Entire Village Comes Together To Honor Its Heroes

By Marty Lee, Contributor

John Knox Village (JKV), the Pompano Beach Life-Plan Continuing Care Retirement Community of nearly 1,000 residents and more than 800 staffers, has used this time of stay-at-home guidelines and social distancing to actually become closer in mind, heart and spirit. Since mid-April, the entire Village has shared in a weekly event called Thankful Thursday, dedicated to honoring the many employees who work diligently to keep residents safe, healthy and secure.

John Knox Village Thankful Thursdays

JKV President and CEO Gerry Stryker (left) shows his gratitude for members of the Home Health Agency.

An Early-Morning Inspiration

Thankful Thursday was an idea initiated by Monica McAfee, JKV’s Chief Marketing & Innovation Officer. “An idea came to me at 3 o’clock one morning and I thought we have an incredible opportunity to bring residents and staff together to celebrate our JKV Heroes.

“Of course, our health care workers are on the frontlines caring for our Elders and frailest of residents, who are in the demographic population consistently cited as being the most at-risk for contracting the virus,” Monica said.

“Yet many team members from all departments, completely shifted their job responsibilities. In many cases they began performing tasks they had never dreamed of carrying out. For instance, our drivers were trained and became screeners at our gates. Once communal dining was prohibited, our dining staff was suddenly delivering breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals to residents in their apartment and villa homes.”

Monica presented the idea of Thankful Thursday to the Meaningful Life and Life Enrichment Teams and empowered them to come up with a plan to honor all JKV staff and employees.

The Idea Comes To Fruition

Marti Engel, Meaningful Life and Volunteer Manager; Jamisyn Becker, Life Enrichment Manager; and Kim Morgan-Vagnuolo, Marketing Director went to work. In concert with Wendy Bednarcik, Director of Human Resources; Mark Rayner, The Woodlands Director/Administrator; and Kelly McIntyre, Gardens West Adminstrator, times were developed to easily facilitate Thankful Thursdays: They would occur during the shift changes. The plan was put into action.

Jamisyn said, “The Life Enrichment Team sent out an email and set aside two days inviting 10 residents at a time to come to the Auditorium to make posters. We had an overwhelming overnight response with more than 40 residents participating.

“That was the first time we had any small regulated program, where residents could meet with other residents and staff. Each art station was six feet apart. Materials were supplied for poster-making, plus gloves and wipe downs for everyone.”

Jamisyn explained that Thursday, April 16 was set for the first Thankful Thursday. The celebrations would begin during the shift changes at 6:30 a.m. and then again at 2:30 p.m. to honor the health care staff, who directly care for Elders in The Woodlands, Seaside Cove and Gardens West.

John Knox Village President and CEO Gerry Stryker enthusiastically got on board and contacted the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the Pompano Beach Fire Department, and both sent a representation including sheriffs’ cars and fire trucks with red lights flashing.

Monica coordinated with Marti and Norma Blanchard of the Human Resources Department in ordering individual bundt cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes in Coral Springs, as thank you gifts for all staff members honored.

That first Thankful Thursday was a huge success, as more than 30 residents with signs and enthusiastic shouts of appreciation gathered in the dawn hours with staff and fellow employees. An even larger group of residents, staff, firefighters and Broward Sheriffs convened in the afternoon to reprise the activities during the next shift change honoring the John Knox Village health care employees.

Dorrel Sewell, CNA at Gardens West, the Village’s Assisted Living Home, is honored by residents who gathered during the inaugural Thankful Thursday to thank JKV’s devoted health care employees.

Thankful Thursdays Continue

Jamisyn said that after the success of the first Thankful Thursday, “The Administration, Marketing and Life Enrichment Departments decided it would be great to thank all employees. The idea was heartily and enthusiastically supported by residents, to plan Thankful Thursdays for all Village Departments, so each could enjoy and share a special day.”

Monica emphasized that unified sentiment. “From the very beginning, we dismissed the notion coming from government agencies which were differentiating ‘Essential’ and ‘Non-essential’ workers,” she said. “That is not the way we think of staff at John Knox Village. They are all essential. In fact, through this entire pandemic crisis, JKV has not let any staff go—or furloughed any team member.

“Our dear residents enthusiastically embraced Thankful Thursday as soon as they heard about it. They created Thank You posters and came to every one of our events, cheering, dancing and sincerely expressing their gratitude.”

A Weekly Dance Party

When it comes to dancing at Thankful Thursday, much appreciation goes to Joshua “Teddy” Tennie, JKV’s Production and Events Manager. Teddy personally programs the musical selections broadcast during each gathering: Choosing many hit music cuts from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and beyond. Residents and employees often spontaneously break into impromptu dance performances. As Jamisyn said, “Teddy emcees, creates the music playlist for the day, and acts as the cheerleader, getting everyone to dance. It is just impossible NOT to dance and have a great a time when Teddy is on the the microphone.”

Residents Sandy and Jed Sprague have attended every Thankful Thursday holding their handmade “You’re Loved, So Much” poster. They are often first on the dance floor, with stylish groovings to the music.

Thankful Thursdays have been an incredible opportunity for us to show our appreciation to the Village staff who keep us safe during these trying times,” the Spragues said. “It is a way of getting together while maintaining social-distancing in a celebration of mutual love, support and appreciation.”

Living At JKV, A Wise Decision

Two more Village residents who expressed their gratitude are Twylah and David Haun. The Hauns are involved residents who volunteer on many committees and activities. They have been in attendance at Thankful Thursdays holding signs and adding their support and appreciation for the staff’s dedication.

“We made our signs ourselves, using discarded boxes from orders received by Heritage Tower residents,” David said. “The idea of Thankful Thursdays is a fantastic means of saying thank you to a wonderful Village support team.

“One of the wisest decisions we have made in our lives, was the decision to make John Knox our home for our retirement. Our decision, 17 years ago, to choose John Knox as our residence, has led to 17 years of safety, care and enjoyable living. Each day we give thanks, both for our decision to come, and for the constant care we receive.

“The feeling most frequently felt, as we live through this pandemic, is amazement at how loyal our Village staff has been. As tragic as this pandemic has been, and no matter how long it lasts, Twylah and I are both so thankful that we are experiencing it in America, at John Knox Village.”

We Are Family

One of the most played songs on Teddy Joshua’s musical playlist is the 1979 song by Sister Sledge, “We Are Family.” The feeling of closeness and family extends throughout The Village: From Administration to each Department, residents and every employee.

Elizabeth Talatinian, Administrative Assistant for Plant Operations, expresses what Thankful Thursday means to her. “We have some amazing teams on campus. Together we get it done, co-workers and residents alike. We have become the example by which other senior living facilities strive to achieve. JKV is unlike anywhere else. I speak with many people every day. I hear it in their voices. I see it in the quality of their work. We are all committed to remaining healthy and safe.

John Knox Village Thankful Thursdays continue.

Elizabeth Talatinian, Administrative Assistant for Plant Operations, shares the love during Thankful Thursday.

“This past year has been tough. I’ve been battling breast cancer, and I didn’t think I would survive long enough to have seen this day. The support I have been given campus-wide has been nothing short of amazing: Co-workers and residents alike across the board. I couldn’t have done it without their kind words and support. I am so very thankful for all of you.”

John Knox Village Thankful Thursdays continue with tributes to the dedicated staff.

John Knox Village Foundation Assistant, Odalys Rosua receives accolades of thanks, love and appreciation from John Knox Village residents.

Monica sums up the effect of Thankful Thursdays, and the feelings shared by nearly 1,000 residents and more than 800 employees alike.

Thankful Thursdays are pick-me-ups that show everyone within our 15 departments how much they are appreciated. They are all JKV Heroes.”

To see more of how John Knox Village is staying strong and honoring its hardworking staff during this time, visit (and be sure to “Like”) our Facebook page! And for more information about living at John Knox Village and the resort-like, maintenance-free, wellness-focused lifestyle enjoyed by all members of the community even amid COVID-19, click here or call 954-783-4040 to get in touch with our friendly team.

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