‘Can anybody be that nice? I can.’
Security officer is face – and heart – of community
When you visit The Village at Brookwood, there’s one person you’re almost guaranteed to encounter. And you’d be lucky.
Lela Robinson is the undisputed queen of her domain, a small gatehouse at the entranceway to this retirement community where she works as a security officer. From her perch, again and again, she opens the sliding glass window, leans out and without fail gives residents and visitors a hearty dose of her incredibly sunny, friendly disposition.
“Someone once said, ‘Can anybody be that nice?’ ” she recalls with a chuckle. “I can.”
But Lela’s positive outlook was hard-earned, through health and other challenges that prompted her to embrace her faith and change her ways. In addition to helping her father cope with dementia, Lela experienced a debilitating health challenge that required emergency surgery and impacted her mobility.
“I went to church one Sunday and asked God for some blessings,” says the Burlington native. “I think you showed me something, God. God said that is not the plan for you. You let me fall down but helped show me how to get up.”
Lela and her husband, David, live in Mebane and have a daughter, Taylor, 21, and David’s son, Justin, 26, who lives in New York.
Lela worked for 15 years in textiles. “I did everything.” No job stumped her, from quilting to operating a lift truck. Recognizing Lela’s attention to detail and commitment to doing things right, she was promoted to quality control auditor. Other jobs followed, eventually leading Lela to The Village at Brookwood.
As the retirement community’s chief greeter, Lela appreciates the importance of her role.
“Customer service is really how you reflect on a place where you work,” Lela says. “You can’t just stick someone out here who doesn’t care. … I like to see people smile, that they feel welcomed to come here. They’re taking that vibe off me. That’s what the world wants – to be seen and accepted. Not judged. You have to be kind to people.”
Her friendly greetings and warm attitude are infectious, say those who know her well.
“Lela is a delight,” says April Mayberry, Executive Director. “Residents, team members and visitors alike constantly point out what a gem she is and the positive effect she has on them. Her spirit is really catching. It’s amazing.”
Lela takes great pride in making the best impression possible on behalf of The Village at Brookwood, including knowing everyone on a first-name basis and, in many instances, filling a void for residents whose family may not be able to visit often. “But they see me every day. I have one lady here who calls me just to talk.”
Her role is extremely important – and at times can make a critical difference.
“From a marketing perspective, Lela is the perfect personality to set the tone for a tour of our community by potential new residents,” says Betsy Huneycutt, Director of Sales & Marketing. “Our goal is to share The Village at Brookwood with warmth and smiles – from entering the gatehouse to exiting the gatehouse. Having met Lela first, our visitors are not surprised by our community’s friendly atmosphere.”
This, Lela knows.
“I know people who’ve said, ‘The girl at the gate – if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be coming here.’”
Excitement builds for The Village at Brookwood’s very experienced and talented new head of Dining
By Laureen Haviland, Communications Specialist
Before his February promotion to Director of Dining Services at The Village at Brookwood, a life plan community for older adults in Burlington, Arthur Gardiner remembered his first position there as a kitchen production manager almost eight years ago. His career path may seem like a natural progression, hitting everything from dishwasher through executive chef, yet his drive was fed by much more than just food.
Gardiner was born in Nebraska but grew up in Greensboro. It’s generally understood that most every kid in the South will eventually end up in the drive-thru line at Chick-fil-A, and that’s exactly where Gardiner’s mom asked an especially important question through the pick-up window: “Are you guys hiring?” After a quick interview, 14-year-old Arthur made his first career move into the food service industry.
As a young teenager, Gardiner, like many kids, did not always wait around for dinner, and he began his experimentation in his home kitchen. He would fend for himself, he says, creating things such as chicken quesadillas, realizing this “cooking thing” is not particularly difficult – and maybe even enjoyable!
In a life-forming “ah-ha” moment, he says he realized, “I think I have a pretty good knack for this, I enjoy it, and seem to be good at it!”
This drive could be what then got Gardiner into Dining Services at Well-Spring, A Life Plan Community in Greensboro. He started washing dishes and quickly moved up the literal line in the kitchen to chef. He says that this is where he became surrounded by the influence of Executive Chef Agron Ramadani.
His passion for cooking as a career had blossomed, at last.
Gardiner’s menu development was well received by his fellow team members, director and residents. “Good ingredients cooked well” remains Gardiner’s go-to motto around the kitchen. He says that adding ingredients does not necessarily mean a better dish. He also pointed out that he prefers the “from scratch” approach and avoids processed foods as much as possible, creating high-quality meals.
Among many wonderful things about working at Well-Spring and The Village, building relationships with the residents and their families is what brings him the most reward, he says. When asked how his working environment stands out, Gardiner revealed that the facetime he receives with residents is extremely rewarding. He needs to know they are satisfied and comfortable with their dining experience.
Fortunately for The Village, relationships with guests in the dining rooms extend to Gardiner’s team members, too. He says offering his staff a shoulder to lean on, the willingness to listen and modeling empathy are key ingredients to staff harmony in his kitchen. This kindness runs both ways, as he trains the team to respect the next shift coming in by keeping everything orderly for a smooth service every time.
“Arthur’s love of food and people is apparent the moment you meet him,” says April Mayberry, NHA, Executive Director of The Village at Brookwood. “With his energetic personality, servant leadership style, drive to succeed and love for our community, we are confident that Arthur is the right fit to lead our Dining team to provide our residents with the best possible culinary experience.”
So, what does Gardiner’s future hold in his new role?
“I’m excited about our upcoming expansions of our Village community and to see what that and other great developments happening at the The Village will bring,” he says. Whether it includes new menu ideas or a satellite kitchen in another area of the community somewhere in the future, Gardiner says he’s ready to deliver on next steps and serve who he considers his second family – The Village’s residents.
When Gardiner is away from the work kitchen, he is nurturing relationships at home with his wife, two dogs and one cat. He also enjoys woodworking and tennis.
Fun Fact: Gardiner’s grandfather was a local pharmacist and opened the well-known Brown-Gardiner, an old-fashioned pharmacy and soda fountain that has served Greensboro for over 60 years and still operates today.
Meet our new Executive Director
We are proud to introduce you to our new Executive Director, April Mayberry. Having served as The Village at Brookwood’s Licensed Nursing Home Administrator since 2018, April is a familiar face to our residents their loved ones. On August 22, April took the helm of our community, and we’re excited about what the future holds under her leadership. She also will continue as our Licensed Nursing Home Administrator.
What path did you take to get to Burlington and The Village at Brookwood?
I grew up in Burnsville, N.C., on a Christmas tree farm. I went to college at Western Carolina University and received a Bachelor of Science in Recreational Therapy. I am married and have two beautiful children – Jude, age 4, and Nora, now over 1, and we live in Greensboro in the historic Sunset Hills neighborhood.
Prior to joining our parent organization, The Well-Spring Group, I worked in the forprofit world with Genesis Healthcare as a Nursing Home Administrator and in various other roles for 20 years.
My experiences with my grandparents are what solidified my interest in and shaped my career path. I love hearing the stories and the life experiences of older adults. They have so much to offer us if we just listen and observe.
How is The Village different from other senior living communities?
The culture and family-like atmosphere – everyone is so friendly and welcoming at our community! My fellow team members and residents feel like extended family. In the for-profit world, the focus is on the resident census and revenue. It is a breath of fresh air to serve at a place that is focused on people and culture and provides the best experience an d best quality of care to older adults.
What is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator?
To become a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, you must submit your application to and be approved by the N.C. Long-Term Care Nursing Home Board. Once approved, you complete lecture classes, an Administrator In Training (AIT) program, which is typically a 24- to 50- week internship at a skilled nursing facility under the direction of a licensed administrator and submit weekly and monthly report s to the board. In addition, all applicants for licensure as a Nursing Home Administrator must pass the National and State Boards.
Congratulations! This year, The Village received a Zero Deficiency Rating. What is that, and why does it matter?
Our Health Care unit is regulated by the Division of Health Services Regulations (DHSR) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). With that comes annual recertification sur eys in which surveyors review systems and processes; interview staff and residents; observe nurses completing medication passes and resident care; review of infection control practices and protocols; and number of other operat ional components.
Attaining a perfect score – zero deficiencies – on an annual survey is one of the highest accomplishments that all administrators and skilled facilities strive for. In addition, skilled nursing facilities that are certified with Medicare or Medicaid are part of a 5-star rating system designed to give seniors and their families a clear picture of a community’s quality. The result of a facility’s survey is averaged into the overall 5-star rating. Because The Village at Brookwood received zero deficiencies, we maintain our overall 5-star rating.
Finally, you just became The Village’s Executive Director, in addition to continuing to serve as the Licensed Nursing Home Administrator. Are you excited?
Yes, I am! As I said, The Village is wonderful. This summer, The Well-Spring Group – which had managed The Village for several years – acquired this community. Well-Spring has many aspirational plans for The Village, and I look forward to helping lead us to those future accomplishments. It’s a thrilling time to be the Executive Director here!