Team Member Highlights
FTJ Director of Philanthropy is Awarded Compassionate Heart Award
We are pleased to announce that Shelley Harris, FTJ Director of Philanthropy, was presented with the Compassionate Heart Award on June 15th at the LeadingAge Washington annual conference in Spokane, Washington. This award recognizes an individual who serves as a model of commitment to compassionate care. The criteria includes steadfast commitment “above and beyond the call of duty” to the elderly; specific acts to enhance and enrich the lives of aging persons; exceptional service to a member community, its residents and/or the elderly population in the community; and outstanding treatment of the whole person.
“This nomination paints a picture of someone who truly seeks to meet the needs of each resident and who values the whole person,” announces Glen Melin, LeadingAge Washington Board of Directors Immediate Past Chair and Awards of Excellence Committee Chairperson. “Caregiving is a multifaceted effort and a person can be an excellent provider of care without holding an NAC license. Shelley models the traits all of us would want to see in the team members who are caring for us or a loved one, regardless of their job title. These include commitment to compassionate care, hospitality, and enhancing the lives of aging persons and the elderly population. A common theme in all our award winners is a level of passion that drives them to go ‘above and beyond the call of duty,’ and the nomination describes many ‘above and beyond’ examples of Shelley finding out what brings meaning and joy to individual residents and going out of her way to make everyone feel as if they are family and welcome.”
Carole Velez – Community Liaison
Her name is Carole Velez, but you can just call her the busy bee! Carole is rarely in the same spot for more than an hour and is always sharing her love for Franke Tobey Jones with the community.
Before working with FTJ, Carole used to work in sales. After talking with Carole and getting to know her warm and welcoming personality, you would agree that she could talk to anyone about anything. After holding the same position for over 20 years, she wasn’t actively seeking a new position but was open to change. Before she knew it, this position fell into place and FTJ could not be happier!
Every day is something new and exciting. Carole spends most of her time away from the FTJ campus while engaging with the community. She attends many events, listens to community members speak, and also informs people about Franke Tobey Jones, what we do, and what we stand for. This comes very natural to her since she is very proud to work at FTJ.
“Just by wearing my FTJ jacket when I’m out getting coffee or buying groceries, people warm up to me quicker. Since they know I’m affiliated with FTJ, I get warm smiles and more conversations from strangers. We both know the message the logo stands for and that makes me so proud to work for such a great organization,” said Carole.
One of her favorite qualities about FTJ is the deep-rooted history and her admiration for Mrs. Franke Tobey Jones. Not a lot of people can say they work for an organization that is almost 100-years-old. Ms. Jones had a heart of giving and cared deeply for people. Her strong passion for the elderly and their well-being was made very clear, which is a good standard Carole lives by today.
Some of Carole’s hobbies include going on walks, cooking and watching Netflix…she loves getting into different stories and keeping up with her shows.
Terri Ross – Accounts Payable
If Terri could use two words to describe herself, it would be honest and organized. After seeing her office, it is clear that Terri is one busy gal with multiple stacks of papers on her desk, and she is indeed very organized.
After working at several different accounting jobs, this year will be Terri’s second year on the FTJ team. Terri was seeking change and was excited to learn about a new opening at FTJ, which allowed her to pursue something she was passionate about. With Alzheimer’s in her family, she is very aware of the struggles that family and the resident go through with Alzheimer’s. Terri wanted to bring her background and knowledge to FTJ by helping others and being a part of something bigger. She admires the people and residents with whom she gets to work with daily and is constantly reminded of her purpose of being at FTJ.
“The residents are just fabulous and nothing like I have seen before. We care about them and they care about us. It’s an extremely supportive environment and that’s one reason why I love working here.”
As our Accounts Payable person, a typical day consists of compiling and analyzing invoice’s, making sure all the payments are made on time and helping out with other departments depending on who needs help. Her favorite part of the day is when she gets visitors – all kinds of visitors! Not only is Terri a people person, but she happens to be a very big dog person, too. The residents will frequently stop by her office to say hi, and their dogs know right where to go. Terri keeps special treats for all of the dogs on campus which makes everyone happy.
Although Terri is very busy when working, she stays pretty busy at home with her seven pets. Yes, I did say seven! She has four dogs and three cats that she absolutely loves. Some of her other hobbies include: scrapbooking, quilting and trying to keep up with her grandson.
Sarah Doerner – Wellness Instructor
Talk about going above and beyond! As our wellness instructor, Sarah starts everyday with the intention of fulfilling individuals lives, helping them find purpose and igniting their passion. Sarah does this in many ways, but she is a big believer in bringing her culturally diverse background of growing up in Thailand as a fresh perspective to the wellness/fitness center members. After several different moves throughout her life, we are very fortunate Sarah landed in Tacoma, Washington.
Sarah’s typical day usually starts with creating new lesson plans that are unique and structured around the members’ needs. She believes that creating and designing different workouts that are both new and exciting is more fulfilling and aligns with her purpose at Franke Tobey Jones. She creates lesson plans for our wide range of classes including: the four levels of strength classes, Cardio and Core class, Health Care resident fitness, Memory Care resident fitness and Assisted Living fitness classes. Sarah stays busy with her one-on-one training where she can help the members in a specific area they would like to improve. On top of her busy schedule, Sarah has recently created an eight-week Thai Dance program for the residents and community.
“I want to create a positive environment, bringing people from different walks of life together. We are all connected through experiences, struggles and triumphs. You are never going through anything alone.”
The Thai Dance Class is open to both the community (age 55 and better) and residents at Franke Tobey Jones with the hopes of creating a positive environment and bridging the gap between residents and the community. This very popular and progressive course is designed to focus on mindfulness, passion, purpose and identity. Throughout Sarah’s childhood, she was immersed in the Thai culture which sparked a love for travel. She knows that many of her residents share the same love, so she created a way to bring the culture to them.
A mixture of 12 community members and Franke Tobey Jones residents practice Thai dancing for several weeks, then their final Thai dance event is a performance where they showcase a short program giving us a taste of Thai Dance Culture.
Patricia Moore – Therapeutic Activity Supervisor in our Life Enrichment Department
Don’t be surprised if you hear her voice down the hallways before you see her! Patricia is entertaining, silly, has the biggest heart, and will certainly enrich your life.
Before Franke Tobey Jones, Patricia worked in a nursing home at age 18. Her instant passion and respect for seniors came from certain loving qualities that her grandmother’s generation engrained in her, especially respect and love. As her love for people continued, she found her way to the Tacoma School District where she worked for 25 years. Throughout her time there, she worked with special needs children, served as the athletic director, coached both girls’ and boys’ basketball, and towards the end of her time at the Tacoma School District she was the special needs bus driver. We are very thankful that Patricia’s life came full circle and she ended up being part of the Franke Tobey Jones Life Enrichment department.
“Before working at Franke Tobey Jones, I always thought of it as a castle on a hill,” said Patricia. “After working here, I now know the residents are so special, almost royalty to me. They are very welcoming and loving. They are family.”
Being with the residents and making them smile is most rewarding to Patricia. You can find her leading activities, reading, and playing games with the residents. She finds it very important that the residents are challenged with new activities and games daily. Although her day is filled with lots of laughs, Patricia has a lot on her plate. Not only does she create a new lesson plan daily, but she takes time to listen to each resident about what they want. According to Patricia, she gets a lot of feedback! She structures every day according to her residents. With so much energy and zeal for life, Patricia can make anyone happy.
Outside of Franke Tobey Jones you can find Patricia at church or relaxing with a good book or crossword puzzle.
Jana Wennstrom – FTJ Senior University Coordinator
Did you know that you can fine tune your thinking skills? From brain training, to TED talks, to discussion groups with doctors, Jana is always coming up with new ways to help her residents and seniors in the community at large keep on the path of life-long learning.
After working a fast-paced sales career, Jana changed directions to the non-profit world and worked at both LeMay – America’s Car Museum and the Tacoma Art Museum. Jana appreciates the service and greater impact she is able to give by working with non-profits. FTJ is lucky to have a kind and genuine person like Jana to not only work with our residents and local seniors, but to help them sustain a great lifestyle.
There’s no such thing as a typical day for Jana. As the Senior University coordinator, Jana spends a lot of her time listening to the feedback of residents and planning activities that are enjoyable yet stimulating. She makes it a big priority to tailor the monthly calendar around what the seniors want to see and hear. She puts the residents as a priority and does her best to find every category or speaker requested.
One of the most rewarding things for Jana is being able to interact with the residents while getting to know them on a deeper level. She appreciates the flexibility that the Senior University Coordinator position gives her so she can offer the best classes. According to Jana, some of the most requested programs are the music and history programs. Her residents love anything and everything about musical instruments, music genres and listening to music.
When Jana isn’t strategically planning everyone’s month out and filling it with various activities, she enjoys spending time in her garden, reading a book or cooking a good meal.
Esther Norton – Medical Records Coordinator
Passionate. Loving. Caring. Those are just a few words to describe Esther.
As Franke Tobey Jones’ Medical Records Coordinator, Esther’s position is very important. Even in her position, she still says that, “the job is second to everything else. It’s really about being with the residents.”
Esther’s passion and love for her residents is bursting at the seams. She has the biggest heart for everyone and is working at Franke Tobey Jones to make a difference. She realizes that the process of moving yourself or a loved one anywhere new can be a challenge. Everyday Esther is positively impacting people and helping “soften” the process. She is always there for her residents and their family members.
One of Esther’s favorite parts about her job is getting to hear everyone’s stories. All of the different personalities and backgrounds of her residents is something refreshing to Esther. No matter how much office work she has, being able to stop and talk to the residents is very important to Esther. Her office is perfectly placed so anyone can swing by and say “Hi” on their way in or out.
Esther has been keeping medical records for almost seven years at Franke Tobey Jones. Throughout the day, she is constantly busy or swamped with paperwork. Her position is very important as she keeps an on-going record of where her residents are, scanning paperwork and creating a file online, and speaking with people in the community and hospitals.
She is super busy throughout the day and even manages to stay very active outside of work, too! Most days Esther is in the gym at 5:45am in the morning before work. She loves playing tennis with her husband, kickboxing and walking her two dogs.
Amy Petschke – Accountant
In September 2018, Amy will celebrate her third year with the FTJ team. Before transferring here, she worked at a downtown Tacoma law firm for 16 years. The high-pressure and intensity of a for-profit organization led her to seek a new direction. Amy says she always figured there was something more for her, and she definitely wanted something different.
On a typical day, Amy works on the financial statements, the annual budget and audits. Her natural warmth and a genuine interest in people make her a good fit at FTJ as she is a regular go-to person for residents who want to cash checks and visit. The community service aspect and the commitment to the residents is what drew her to take this position at FTJ. Her focus has always been on helping others, so the dedication to serving the residents strongly appealed to her.
Her amiable, kind spirit works hard to make every day meaningful for both the residents and her fellow team members. Amy’s willingness to share her strengths and skills with her fellow coworkers shows how committed she is to the whole community. “I’m very much a team player. I really believe in empowering a person. If somebody else wants to learn something, and I know how to do it, I am always happy to teach them.
Not only is Amy the go-to person for residents, she is a favorite among the dogs who live here. During their walks, the dogs will stop outside her office, knowing that special treats are waiting inside along with a good belly rub.
In her spare time, she relaxes while crafting beautiful diamond paintings, a “Zen-like” art form that she describes as a mix between paint by numbers and cross-stitching, worthy of framing. She chuckles at how addicting it can be but has the full support of her husband Rich, two cats and a dog.
Linda Koessler – Human Resources
Upon entering Linda Koessler’s office, it’s apparent that her organizational skills, paired with her passion for providing good service help her take on all the tasks of the Human Resources Assistant. Since 2014, Linda’s calm and welcoming nature has launched many of team members’ employment at Franke Tobey Jones.
For Linda, orientations are very fulfilling because she enjoys bringing people on board. She knew when she herself first interviewed at FTJ that this place is special, it felt like home. She hopes she imparts a little of that same feeling during new hire orientation. In addition to orientation, compliance, payroll and benefits are the bulk of the tasks she performs. Working with employees who are at various stages of their careers is extremely rewarding. The customer service aspect comes to play when she helps new team members complete paperwork and answer the myriad of HR-related questions.
From March through September, for the past six years, Linda has kept an extremely busy schedule. Not only does she work full time as the HR Assistant, but she’s also the Cheney Stadium Party Deck Manager for the Tacoma Rainiers minor-league baseball team.
When she’s not working, Linda enjoys a good game of tennis and golf. As a UW Grad, she always roots for the University of Washington Huskies and loves watching the Seattle Seahawks (win or lose). She lives with her husband, two sons and a chow dog named Bear.
Colin Deck – Fitness Coordinator
Blood, sweat and tears might come to mind when thinking of the dreaded gym. Colin may make you sweat, but he also makes sure learning about physical activity and health is fun and engaging.
Colin comes in around 6:30 in the morning Monday-Friday to start his lesson plans. Colin puts in the extra effort in preparing for his classes as he wants a variety of classes to keep it interesting for the residents. Colin’s passion and creativity keeps his programs refreshing and engaging. He spends his morning researching different techniques and exercises that will better help people with their specific needs. Whether that is working through bad knees, hip injuries or back pain, Colin takes the time to research how his classes will improve the residents’ wellness.
Around 7:30, classes begin and go back to back for the rest of his day which he jokes keeps him out of trouble. The variety keeps it challenging for Colin too. As an instructor, Colin finds that through his research and engagement with the residents he learns so much about fitness and health in general.
Keeping up the energy and motivation in the fitness room is no problem for Colin, who the residents nicknamed “The Drill Sergeant.” He says his favorite classes are typically the higher intensity classes such as the cardio/core workouts because he is sweating just as much as they are, if not more.
His passion is one on one and small group training which he integrated to the Wellness Center when he was hired. When he first came here he was petrified at the idea of teaching a class, and now he loves doing them. Seeing the individual results such as walking better, relieving back pain, losing weight, and improving mentality is the most rewarding part of his job. Colin says getting the feedback from his residents and watching them meet their goals is so gratifying.
As if the exercise he gets at work isn’t enough, Colin does circuit and interval training on his free time. He also enjoys family time with his wife, son and daughter.
Victoria and Priscilla – Housekeepers
It’s not often that two best friends get to work together, but Victoria and Priscilla make the perfect duo. The team of two enjoy each other’s company while providing service and comfort to the residents.
They have their individual housekeeping room assignments but help each other make beds and other tasks that require an extra hand. Together, they are scheduled to clean in every building on campus throughout the month.
Priscilla came to the U.S from the Philippines in 1997. When she knew FTJ was hiring, she promoted the job to fellow customers in a store she frequents. Victoria came here in 1999. She remembers the exact day, March 25, 1999. She met Priscilla in the Filipino store who recruited her to apply for a housekeeping position. Housekeeping for Franke Tobey Jones was the first job for both when they moved to the United States. Through FTJ, they found each other and have been best friends for 21 years.
After housekeeping, they became certified caregivers. Victoria mentions that Priscilla was a caregiver to Victoria’s husband when he had brain cancer.
“Priscilla is my family. We are not blood but she is like my sister. We are family.” The sisterly bond of their friendship meshes well with the overall essence of Franke Tobey Jones. Not only do they share that familial bond with each, but they say the residents have also become their family.
The two have found that they love working here because of how kind the people are, and it has been like a second home. They love the residents and say that they really enjoy spending time getting to know the residents in which they clean for. They truly love all the residents and say that they work at FTJ because of them.
Vicki Weaver – Building Services Coordinator
Got a leak in your kitchen or need something repaired? Who you gonna call? Vicki is your gal! It takes a certain kind of a person to coordinate everything in the Building Services Department, and she’s got what it takes. Vicki, an upbeat, well organized go-getter, is our Building Services Coordinator.
Whether its scheduling repairs and transportation, or ordering necessary parts, it all falls in Vicki’s hands. Vicki makes sure that everything is running and looking its best. A typical day is very busy, constantly rescheduling. One phone call can turn the whole day in a new direction. There is always something that needs to be maintained, including rooms that need to be turned over or painted. Keeping the campus looking as nice as they can, Vicki schedules all the painting inside and out. Thinking on her feet and problem solving are just a few of her strengths that make her great at her job.
Vicki started working FTJ in 2007. She started as a Housekeeper and worked her way up to Building Services in 2013. Before coming to FTJ she was an EMT in California.
Vicki opens up and says that her passion is medical. She would have liked to pursue paramedics, but a knee injury derailed that plan. However, she says most of all her passion is bringing joy and comfort to other’s lives, and she finds that fixing a cabinet or painting the residents’ walls gives her that satisfaction.
“If I can make one person smile or make their day better, then my job is good”
In an industry mainly of men, she says that she has never had a problem working alongside them. She says, “They razz me and I razz them right back!” She loves the people she works with and everyone on the building services teams gets along splendidly.
Outside of work, Vicki loves anything involving the outdoors. Gardening, hiking, and enjoying street fairs are some of her favorite things to do.
Linda Tonjann offers a calming voice and presence – all day long
It’s 5:30 a.m. and Linda Tonjann, who’s already been up for more than an hour, starts her day at the front desk of Lillian Pratt Hall, the Assisted Living facility at Franke Tobey Jones. Today may not be like yesterday, but her focus of helping the residents in any way she can never changes.
Assisting with a shirt button here and there, helping residents find their way to the dining room or back to their rooms, answering the phone, arranging appointments, troubleshooting internet issues, ensuring letters get mailed, greeting tours. You name it and Linda Tonjann, who’s officially the day receptionist for Franke Tobey Jones gets it done.
Linda says the residents are the best part of her day. “I love hearing their stories, and learning more about their backgrounds.”
Most residents who come to Lillian Pratt move over from the independent living section at Franke Tobey Jones after they’ve reached a point where they’ve become less independent and need some additional care. Linda says they come in and think it’s the end of their life. “They start by saying, ‘oh my gosh, we have to go over to the big house,’ but they soon find out that there is so much interaction, a higher level of care, they feel less lonely and soon they love it.”
You might say Linda has practically grown up at Franke Tobey Jones. She started working at Franke Tobey Jones in 1989, first as a nursing assistant, a role she held for six years before moving into the Director of First Impressions (front desk receptionist and now Supervisor) position in 1995 where she has graced the front desk at Lillian Pratt.
“I feel good when I leave here every day, because I’ve helped them (the residents) make it through their day. They are like family.”
It’s of no surprise that Linda doesn’t stop giving back when her day is over. You’ll typically find her volunteering her time, including errands on the weekends. One weekend it’s grapefruits from Costco, the next weekend it might be makeup at Macy’s.
It wasn’t too long ago that Linda taught an eight-week scrapbooking class to residents with dementia. She worked with their families to bring in old photos and used those to help the residents make scrapbooks.
While Linda’s love for Franke Tobey Jones has her spending a lot of time there, this lifelong Tacoma resident also finds the time to spend with her two teenage children. You might also spot her at the “Y,” out walking her dog, and even spending a little time on Facebook.
Meet concierge and problem solver extraordinaire – Shirley Robbins
While it’s not the concierge desk of a posh hotel, don’t be surprised if you find the same high end service offered by Shirley Robbins, concierge at Franke Tobey Jones.
Since 2007, Robbins has served as the concierge of Franke Tobey Jones’ Garden Apartments, where residents live independently but often need a little help here and there – and all they have to do is ask.
Mary Damonte, a resident at the Garden Apartments, claims there aren’t enough superlatives to describe Shirley. “She’s brought a quiet strength and joy to us. Nothing is too much for her to tackle. She’s there and available when anything comes up.”
Robbins, who works about 20 hours a week staffing the service desk, does everything from fixing computers, picking up prescriptions at doctors’ offices, running to the store for a much needed baking item or shuttling a resident to have her car fixed.
“Our residents don’t always like to ask their kids to do things for them, and some don’t have family close by, so I’m here to help them out when they don’t have someone else who can,” said Robbins.
Wander into the Garden Apartments lobby on Monday, Wednesday or Friday and you’ll find Robbins offering up continental breakfast. Or stick around for Friday afternoons and you’ll be treated to happy hour.
When asked about the breakfasts and Friday socials, Robbins explains, “I’m not there to facilitate conversation, just to encourage it. Socialization is very important to seniors.”
“I can’t imagine my life at the Garden Apartments without Shirley,” said resident Joanne Rieke. “She is an extraordinary person, the kind that is tuned in to our daily lives. She’s kind of our everything.”
Robbins says what makes her feel best about her role is when she can still help the residents feel independent and able to take care of themselves.
Computers are often a source of frustration, as Robbins recalls a recent experience where a resident hit a button on his computer and couldn’t figure out what he’d done. “He was totally frustrated and couldn’t get it to work, and I was able to help him figure out what happened and show him how to fix it in the future. That makes me feel good.”
Robbins laughingly admits she’s not a Mac person when it comes to computer, but says she’s learning. “I’ve even called a resident’s son in Oregon, and between the two of us, we fixed his dad’s computers without him having to come up here and do it.”
No day is the same at the Garden Apartments. One day Robbins might be working with Maintenance to figure out why the heat isn’t working properly, another day she’s helping residents bring food to another who’s not feeling well.
“I do surprise parties, I make arrangements for families to stay on or off campus, I offer a listening ear when it’s needed – it’s really just all about making our residents feel special,” said Robbins.
While Robbins has never worked in a hotel, she has a background that lends itself well to being resourceful and helping people, serving as a home economics teacher, then a mom with a military husband and later at a church running a café and bookstore.
Residents and families come to quickly trust Robbins. She’s there when they need her and they know she’ll take care of whatever needs they have. And, Robbins knows and expects that residents’ needs differ every day. That’s what she loves about being their concierge.