person has their own story of how they came to work at Plymouth Harbor, and learning
their stories helps us better understand how to work together.

Marcos, an E-Tech in the Housekeeping department, was born and raised in Brazil. He earned a degree in architecture and worked for the government for two years before moving to the U.S. As a federal architect, Marcos helped design and develop affordable housing out of recycled materials for those in need. He and his team were able to build a one-bedroom, one-bathroom home in as little as 15 days, all using recycled materials and resources from the rain forest, such as resin to seal the homes from water and humidity. He and his wife Sandra, who also works at Plymouth Harbor have one daughter, who is earning a degree in criminology at USF with the help of a Plymouth Harbor Foundation scholarship.

Billy, a cook in our main kitchen, moved here from the Dominican Republic in 2011 in search of security. He became a citizen one year ago, and is now working towards his dream of becoming a police officer.

Roberto is also a cook in our main kitchen. He and his family moved from Lima, Peru to the U.S. in 2003 with the hopes of providing a better life for their two children. In Peru, Roberto was a business owner who ran his own store selling electrical appliances and tools. He hopes to become a citizen this year. “We are like the United Nations in the kitchen,” said Executive Chef Rene Weder, a Switzerland native.

Inga, one of our housekeepers, is originally from Ukraine. Ever since she was five years old, Inga had dreamed about living in the U.S. It took many years to get the proper immigration documentation, but Inga says it was worth it. Moving to Chicago was a dramatic change, but she loved being able to live in such a friendly, beautiful city. The people of Chicago made her feel so welcome every day, that she “cried many times walking down the street because of how nice people were,” Inga shared. Inga moved to Sarasota after seven years in Chicago, but her daughter still lives there with her husband and Inga’s granddaughter.

Before moving to the U.S. and becoming a citizen, Inga was a jack of all trades. She began her professional career as a civil engineer, first helping create submarines and then creating information bases for telephone companies. Next, she was a business owner, owning both a travel agency and a restaurant in Kiev, the
Ukrainian capital. Her final job before moving the U.S. was as an interior designer, with the president of Ukraine being one of her clients. “I have always liked to create and manage things, and I am crazy about design,” Inga said. Now, she is taking English classes at Suncoast College and plans to take business classes in the future.

In 2006, Nela, another member of our Housekeeping department, immigrated to the U.S. from Nicaragua to help her family. Before moving, she had spent five years earning a pharmacy degree and two years working in the field. Nela began saving for school when she was 17 years old, and she worked throughout her entire education to pay for school herself. When her aunt offered to help her come to the U.S., Nela made the decision to move so that she could better provide for her parents. “It has been hard work, but I am happy,” Nela said.

For many, moving to the U.S. has provided them with better opportunities and the chance of an improved life for their families. They have all made sacrifices to be here, but the experiences and stories they bring to Plymouth Harbor are what set us apart, and helps us do our job as best as possible. “Plymouth Harbor is a beautiful tapestry of people from many different countries, cultures, and races,” said Tena Wilson, Vice President of Resident and Employee Relations. “Our differences make us unique, but the love and support that we show each other and the residents every day is what makes us family.”

Beth Watson is a native Rhode Islander who comes to us with more than two decades of fundraising experience. Beth graduated from Rhode Island College with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and has continued her education at various other institutions including Merrimack College, Emerson College, and Harvard University. Upon graduation, she secured a position at USA Today. She spent six years there bettering her writing, presenting, advertising, and sales skills. It was at this job that she was inspired to pursue career opportunities in the non-profit sector.

In 1988 Beth accepted the role of Director of Marketing and Public Relations at the Providence Public Library. Over the next 12 years, Beth advanced the library’s visibility and assisted in her first fundraising project. Together with the Director of Development and Board, Beth helped organize a $2 million capital campaign.

In 2001 Beth took a step back from full-time work to care for her father who had been diagnosed with ALS. During this time, she began working to help launch Rhode Island’s only children’s bereavement center called Friends Way. She considers this project “one of her most significant contributions.”

In 2005 she returned to work full-time as the Director of Development and Communications for Children’s Friend and Services, then as the Director of Institutional Advancement for Redwood Library, and most recently as Director of Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Mercy, a group of Roman Catholic women committed to serving and advocating for those in need.

Throughout her professional life, Beth has employed a four-tiered philosophy: communication, expectations, accessibility, and accountability. Both her professional and personal experience have shaped her into someone who is deeply committed to helping others, and she feels “honored to continue to articulate a faith-based vision and mission for Plymouth Harbor and its donors, bracing them for future, sustainable growth for generations to come.”

Beth has two children. Her son is a boat-builder, and her daughter recently graduated and is now a Physician’s Assistant with plans to specialize in Women’s health and surgery. One of her favorite quotes is from the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus “The art of living well and the art of dying well are one.” In her free time, Beth enjoys gardening, yoga, and paddle boarding. Please join us in welcoming Beth aboard our team!

A new Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care has been chosen, and she is no stranger to Plymouth Harbor. Congratulations, Brandi Burgess!

With a degree in Sociology and Psychology from the College of William and Mary, Brandi started working at Plymouth Harbor in 1999 as an activities coordinator. She also helped manage the social services in the Smith Care Center. When the SCC was opened up to the community, Brandi moved into the role of Admissions and Marketing Coordinator and helped Plymouth Harbor earn a reputation for being not only a great retirement community, but also an excellent skilled nursing and rehab center. She worked as Plymouth Harbor’s social worker and the Positive Approach® to Care educator before being asked to step into the role of Interim Administrator of Assisted Living and Memory Care.

“Over the last five months, Brandi has lead by example and worked effectively with residents, family members, staff, and contractors to help our Seaside Assisted Living and Starr Memory Care Residence complete a successful first full year of operation,” said Joe Devore, Senior Vice President of Health Services.

Now, after completing her Assisted Living Facility regulatory training and earning her license, she officially takes on her role of Administrator of Assisted Living, the Seaside and the Starr Memory Care Residences.

“As we began our search for an Administrator for Assisted Living and Memory Care, we profiled a professional who had all of the credentials required, coupled with the strong organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills necessary to administer our Positive Approach® to Care philosophy,” said Harry Hobson, CEO. “We identified Brandi early on as THAT person and so much more. We know Brandi’s heart aligns with our Plymouth Harbor mission, and we are so pleased to see Brandi move into this important leadership position.”

“I am grateful for the support of my husband, Warren, who takes such good care of our family while I have taken on more responsibilities here,” Brandi said. “I am proud and blessed to be a part of what I believe will be the premier Assisted Living and Memory Care home in the Southeast.”

Plymouth Harbor’s Health Services staff conducted their fifth annual Skills Fair for nurses and certified nursing assistants in the Club Room, September 24th-27th. While annual training is required, a skills fair allows it to be “hands on,” which is the best way of ensuring our nursing staff is competent and knowledgeable in the latest techniques and skills.

The Skills Fair was well attended by our team members. The Smith Care Center had a total of 27 CNAs and 25 nurses attend; Our Home Care department had 23 CNAs and 6 nurses attend; And the Seaside Assisted Living and Starr Memory Care Residences had 22 CNAs and 10 nurses attend. That’s a total of 113 direct care team members. Harry Hobson attended as well!

There were several stations where team members were asked to perform a variety of skills from hand washing (required minimum of 20 seconds), catheter care/insertion (using a life-like mannequin donated by the Plymouth Harbor Foundation), glucometer use, infection control, oral care, skin/wound care, and transferring residents using a mechanical lift. Each skill was explained and demonstrated to the attendees who were then required to do a return demonstration of the skill and get it checked off that they completed the skill satisfactorily. Once they completed their skill sheets, they were able to put their name in for a drawing for one of two gift baskets donated by the Foundation. Congratulations to Andrea Davis and Maria Chavarria, the winners of the baskets.

Plymouth Harbor is committed to the education and growth of our nursing staff, and the Skills Fair ensures we continue providing our staff with the training they need to give our residents the care they deserve.