“Mary needs her cheeseburger cut into four pieces (and she’ll always cut it twice more). Aggie needs her eggs over easy with a lot of ketchup. Jean likes burnt toast (I cringe making it, but I still make it.)”
Jaci Von’s face lights up as she recites the intricate details of Walker Methodist residents’ food preferences. Her career in Culinary Services involves planning and preparing meals for residents and overseeing culinary events such as mobile bake sales and catered lunches and dinners. One might also say that she is responsible for time travel: using food to bring dementia and Alzheimer residents back to fond experiences and places from the past.
The parallels of food and memories are plentiful and simple, explains Von. Cheeseburger soup: a nod to grilling outdoors. Wild mushrooms: memories of time spent at a cabin in the woods. Von’s role at Walker Methodist allows her to use her culinary skills, along with her superpowers in compassion, to transform residents to another time, another place.
When Life and Career Collide
Von’s sense of compassion and the ability to connect food and memories comes from a deeply personal place. “My dad had dementia, and as he got closer to the end of his life, food would bring back memories for him.” Food is an obvious and essential element to the resident experience at Walker Methodist, but it’s also a way for Von to connect with her own past and her dad.
“Senior living is special because of the people you get to know,” Von explains. “They become your family.”
“Walker Methodist is a great place to work because they really support you, and they believe in you,” explains Von. “Walker Methodist has given me confidence in myself, along with leadership and communications skills … and the ability to grow as a person.”
It’s a beautiful thing when one’s life purpose and an organization’s mission collide.
More on Mary's Burger
Von presents Mary’s cheeseburger on a covered tray with a theatrical unveiling: “Ta-da! Here’s your cheeseburger!” And Mary, well, her face lights up with smiles for miles. And Von’s heart bursts with joy.
Where will your purpose and compassion take you in a career at Walker Methodist?