Caitlyn Mathis is 35 years old and works part-time as a housekeeper at Eden Terrace of Spartanburg. A graduate of ClemsonLIFE (Learning is For Everyone) program for students with intellectual disabilities, Caitlyn became interested in working at Eden Terrace over ten years ago while visiting her grandmother who was a resident at the time. Though she didn’t act on it back then, she got another opportunity when her other grandmother became a resident late last year.
“Caitlyn called up Cindy (Hughes, Executive Director of Eden Terrace) and made an appointment for an interview in January.” Caitlyn started working at the community on January 13, and was shadowing staff in different departments to find the best fit. Says Caitlyn’s mom, Angela Mathis, “We wanted to know what her skills were. We knew her skill for love–and sometimes love is all you need.”
As it turned out, Caitlyn had a great many skills to develop. “Caitlyn took a permanent position as a part-time housekeeper, and the windows of my front door have never been cleaner,” says Hughes. She’s also developed personal skills along the way. Her mom noticed since starting her position at Eden Terrace, she has a renewed energy, is more communicative with others, less withdrawn, and takes immense pride in her work. Continues Hughes, “She’s always been friendly. But now, she’s friendly and confident. She looks me in the eye now. It makes a big difference.”
Caitlyn’s presence in the community is enjoyed by residents, but also has a great impact on staff as well. They help with her training, and want to make sure she is set up for success. One team member said, “This is why I love Arbor. I love Caitlyn, and the fact that we have a diverse staff makes me love it here even more.”
Eden Terrace Promotes Inclusion
Caitlyn’s position isn’t an isolated event at Eden Terrace–it’s part of an inclusive culture. In partnership with Spartanburg High School’s Trade Track, Eden Terrace employs 4-5 students daily. Some students assist in the Evergreen (Memory Care) neighborhood with dining, laundry and engagement activities. One student works at the front desk, delivering packages, interacting with guests and residents, answering the phone, and other administrative tasks.
For Lisa Thomas, the Trade Track program director, partnering with Eden Terrace was an easy decision. Not only is the community mere walking distance from the high school, Eden Terrace has a great reputation for being a caring and professional place. “I had a friend whose mother lived here, so I knew how much they love and care for people here.” What she found in Eden Terrace was a place her students can work where, “they aren’t known for their deficits. They are known for their skills and their value. It’s miraculous.”
Hughes knows how important that culture of caring and inclusion is for the students, as well as the benefits for the residents and staff as a whole. She aims to create an environment where the students understand they have the respect and ability to do the work, and do it well. She makes sure to train them and correct them when necessary, but in a way they know is to build them up and help them soar.
Says Hughes, “I want all of my employees to be content, to be fulfilled. To know they are making a difference.”
A Legacy of Excellence
Both Caitlyn's and the Spartanburg students origin at Eden Terrace were born of opportunities from the legacy of excellence established by the community. Eden Terrace enjoys an outstanding reputation in the Spartanburg community and beyond, leading to multiple families being "repeat customers."
Experiencing the highest level of care for her mother is what made Angela want to return when it was time for her mother-in-law to receive care a decade later. She didn't even want to consider another community for her loved one. "Other places are subpar," she explained. "We are repeat customers. Many families here are legacy families."
The desire to return is something Hughes attributes to her staff and the level of care they provide. "That is a reflection of my caregivers," she said. "What keeps families coming back is the dignified care they receive from my staff." She feels her part as the Executive Director is to make sure to hire, train, and encourage her staff, and make sure she supports them in giving their best at the community. "I sleep well at night knowing that we are doing the best for our families. We love what we do."