25000 Country Club Blvd. Suite 255, North Olmsted, OH 44070

A Work of Art

From L to R: Bob Speelman, Rhonda Hirst, Dustin Hirst, Chuck Hillier

March 21, 2019
My STNA journey this week took me to Mentor Ridge Health & Rehabilitation, our 99-bed skilled nursing facility in Mentor, Ohio. Chuck Hillier is the Administrator of this beautiful new facility. Chuck’s maturity as a leader and his passion for his residents and staff make me proud to having him lead as a regional leader with Foundations.

One of those outstanding staff members that I had the privilege of working with was Rhonda Hirst. At 63 years old, Rhonda has a wealth of knowledge, life lessons and love to share with anyone willing to take the time. Many of the resident at Mentor Ridge call her “Momma.” They know when someone loves and cares for them, and to hear the residents call her “Momma” will melt your heart.

Rhonda’s son, Dustin, also works as an STNA at Mentor Ridge. Dustin is one semester away from getting his RN. The residents spoke just as highly of Dustin, as they did his mom. They are a truly amazing family and it makes me sleep well at night knowing leaders like them are running our company.

Rhonda wanted to become a nurse but the school she attended didn’t offer nursing, so she did cosmetology training instead. Immediately after Rhonda left school, she said she was so mad because, “wouldn’t you know it, they started offering nurse training.”

When Rhonda was 17, she got a job at Greenlawn in Mentor. The way Rhonda described it with the large wards that housed 10-20 residents reminded me of the old county homes. Rhonda said it was a lot to take in, and that she wasn’t sure if it was the right thing for her, but she stuck with it for several years working at various nursing homes in the area. After about 4 years of doing that she got into manufacturing.

Rhonda learned brazing and soldering and began working on circuit boards. She became so proficient at the manufacturing of circuit boards that she ended up becoming the production manager. After being production manager for a while, they brought in a younger guy for her to train and then told Rhonda that he was going to be her new boss. Rhonda was furious and let them know it. Soon after, they informed Rhonda that her position was being eliminated.

At the time, Rhonda was devastated. Around the same time, she found out that her father had cancer, and she was able to spend the final three weeks of her father’s life with him before he passed. If she would have been working, she would not have had that time with him, and that was a time that she truly cherished.

After Rhonda’s father passed, she prayed, “God, what do you want me to do?” Rhonda said God answered her by letting her know she needed to go back to being an STNA. Rhonda took the classes to become an STNA again. This time she had a wealth of life experiences she was bringing with her. She found she enjoyed the job more now. She loved the one-on-one time with the residents.

On the day before she was to start at Mentor Ridge, tragedy struck Rhonda and Dustin again as Ross, her husband of 37 years, died of cancer. Rhonda said that Chuck, the staff, and the residents of Mentor Ridge are her family now and have been extremely supportive and caring. She said with a smile, “I love my residents.”

One of the residents Rhonda introduced me to was Irene. Irene is in her 90’s, can barely see, and was knitting lap blankets for fellow residents when we entered her room. You could tell immediately Irene had great affection for Rhonda. After we chatted and were getting ready to leave, Irene asked Rhonda, “Does he deserve a scarf?” Rhonda said yes and Irene asked her to get me one. Rhonda went over to a box and pulled one out and handed it to me. It was one that Irene had knitted and she told me to “wear it in good health.” I’m wearing it in the picture and was humbled by her act of kindness.

At lunch time we were in the process of delivering the meals when we entered the room of a resident by the name of Charles. As we brought Charles his lunch and began visiting with him, I noticed these beautiful Acrylic shapes with intricate designs and sculptures etched inside of them. I began asking Charles about them and he said he made those and many more over the years.

Charles told me to turn them around and look at them from the back. I went of to each one of them and turned them around and saw holes that he had drilled. Charles explained that he drilled the holes to gain access to the interior of the acrylic and he did his work from the back, where he drills, cuts, and gouges out his designs. It was quite ugly from the back, but a thing of beauty when you saw it from the front as a finished product.

As I left Charles room, I thought about Rhonda and the tragedies she had been through in her life. All those things shaped her to be who she is now. I began thinking about all the difficult times we all face in our lives. When we are going through them, it looks and feels like the back of Charles’ acrylic; full of holes, and lots of gouging, and not very pretty. But when our perspectives change, that process becomes a work of art.

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
- Michelangelo

Rhonda – I am so glad I had the opportunity to spend the day with you and Dustin. You are an amazing Mom, Caregiver and person. You live and breath our Culture of Care. Thank you for the love you showed me and the lesson’s you taught me today!

Bob Speelman, STNA

Mentor Ridge

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