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Opal Latimore-Jefferson Receives Village Shalom’s Wolff Care Giving Award

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Longevity at a retirement community usually refers to the lives of its residents. For an employee to attain longevity of more than 30 years in her career at a senior-living organization, however, is its own noteworthy achievement. And when that employee is Opal Latimore-Jefferson, who is beloved by residents and respected by her peers, she deserves special recognition.

Opal Latimore-Jefferson

Opal, a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in Village Shalom’s Weinberg Health Center 1 skilled-nursing area, recently became the 15th recipient of the Joseph and Eleanor Wolff Excellence in Care Giving Award. She was selected for the honor from a field of 13 Village Shalom nominees whose names were entered into eligibility for the semi-annual award by residents, families and co-workers.

Opal joined Village Shalom in March 2001, but her history with the organization goes back to September 1980. She had just moved from Oklahoma to Kansas City, and was hired at what was then the Jewish Home for the Aged. She has been on the staff throughout the organization’s transitions in identity (Jewish Geriatric and Convalescent Center, Shalom Geriatric Center, Village Shalom) and its relocation from Kansas City, Missouri, to Overland Park, Kansas.

As Village Shalom’s longest-tenured employee, Opal has maintained one constant: her unwavering dedication to the care of the residents. Nominations entered on Opal’s behalf attest to her compassionate nature.

“She is always kind, gentle, caring and very helpful,” said resident Betty Potter. “I have never heard her speak an unkind word. I love her.”

House Supervisor Sharon Soeken also nominated Opal, saying that “she is a dedicated employee who has a true interest in improving all resident’s lives. Kindness, patience and gentleness are just a few of her stellar qualities that make her a true standout. Not too many companies can boast that they have such a wonderful employee for 30-plus years. Opal is a true treasure to our residents and an honor to work with.”

That sentiment was reiterated by Virginia Musyoka, Charge Nurse, who said that “Opal is an extraordinary CNA whom every resident loves and all the CNAs love to work with. She is very humble and patient. The residents she takes care of ask about her when she takes days off and can't wait for her to return. I’m sure most staff members feel the same. I am proud to have Opal on our team!”

Karin McCrary, Chief Operating Officer, made the presentation at a gather­ing of staff and residents, thanking the Wolff family for making the award possible. “Eleanor Wolff was a very special lady who was cared for in the skilled-nursing areas of Village Shalom for six years,” she explained. “Eleanor passed away in December 2006, but her sons were so pleased with the extraordinary kindness and wonderful care their mother had received at Village Shalom, they established this award as a way of recognizing and thanking the employees – specifically those who directly care for the residents in our skilled nursing areas.”

The award is to be presented twice annually for a total of 25 years.

As a Wolff Award honoree, Opal received a monetary gift of $750 and an engraved acrylic plaque. Her name will be added to a permanent display of Wolff Excellence in Care Giving Award recipients.