Susan Hulet comes from a family of servants to others. Her daughter started a nonprofit to help children attend school in Tanzania. Her son is a caregiver for seniors in hospice. Her husband is a probation officer, who will be teaching chair Tai Chi to residents at Embrace Living Communities. It’s no surprise that giving back and connecting with others comes naturally to Susan.
In our most recent staff profile with her, learn more about her role as Social Service Coordinator at Greencastle of Barrington, and how social connections and philanthropic partnerships empower senior communities and the greater Barrington community.
How did you come to be a part of the Embrace Living Communities family?
I have only been here for about four years. I had a couple of people that I knew that had been working here and they absolutely loved it. There was an opening, so I applied!
What’s a typical day like for you as Social Services Coordinator?
Well, I come in and usually, there are one or two residents that would like to see me right away. So I meet with them, then try to make sure I can fill out the calendar and get the programs and activities scheduled that I’m working on setting up. Then I may do some paperwork, but usually, my office is a revolving door.
Were you working with seniors before joining this community? What inspired you to work with this age group?
Before [Embrace], I worked as a case manager for senior services, where I would do home visits and set up services with seniors that needed things like homemakers or transportation. Initially, I had been working with children but got involved in a program where I worked with seniors. I just felt like they were an inspiration and that we need to give them more respect, and more services to live more independently if that’s what they need. I want to help seniors achieve that.
Working so closely with seniors, what do you think people get wrong about this group?
Well, I think there are a couple of things. Number one, I think people assume seniors aren’t interested in doing many, or in doing different things. I think people feel like seniors just want to sit home and do nothing because they’re uninterested. People don’t realize that seniors have also had interesting lives and still have those interests. For example, in our building, we’ve got someone who was a TV announcer, we’ve got pilots, we have lawyers, we’ve got people who were professors. I mean, everybody has these wonderful lives and they have so much to give to the community. Some people feel that seniors don’t have anything to offer, and that’s completely wrong. Everybody has something to offer.
What are some of the ways you and staff try to feed all these diverse interests and talents seniors have in your community?
We try to do activities within the building just to get people involved and to get them together. Of course, we celebrate holidays, and we often host events in our building where we invite other community members. Usually, residents pick something they’d like to do and we try to get as many of those events on our calendar as possible. It’s wonderful that we have a bus [shared with the Greencastle of Palatine community], so residents can go on outings to different cafes they like to go to, the YMCA for free swimming lessons, medical appointments they need to get to, things like that. In the past, they usually go to the zoo, I know they’re trying to arrange a visit to a historical museum, they have the option to go out for a boat ride, or just shop. It really just depends on what they want to do.
There are so many exciting things coming up this summer and the rest of the year. We’re going to take our residents to visit miniature therapy horses at Mane in Heaven ranch in Barrington. They just love petting them and taking pictures with them.
How does the Greencastle of Barrington community interact with the larger Barrington community?
Barrington is an amazing community. There are just so many people who want to volunteer and be involved. And our residents are involved too. They’re always on the lookout for opportunities. In our building, we pick a cause or organization to give back to once a month. We can’t all walk around and clean the streets and do things like that, but we’ve done other creative things. We’ve worked with Rahab’s Daughters, a charity that fights against human trafficking, to create little bricks that say “love” and have the organization’s information on the back. These were handed these out at the Superbowl, which is one of the largest events where human trafficking occurs. We’ve collected those tabs and coupons off of boxes and pop cans for schools. We’ve gathered blankets to we’ve donated to no-kill animal shelters and prepared dog and cat food for those shelters. Even if someone has a physical ailment, we have opportunities where they can still participate in giving back.
For our staff team-building outing, we planned to raise money for Clearbrooke, an organization that supports individuals with disabilities, on Jelly Belly days. Our residents caught wind of it and wanted to join us, so we all went out to our local Jewel Osco to raise donations. Even our residents who do not speak English we out there with us getting donations – we were able to raise a lot. It was wonderful.
What’s the value of these relationships with outside community organizations and partners?
Well, we have our First Responders cookout coming up, where we invite our police, firemen, and paramedics to our community to get to know our residents and vice versa. For example, if we have a resident who’s being scammed, I want them to feel comfortable calling the police. If they need a paramedic or a fireman, I want them to feel comfortable calling. So it’s great that they are so kind and helpful with our residents.
Another great thing is the intergenerational opportunities we have. We have Chinese immersion students visit our communities to learn Mandarin from our residents, who love to come down and help. We have STEM students come in to visit with residents. I think these types of intergenerational connections are important, and the residents seem to really enjoy when we have kids come in and do different activities with them and for them.
How is it being a part of the Greencastle of Barrington community?
I have to say, it’s just an amazing place to work. I love the residents – they’re wonderful. Even if there’s an issue, it’s just something that gets worked out. This is a great team to work for, and I love the whole organization as a whole. I’ve personally witnessed experienced such a strong level of support here. They care about you, they pray for you when you’re going through hard times, they try to keep up with what’s going on in your life from birthdays to anniversaries. I’ve never experienced that type of care from an entire organization. It’s amazing.
Feel free to contact us for any future resident, current resident, or general inquiries.