It all started with an email exchange between Heidi Bedier, Lifespace Communities’ culture training lead, and Kathleen Haggerty, the organization’s district manager of culinary services. Bedier shared a two-minute YouTube video as a thank-you for the work Haggerty and her culinary teams do to create meaningful connections for residents.
The video is a heartwarming promotion for #EatTogether, an online campaign that advocates sharing meals as a way to build connections with family, friends and others. The clip features a young woman who arrives home from work to her empty apartment. To avoid eating alone, she sets up dinner in her hallway and invites her neighbors to join. Eventually, her entire apartment building is happily socializing while eating together.
“The video carries a powerful message,” said Haggerty, who was enthralled by what she saw. “There’s something special about sitting across a table from someone during breakfast, lunch or dinner and having a conversation. What better way to build a connection with others?”
Haggerty passed the video along to culinary directors and leaders at all 12 Lifespace Communities, who then shared it with their teams. One of the recipients, Jaimie Cherok of Friendship Village of South Hills in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, decided to take it a step further by hosting a #EatTogether event at her community.
“It was a no-brainer to bring the concept to life as soon as I saw it,” explained Cherok, who serves as culinary director at Friendship Village. The event, held in late June, treated residents and team members from all levels of living to an elaborate meal prepared by the community’s executive chef. “There were long tables full of food and smiling faces could be seen from one end of the community to the other,” Cherok noted. “It was good company all around, and you could truly feel the love.”
Resident Geri Williams, who attended the event, thoroughly enjoyed the experience. “It was great to mingle with team members and other residents, and the food tasted just as great as it looked,” she said. “One of the things that Friendship Village does very well is giving us opportunities to come together. I think it makes for a healthy community environment.”
Such positive reception is encouraging to Cherok and her team.
“We want to give residents every opportunity possible to get to know us and each other on a more personal level,” she explained. “The exchange of stories, ideas and laughs during these occasions is always inspiring, and we’re looking forward to hosting similar events in the future.”
[In photo: Residents and team members at Friendship Village of South Hills enjoy an elaborate meal at the community’s #EatTogether event.]
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