A labor of love builds a career of memories

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Jolyn Stanley walked down the hall with a new resident at Greencastle of Palatine. She saw the elderly woman was a bit timid and shy, which isn’t always surprising when someone comes to live in the senior housing community for the first time. “This can be a scary process for residents, being on their own for the first time and away from the house they lived in for so long,” says Stanley.

The new resident had just left her home that had been without running water for three months. But the moment she stepped into her new Embrace Living home, everything changed for the better. “She was so grateful just to have a roof over her head,” recalls Stanley. “Just to see how relaxed and comfortable she became as she made new friends here makes you feel humbled and grateful to help in that development as they trust and rely on you so much.”

These are the types of moments that Stanley reflects on as she retires as manager of Greencastle of Palatine in January after 18 years with Embrace Living.

Stanley began her career by putting her biology degree in good use at a water treatment plant. After stepping away to be an at-home mother to her two children for a while, she wanted to find a part-time position. She came across a job posting for Embrace Living. “When I visited and interviewed, I was so impressed with the property and with Tonya, the manager at the time,” she says fondly. “I remember thinking how my grandmother would have loved it here.”

Stanley started in 2003 as an office assistant and quickly ascended to the position of manager two years later. “I didn’t think it would be a fit for me at first,” she remembers. “I had the educational background and was ready for the challenge. I think what also helped was that I always had wonderful relationships with my grandparents and was comfortable around seniors. Being able to be a part of their lives and have them in my life is something I cherish and enjoy.”

Her nearly two-decade journey has been a learning experience along the way, seeing so many changes over that time. But it is the relationships she’s built over the years that she treasures most. “I’ve got to work with so many people, and I can’t say enough about them,” she explains. “It really is more than a job to all of us. Everyone is willing to help, and that builds camaraderie and support. It’s a part of the Embrace culture that we are so proud of.”

Transitioning to build new relationships

“My leaving is bittersweet, having been together with this team for so long,” she says. “But the staff and residents will be in great hands under David.” David Optiz, former Senior Director of Mission Services for Embrace Living Communities, will be taking the reins from Stanley as the new manager of Greencastle of Palatine. “I think the transition will be seamless,” says Stanley. “David is fortunate to have such a seasoned and passionate staff. And the team and residents will get a great person in David.”

Stanley is leaving to spend more time with her retired husband, as well as with her first grandchild. But she is also leaving with many memories of her time at Embrace Living. “It’s that time with my team that I cherish most,” she tearfully says. “We are more than colleagues. We are friends who came here to be a part of something bigger and important. The need for affordable housing is only growing, and we have a 5-year waiting list at our community alone. For those who live here, it is a welcoming and caring home. For those who work here, it is more than a job. It is a labor of love, and I feel very fortunate to have been a part of it.”