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Village Shalom Honors Top Staff Members

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Last year ended on a high note for three Village Shalom staff members after the Employee of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Allen and Gloria Block “Champion of Culture Change” Award winners were announced at the retirement community’s holiday party on Dec. 16. When the party was over, the fun was just beginning for Christine Lawson, Rachel Thomas and Michaela Kidd – each of whom stood out from a very deserving field to secure 2016's top staff honors.

Rachel Thomas (left) and Christine Lawson (right) celebrate with Charles Helzberg after being named Village Shalom’s 2016 Rookie and Employee of the Year.  

The Employee and Rookie of the Year awards are made possible through the Charles M. Helzberg Employee Recognition Fund. Helzberg established the fund in 2000 to recognize exemplary Village Shalom staff members by honoring 12 Employees and Rookies of the Month throughout the year – serving as the nomination pool for the year-end honors.

"Village Shalom is privileged to have the support of an employee advocate like Charles Helzberg," said Village Shalom President and CEO, Matt Lewis. "He understands that our staff is the ‘Village Shalom difference,’ and believes strongly in recognizing and rewarding exemplary employees who make Village Shalom such a special place for our residents." 

Employee of the Year – Christine Lawson

No one was more surprised with the announcement of the 2016 Employee of the Year than its winner, assisted living charge nurse, Christine Lawson.

"I didn't prepare anything to say because I just assumed someone else was going to win," Lawson confessed after accepting the award.

As shocked as she may have been, those who have seen Christine in action were not surprised to hear her name called. Stories of her helpful nature and cheery disposition permeated nominations from residents, family members and staff alike.

"Christine is a wonderful girl that helps everyone," said late Village Shalom resident, Isaac Almaleh in a nomination before his passing. "She has a good disposition, is very knowledgeable, and will go out of her way to help on even the most minor issue."

Lawson's dedication to her fellow employees was another contributing factor – having even come in at 3 a.m. to lead a training session for the third shift nursing staff. 

As Employee of the Year, Lawson received a statuette, dedicated parking space for all of 2017, and a check for $5,000. 

Rookie of the Year – Rachel Thomas 

Rachel Thomas began in Village Shalom’s dining services department, working as a server in the community’s memory care area. There she quickly developed a bond with her residents by thinking of them as her own family members. Her instinct to care for “her family” served as the inspiration for Rachel to pursue certification as a certified nursing assistant (CNA).

"Rachel was so excited to apply for a position to care for 'her family' in our memory care neighborhood after receiving her CNA certification," said Village Shalom Director of Human Resources, Tami Middleton. "We jumped at the opportunity because we had already seen her in action as a server, and knew it was the perfect place for her, and a perfect fit for our residents." 

Thomas' dedication to her residents is undeniable. When an activity coordinator retired, she stepped-in to develop and lead activity programming. Beyond that, she maintains a personal connection with each of her residents and has been known to come in to spend “off the clock” time with residents on their birthdays.

As Rookie of the Year, Thomas received a statuette and a check for $1,000.  

Allen and Gloria Block “Champion of Culture Change” – Michaela Kidd

Michaela Kidd was selected as the 2016 "Champion of Culture Change." 

The Block Family established the “Champion of Culture Change” Award in 2008, in conjunction with the Menorah Heritage Foundation. The award honors an exceptional Village Shalom staff member dedicated to the concept of “culture change” – an industry term for improving resident quality of life by creating a home-like environment, promoting resident choice and increasing community involvement.

Kidd serves in a dual role as the concierge and volunteer coordinator. As busy as these roles keep her, Kidd always has time to go above and beyond for the residents she serves.

"Michaela always has a smile and will do anything you ask and more," said resident Bernice Eisen. "I can't say enough good things about her."

"Michaela is such a wonderful asset," added resident, Marna Dolginoff. "Ask her for anything, and she takes care of it with a smile. We all love her!"

As “Champion of Culture Change,” Kidd received a statuette and a check for $1,000.