Arlene Pendergrast went to work as a receptionist at Summit of Uptown soon after her mother died.
“My mother passed away, and I wanted connection with elderly people,” she said.
That was 30 years ago. Now, Pendergrast works part time, manning the community’s reception desk on Saturdays and Sundays.
With the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, “we’re busier than ever,” she said.
Because of social distancing restrictions, families can’t visit the residents, but they’re making more phone calls and dropping off more care packages to their loved ones at the Summit, which keeps things humming at the reception desk.
At the community, phone calls to residents pass through the switchboard, and on Saturdays and Sundays between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., it’s Pendergrast who connects the calls.
“I know all the residents. It’s only, now, I don’t see them,” she said.
Pre-pandemic, Pendergrast could chat with residents when they came through the reception area on their way to the dining room or to pick up their mail.
“We gave them love, compliments [and] conversation, because that’s what they needed from us, and that’s what we gave them,” she said.
Serving others has been a lifelong calling for Pendergrast, who started out at the age of 8 helping to care for her two younger siblings after her father died so their mother could work.
The connection with residents that Pendergrast sought 30 years ago is still important to her, as she jokes that “now I’m one of those elderly people myself.”
But in all seriousness, “what I like most about it is that I’m able to help people,” she said. “I never would have taken it if I didn’t want to help people.”
Such a helping-hand mindset is commonplace at the Summit, Pendergrast said.
“We have a good team. Everyone pitches in. … Everyone works for the benefit of the person living there, regardless of what it is.”