Impact of ‘Chief Morale Officer’: “Your day immediately improves!”

Pottstown, Pennsylvania    Friday, August 28, 2020

Judy Stoudt serves as a very special front-line worker, particularly important during times such as the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Stoudt is the “front-door” worker at Manatawny Manor, a Diakon senior living community in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, helping to keep residents safe, families informed and staff members motivated.

Stationed at the community’s entrance, she is ready to check temperatures as needed, even if it means having to turn away a vendor or two who refuse to comply. She’s also the friendly face who greets family members dropping off packages for loved ones—and there have been lots of those, she notes.

“I get so much dropped off, an average of 25 drop-offs a day,” she says. “And there are more phone calls than ever, families checking on their loved ones.”

Before the recent reopening for limited family visitation, Stoudt helped residents visit with family members through the windows in the front lobby, while using cell phones. They could see and talk to one another, she notes, but receive no hugs or handshakes; sometimes, she adds, that was heartbreaking.

“I’ve had families cry to me,” she says. “They feel they are losing their loved one. It’s very hard to see that. I just reinforce that we are keeping them safe.”

Keeping residents safe, in fact, is the focus of all Diakon senior living services staff members. In fact, says Stoudt, residents’ families have been quick to recognize the extra care and effort required of staff and ask how they could help. At Manatawny Manor, that led to a series of “appreciation days” featuring a variety of food items, all arranged by Stoudt and paid for by residents’ families.

“We’ve had bagels, pizza, doughnuts, heart-shaped cookies, pretzel wraps, waffles and ice cream, chips and salsa, water ice, sticky buns, pretzel Stromboli and more!” she says. “Everything is individually wrapped or boxed, so people can grab and go. Staff appreciate it so much.”

Stoudt also has secured donated food items from a local Harry & David’s store that was closing. She arranged for cakes for residents’ birthdays and anniversaries and helped to organize a “parade” of first-responder vehicles to pass by Manatawny Manor in recognition of a co-worker’s milestone birthday. And she made sure that all staff and residents could take part in the fun celebration.

“When you see Judy, your day immediately improves!”

It’s not hard to see why some describe Stoudt as the senior living community’s “Chief Morale Officer.”

Shari VanderGast, Diakon senior vice president for operations, visited Manatawny Manor earlier this year for a Diakon-wide event called “Hearts for Health-Care Workers.” She witnessed Stoudt in action, as the staff member arranged for a special delivery of heart-shaped pretzels and created a wall covered in paper hearts to serve as a visible reminder of appreciation—all within 24 hours.

“Judy plans and carries out thoughtful staff-recognition events, helping the staff to feel appreciated,” Vandergast says. “She is proactive, thoughtful and empathetic. Judy knows all our residents, staff and their families very well. During the pandemic, she has interacted regularly with worried family members, providing reassurance and making sure that any inquiries from family reach our staff.”

Stoudt acknowledges what many people say and what she sees every day. “It’s hard to be a health-care worker. You’re scared you may bring something here, like a cold or flu. Our staff are so dedicated to our residents and their families.”

VanderGast appreciates Stoudt’s special role. Although her job title is administrative assistant, she has always done whatever is needed to help residents and staffs, for a period of 34 years!

“Judy is the face of Manatawny Manor, greeting all staff and residents each day cheerfully,”  VanderGast says. “When you see Judy, your day immediately improves!”

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