BRS Now Hiring

As cities and counties around Texas and the U.S. move to shelter-in-place policies to combat COVID-19, operations of non-essential businesses are limited. As a result, people in the hospitality industry are looking for temporary work, prompting Buckner Retirement Services to spread the word it is hiring.

Buckner is the largest faith-based nonprofit provider of senior living communities in Texas with communities in Austin, Houston, Dallas, Beaumont, San Angelo and Longview. All six communities are hiring.

There are open positions in the fields of culinary services, housekeeping, maintenance, wellness and nursing. “If you have hospitality industry or service industry experience, such as restaurants, schools, childcare, hotels, retail or healthcare, we want you to join our team,” said Brian Robbins, vice president of BRS.

An article by USA Today, reports that if the outbreak worsens, approximately 24% of employers plan to downsize beyond the temporary suspension of jobs.

Senior living communities are essential businesses because they care for one of the groups most vulnerable to COVID-19, senior adults. Communities like Buckner Villas in Austin and Calder Woods in Beaumont require around-the-clock staff to care for residents.

“Our teams at each Buckner community are heroes,” said Robbins, “And we want to continue to provide them the support they need in order to give our residents the best care possible. We need to make sure our employment in each community is at capacity so everyone has the opportunity to rest and recharge.”

Buckner is not just looking for temporary employees, Robbins said. “If someone comes to us from the restaurant industry and only wants to work with our dining teams for a couple of months until the world returns to normal, that’s fine. But I strongly hope people will consider the long-term career potential Buckner and the senior living industry offers.

“Whether you cook or serve food, maintain our facilities, clean rooms, or practice medicine, joining our team will provide you with a true mission and a passion for making a difference in the lives of our residents.”

In addition to utilizing job boards and Buckner social media pages, Robbins is turning to the news media to help alert Texans about Buckner job opportunities. He was interviewed by KXAN in Austin about the value of employment in senior living, as well as news stations in Longview and Beaumont.

Since the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, Buckner has worked diligently to mitigate risks to staff and residents by following guidelines and policies outlined by the CDC, CMS and local and state government. This same caution and meticulousness will apply to job candidates, as preliminary interviews will be carried out through phone and video conferencing platforms, while in-person candidates will be tested and surveyed prior to entering the building. Some interviews may even happen outdoors, weather permitting.

For more information about Buckner Retirement Services, visit BucknerRetirement.org; for a list of job openings go to Buckner.org/Careers and search by community.

Chaplains Adopt Creative Ways to Share Hope in Shadow of the Coronavirus

By Russ Dilday

Chaplain John BenderThe LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

Chaplain John Bender recites Psalm 23, ageless words of comfort in times of fear or threat. As he pauses, he looks up to his listeners, residents of Buckner Parkway Place in Houston. A single camera lens stares back at him. He’s delivering his message on Parkway Place’s closed-circuit television system.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Like each chaplain at all six Buckner Retirement Services Communities, Bender is seeking creative ways to share messages of faith, hope and comfort in the wake of social distancing measures in response to the coronavirus.

Since the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic began to take shape in the United States, Americans have responded with measures that range from social distancing to canceling large-scale gatherings to even city-wide lockdowns.

Nowhere have these safety measures been more critical than among the senior adult population, deemed by most health-related entities as the group most at risk for contracting the coronavirus.

Buckner, following standards set by the Center for Disease Control and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, took quick action to ensure the health of residents and staff, limiting outside access to only essential health care providers as well as promoting distance between each resident internally.

While the safety strategies created distance from potential harm, they also created distance from residents’ churches, community worship meetings and each other for groups larger than 10. It’s a situation that might seem to lessen residents’ hope, but the chaplains are fighting the coronavirus threat in their own unique way – from the soul.

“I have encouraged residents to read Psalm 23 every day because of its familiarity as well as the message that God is walking with us,” Bender said.

Spreading message of hope and comfort is key to reinforcing residents’ faith, he said.

“Each conversation I have is salted with the concept that ‘We have faith in our God. This crisis did not catch him by surprise.”

Chaplain Daniel Carpenter of Buckner Calder Woods in Beaumont echoed Bender’s approach.

“I have spoken to several people about the sovereignty of God. I also try to get them to think of all the ways God has provided for them and protected them up to this point,” he added. “And I’m talking a lot about anxiety. I’ve been using Philippians 4 as a launching point to talk to them about faith and the presence of Jesus in their lives.”

But to reach their flocks, the group must come up with creative ways to spread that word and meet constituents’ needs.

“We normally have two to three people from our campus in the hospital every day and I typically visit them there, but now the hospital, as of today, has limited their visitation and I can no longer go to see them,” said Chaplain Kevin McSpadden of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo. “Now I just call our residents and talk with them over the phone.”

He noted that while the independent living Sunday morning chapel service has been canceled, he recently learned how to broadcast live services on YouTube and will be using that technology to reach residents.

“I still do a worship service and a sit-down Bible study at our Sagecrest Alzheimer’s facility,” he said. “Both of the open area pods at Sagecrest are very large and we literally spread the people out and go on with our services. At both Sagecrest and The Crest, volunteers can no longer come in to help me with the music, but I manage to make everything work with music on my laptop.”

David Mann, chaplain for Ventana by Buckner in Dallas, also adopted the “spread out” social distancing approach, modified even further by the 10-person-per-room limit.

“Yesterday’s worship service was interesting here at Ventana,” he explained. “We signed up the members who wanted to attend in increments of 10 and had four worship services, at 2:30, 3, 3:30 and 4. Needless to say, I was very tired afterward and our poor pianist was exhausted as well.”

Rick Webb, chaplain for Buckner Westminister Place in Longview, acknowledges the importance of smaller chapel services since many churches have had to cancel services.

“I am leading it myself – music and message – so no outside person is engaged,” Webb said, noting he is taking additional precautions to lessen the possibility of exposure to residents. “I am limiting my life to Buckner and home and no other people than Westminster Place and my family.”

In addition to altering his personal life, Webb is also adapting technology to reach his residents.

“The technology is being adapted so I can post devotionals and encouragement to the residents via the in-house cable television system. Along with that medium, I have repeatedly given them my cell phone number as an on-call resource and encourage them to call.”

Carpenter has also been playing guitar and singing for residents who can’t leave their rooms and to help calm nerves heightened by isolation or fear.

“There is a spectrum of response here,” Carpenter said. “Many residents are starting to get cabin fever, but some of them like being isolated. Some are sitting at their doors in the hallway so they can talk to neighbors across the hall. Some are fearful. Most are understanding (of the safety measures that have been put into place).”

In addition to ministry to residents, each chaplain noted their ministries seek to reach staff members as well.

Mann encouraged Ventana associates to continue living out the Buckner Retirement Services mantra of “Inspiring happiness” while serving others.

Mann shared a prayer with the group and reminded them that “as we become open to each day at hand, and its challenges, may we remember that we are called and equipped (every position is a sacred vocation); may we step forward with a non-anxious presence and seek to learn, teach, and lead by example. May the Holy Spirit grant us abundant resource for the journey!”

“I have been going around visiting with staff, listening to them and empathizing where I can,” echoed Carpenter. “A lot of them are anxious too, so I try to calm their fears and cheer them up. I have also offered to help them in any way that I can if they seem stressed.”

Ministering to staff, though, also includes time to renew and minister to themselves and their families amid their own concerns.

“It’s definitely causing some stress and anxiety in my home,” Carpenter said. “I have two young boys and a third boy on the way. The hovering threat of a shelter-in-place scenario is a frequent concern. My wife is due in 10 weeks, so the thought of being separated from them for up to eight weeks is not a pleasant one.”

“The only thing that has made a change in my life is the unknowing of if or when we will go into on-campus quarantine” said Bender. “The ministry has not changed here other than it is a more focused work. But the unknowing of if I will return home at night has an impact on my family.”

Coronavirus: Life Inside Our Senior Living Communities

To reduce the risks to the health and wellbeing of senior adults residing at our communities and minimize exposure to COVID-19, Buckner Retirement Services implemented a limited access visitation policy. However, we understand the concern and uncertainty the loved ones of our residents must be feeling.

We asked the leaders at our communities in Austin, Beaumont, Dallas, Houston, Longview and San Angelo to provide some insight into their residents’ wellbeing and what life is like as we work together to mitigate the risks associated with the coronavirus while continuing to inspire happiness in their lives.

What is the overall atmosphere like in the community? How is the morale of our senior adults?

“Our residents have been very positive about the steps we are taking to protect their health and safety. They have many questions, but they are valid concerns and questions that need consideration. We are taking the time to sit down and explain our measures on a one-to-one level as well as working to communicate to the whole community.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Most of our residents are understanding and supportive. Some are a bit apprehensive about the unusual circumstances, justifiably so, but we are doing everything possible to explain the reason for the changes and to ensure they are comfortable during the process. Overall, life within our walls is normal, as we are just trying to reduce the outside world coming in for now.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“We are keeping everything upbeat and positive with a business-as-usual attitude, and the overall attitude of our residents is positive as a result. Many residents and family members are expressing their appreciation for the professional way we are watching out for them during a difficult time.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

“Our Members have been extremely understanding and appreciative of our efforts to keep the community safe. Most of them are media savvy, and they are not surprised by the decisions we’ve made in light of the news. They are calm and feel safe, and many have said they would rather be at Ventana than their former homes.”

– Chuck Childress, Executive Director, Ventana by Buckner, Dallas

“There has been an overall welcoming and appreciative response to the measures put in place. Our residents understand that the protocols were put in place to keep them healthy and safe.”

–Tammy Combs, Life Enrichment Coordinator, Westminster Place, Longview

Are residents continuing to socialize within the community or are they staying in their rooms?

“I have not noticed a change in the atmosphere. Our residents are going about their social day per usual while our staff ensures every precaution is taken to keep our common areas clean.”

– Katherine Wojtyna, Marketing Assistant, Parkway Place, Houston

“Residents are finding a balance between practicing safe social distancing while also making sure to still talk and laugh with each other and with our team members.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

How are residents staying connected with their friends and family during the limited access visitation policy?

“We are working to set up some technology stations to help people connect with family and friends through social media and video calling platforms like FaceTime and Skype.”

– David Long, Director of Marketing, Calder Woods, Beaumont

“Many of the residents are updating family through text messages and others enjoy talking on their cell phones using the speakerphone. Some use Facebook and keep in touch by looking at pictures posted by family members. One resident has a USB picture frame, and her son sends her family photos to load on her frame. It runs constantly.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Telephone calls seem to be the preferred way residents are communicating with their family and friends, but some are also using FaceTime capabilities on their phones or tablets as well as sending emails and texts.”

– Erin Kelly, Director of Marketing, Baptist Retirement Community, San Angelo

Has there been any change to community activities or groups?

“As a precaution, we canceled any of the activities led by volunteers from outside the community as well as group outings off campus like a luncheon and a trip to the Houston Holocaust Museum. As of March 14, we’ve also suspended in-house group activities while ensuring our residents have an abundance of individual options to keep them engaged.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“We are working hard to keep life within the community as normal as possible, but for the safety of our residents, we have suspended our group activities and classes.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

Are the dining rooms and restaurants still operating normally? Are residents eating in the community areas?

“In order to mirror the policies implemented on a local, state and national level, our dining facilities are now delivering meals to our residents’ rooms.”

– Linda Fitzhugh, Director of Resident Engagement, Parkway Place, Houston

“Our dining team is hard at work to ensure residents have our full menu available to them in the comfort of their own rooms. It’s like a hotel.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“Even before we had to update our dining policy and close the dining rooms, we noticed a shift in the number of residents opting to have their meals delivered to their apartments. It’s good to see that we are all on the same page when it comes to ensuring their health and safety is the number one priority.”

–Tammy Combs, Life Enrichment Coordinator, Westminster Place, Longview

What are the biggest changes you’ve noticed?

“Residents are communicating with staff and asking questions about protocols but staying calm and going about their usual business. The staff is here to answer all of their questions, and we are taking the time to be there for them and their families.”

– Katherine Wojtyna, Marketing Assistant, Parkway Place, Houston

“We are doing everything possible to increase our communication to residents and their family members so everyone is comfortable during an unusual time. This includes letters, emails, in-person discussions and townhall meetings.”

– Paul Clark, Director of Marketing, Buckner Villas, Austin

“The most noticeable change is obviously the lack of outside people on our campus due to our limitation policy. We are also screening all approved visitors, staff and vendors, and we’ve closed our thrift shop. Otherwise, it’s business as usual for our residents as we all work together to protect the community.”

– Erin Kelly, Director of Marketing, Baptist Retirement Community, San Angelo

“The biggest changes are on the operations side of things with how our team has prepared. I’m not seeing much change with our Members, which is a sign we are doing our jobs well.”

– Chuck Childress, Executive Director, Ventana by Buckner, Dallas

Limited Access Visitation Policy Effective 3/13/2020

For Immediate Release:

Buckner Retirement Services Implements Limited Access Visitation Policy

Temporary policy adheres to CMS guidelines and is effective March 13 at noon for Buckner Villas, Parkway Place, Ventana by Buckner, Calder Woods, Westminster Place and Baptist Retirement Community.

DALLAS (March 12, 2020) – Buckner Retirement Services will implement a limited access visitation policy as a safety measure against the rapid advance of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. The limited access policy is effective Friday, March 13 at noon and will apply to BRS’s six communities, including Buckner Villas in Austin, Parkway Place in Houston, Ventana by Buckner in Dallas, Calder Woods in Beaumont, Westminster Place in Longview, and Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo.

The temporary visitation policy follows guidelines proved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They include the limitation of visitors within the communities except for end-of-life situations or when a visitor is essential for the resident’s emotional well-being and care.

To read the full CMS guidelines, click here.

BRS employees began notifying residents and resident family members regarding the new guidelines on Wednesday, March 11 via in-person conversations, phone calls, printed letters, emails and the community website and Facebook pages.

“We are aware that this limited access poses an inconvenience to our residents and their friends and family, but we are committed to doing everything reasonably possible to protect our residents and the Buckner team members who work at our communities. This decision was not taken lightly, however, we believe it is in the best interests of everyone,” said Charlie Wilson, senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services.

When visitors meeting the approved criteria come to any BRS community, they will have their temperature taken and asked screening questions about their current health condition and recent travel as a further level of protection for residents and staff.

Once the limited access policy takes effect on March 13, BRS team members under the direction of the community’s executive director will be available to assist residents with any needs normally taken care of by visitors.

Communication with its residents and team members is a priority for BRS. Leadership continues to monitor the situation regarding coronavirus and is working to continually educate residents and staff regarding guidelines issued by the Texas Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control.

Specifically, Buckner Retirement Services is:

  1. Activating its Emergency Preparedness and Operations teams at each of the six campuses and holding a regular conference call with the teams from the six campuses. This process includes coordinating with local first responders and health care facilities in case emergency response for a resident or staff is necessary.
  2. Reviewing the Emergency Preparedness Manual and re-educating staff about infectious disease policies and procedures.
  3. Reviewing the BRS infection control protocol, inventorying supplies, and preparing employees through information and education.
  4. Launching a communications campaign internally for all stakeholders, including signs and posters in all communities. These safety-themed posters contain specific information about stopping the spread of germs and viruses.
  5. Directing staff exhibiting signs of sickness to stay home.
  6. Communicating with residents and family members that Buckner is taking this seriously and that we are taking every reasonable precaution.

“These extraordinary measures are intended to protect all of us,” said Wilson. “We will re-evaluate this limited access policy regularly and notify our residents immediately of any changes.”

—30— 

About Buckner Retirement Services, Inc.:

Buckner Retirement Services is a nonprofit senior living organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for senior adults and their families by promoting an active, healthy lifestyle while maintaining their independence and dignity. Buckner Retirement Services is part of Buckner International, a global faith-based ministry serving more than 350,000 people each year in Texas and six countries worldwide. For more information, visit BucknerRetirement.org.

Information Contact:

Christopher Ruth

Director of Media Relations

Buckner International

630-536-9139 (cell)

cruth@buckner.org

Married Couples Residing in Senior Living Communities

married senior coupleThere is a common misconception that senior living communities are where senior adults move when they have no one left and no other options, but that is far from the truth. In fact, senior living communities are ideal for married couples, who now have more time to focus on their relationship and enjoy their time together, especially when a loved one requires additional care.

All around Buckner Retirement Services’ communities, you’ll find married couples dining together, participating in community sponsored clubs and events, or going for a walk and holding hands. About one-third of the residents at most of the communities are married, though the number is much higher at the newest community, Ventana by Buckner in Dallas. There 86% of the Members are married.

Moving into a senior living community helps free a couple from the weight of household obligations, allowing them to focus on their relationship and re-connecting. But for couples where one person is experiencing serious health issues, the convenience of a senior living community offers so much more.

Jerry Jefferson is 87. She lives at Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo with her husband, Ross, 88. The couple moved to BRC in 2013, and up until recently, they lived together in an independent living home.

Ross was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. Jerry was able to manage caring for him at first, but as the conditioned progressed, it became more difficult.

“One of the first things he said was, ‘why can’t I remember anything anymore?'” remembered Jerry. “Then he said, ‘well, I guess when you get old, you just quit remembering.’ He never really said it by name,” she said.

Jerry’s daughters became worried, as they didn’t want the burden of caregiving to fall entirely on their mother. In August 2019, they convinced Jerry to move Ross into SageCrest Alzheimer’s Care Center at BRC.

“It’s just a short walk for me to visit Ross almost every day. I like to go after lunch and stay with him until around 4 p.m., which is when sundown syndrome hits and he has a harder time remembering things,” said Jerry.

Jerry said the staff caring for Ross is like family to them, and that knowledge eases so much of the stress and worry stemming from his condition.

According to a Caring.com survey, 80% of respondents admit that caregiving puts a strain on relationships with 25% saying it led to divorce. What once was an equal romantic partnership can turn into a nurse-patient dynamic.

In a report from the Mayo Clinic, the impact of caregiving on a marriage can include a financial burden, reduced time together as a couple, frustration and fatigue, resentment and more.

The continuing care capabilities of Buckner Retirement Services’ Life Plan communities are one of the top reasons residents choose Buckner.

“We picked Calder Woods because of the continuous care option,” said Nancy Bond, 88, who moved to Buckner Calder Woods six years ago with her husband, Jim, 88. “We hoped we would never need the specialized care, but we wanted to be safe.”

A Life Plan Community, also known as a “Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC),” is a senior living community that offers different levels of living and care on site. These care options—independent living, assisted living, memory care, long-term and skilled nursing—help meet residents’ changing needs in a comfortable environment they already know with people they already trust.

Two years ago, Jim Bond’s dementia and diabetes progressed, and Nancy had to make the decision to move her husband into a private suite within a skilled nursing cottage, while she remained in one of the Beaumont community’s independent living homes.

“I wasn’t capable of caring for him 24 hours a day,” said Nancy, “But he’s where he needs to be, and I can be by his side in minutes.”

There are many couples in similar situations who benefit greatly from continuing care. Skilled nurses and staff relieve the caregiver burden, so the couples can spend hours together each day talking, playing games and working on puzzles, or dining together.

Bob Jones, 88, says his love for his wife is stronger than ever before since moving his wife, Joyce, 89, into memory care at Buckner Parkway Place in Houston.

“I thought we had the rest of our lives planned out, but God and Alzheimer’s had a different plan,” said Bob. “I thought I could take care of her on my own, but it was more difficult than I anticipated. I knew I needed help.

“I visit her every day and still feel our love. When I see her, we still say I love you, and when we walk around we hold hands. It’s so important for people to realize what they have and not take things for granted, because one day your loved one may not remember the same precious memories you do. I wish I knew more before, but the help she is receiving now is top notch, and I know we will get through this together.”

Buckner Westminster Place resident Barbara Barkley, 87, agrees with that sentiment. Her husband, Bill, 91, has Parkinson’s and resides in a skilled nursing apartment. “I tell Bill that when I get up for the day, my purpose is to come and see him – and I do.”

Shirley Clark

Astros’ José Altuve Visits 100-Year-Old Resident of Buckner Parkway Place

Buckner Parkway Place resident Shirley Clark celebrated her 100th birthday this week and received a special surprise birthday present: A visit with Houston Astros’ José Altuve.

As a die-hard baseball and Astros fan, Shirley was shocked and excited to see one of her favorite baseball players walk through the door to wish her a happy birthday.Prior to living in Houston, Shirley and her late husband, Charles, worked as missionaries, which included more than 30 years in Venezuela. She fondly recalls her time there ministering to those in need and forming lifelong bonds with some of her best friends. One of her favorite memories was watching Venezuelan children play baseball in the street with a homemade ball and broomstick.

Because of those treasured memories, Shirley’s favorite players on the Astros are Venezuela natives José Altuve and Robinson Chirinos. She watches as many games as she can, whether at the stadium or on TV, and her friends at Parkway Place know to come to Shirley for scores and stats from the previous night.

News of Shirley’s birthday and her status as a superfan reached Altuve, who was especially touched by her work as a missionary for more than 30 years in his home country of Venezuela. Altuve surprised Shirley in her home and gave her an autographed baseball as a birthday gift.

Conversing in both English and Spanish, Altuve and Shirley talked about her time living in Venezuela and what it was like for Altuve growing up there. She introduced him to some of her children in town for her birthday, and Altuve even did a video call with his wife and daughter so they could wish Shirley a happy birthday as well. When their conversation turned to the Astros, Shirely showed off her knowledge of player stats.

Enjoying life, eating right and staying active are what Shirley credits as her keys to a long life – that and getting out to the ballpark whenever possible.

Earlier in the year, Shirley was one of 14 Parkway Place residents that posed for portraits by photographer Mark Sandlin as part of the community’s new campaign, “Life, Experienced.” The campaign captures the varied interests and passions of residents, which is why Shirley decked herself out in her Astros apparel and modeled in front of the Astros’ Minute Maid Park.

 

Baptist Retirement Community dedicates Elsie Gayer Chapel

seniors at a funeral

Members of the Baptist Retirement Community came together with Buckner Retirement Services staff to dedicate the Elsie Gayer Chapel. On hand were members of the Gayer family, as well as members of the Baptist Memorial Ministries Board and Buckner International Board of Trustees.

The renaming of the chapel after Elsie Gayer is part of an $8.4 million renovation project to Baptist Retirement Community, announced in Oct. 2018. The planned updates include renovations to the high-rise independent living apartment building and the Sagecrest nursing building while also providing for road repairs and added curb appeal to the community, which has served seniors in San Angelo since 1951.

Elsie Gayer, RN, founded the Baptist Memorials Geriatric Hospital in 1951 and served as its administrator until 1968. The hospital later pivoted into senior living and was renamed Baptist Retirement Community.

A plaque honoring Gayer was unveiled at the ceremony, noting how her “efforts and passion persist today as an enduring symbol of senior living that is Inspiring Happiness™ in San Angelo and throughout Texas.”

“Every professional studying the history of senior care should know the name Elsie Gayer,” said Aaron Hargett, BRC’s executive director. “She was a remarkable woman who touched the lives of so many senior adults by ensuring they were loved and lived with dignity as members of a community.”

The updates and new construction to BRC are part of a long-term campus renovation and repositioning plan, which already has seen the construction of The Crest, a new assisted living memory care building, which opened in 2016 on the 100-acre campus. Buckner affiliated with Baptist Retirement Community in 2010. It is one of six Texas senior living communities owned and managed by BRS.

The digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide is here! Get yours today!

Advent Devotional Guide

Faith is the tie that binds us. Regardless of our backgrounds, life stories or differences, it’s our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior that binds us together as brothers and sisters. And what better time to come together as a family of faith than during the Advent season?

Advent Devotional GuideThis year, Buckner would like to offer you a special way to celebrate the birth of Christ with our FREE digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide. Inside, you will find weekly devotions on the Advent themes of hope, peace, love and joy as well as thoughtful reflection questions to help you and your family meditate on the themes of the Advent season throughout the week.

Through these devotions, we hope you and your family can have meaningful conversations and grow closer together this Advent season. Sign up today to receive your FREE digital 2018 Buckner Advent Devotional Guide as well as weekly devotional emails in your inbox during the Advent season.

sign up now

Jennie at the airport

Two Buckner Villas residents attend All Women Honor Flight

welcoming a veteran at the airport

What comes to mind when you think of Veterans Day? For some, it may be the image of a father or grandfather courageously fighting for freedom. Maybe it’s media portrayals of battle scenes from war movies and television shows. Perhaps you reminisce on your own memories of service— from basic training, to combat, to writing loved ones back home.

 

Or, do you envision a nurse working tirelessly to aid wounded soldiers in the operating room? How about a young woman from Toledo, Ohio, facilitating background investigations for security clearances? For Donna Whitworth and Jennie Rose of Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas, these were their realities. Humble servicewomen though they were, their impact and contribution to our nation is immeasurable.

 Donna Whitworth

Donna Whitworth spent most of her growing up in the Houston area and graduated from Baylor University’s nursing school. Coming from a military background, Whitworth always knew she wanted to serve her country, and after working two years as a nurse, she decided to enlist in the military. 

 

“My daddy had served in the Navy and I had grown up with movies like Strategic Air Command, so I decided to go with the Air Force. I entered as a First Lieutenant,” she said.

Whitworth was stationed at Vandenburg Air Force Base in California where she served as an operating room nurse during the Vietnam era. Because the United States had begun to withdraw overseas at the time, Whitworth served stateside for the duration of her service.

“I worked on active military personnel and their families and I had a great bunch of doctors to work with. I really enjoyed my time there and felt like I was making a contribution to my country,” she said.

Although Whitworth had a positive experience in the military, she admits that times have certainly changed for women in active service.

“Nurses were always appreciated and acknowledged by the doctors, but I think now women have so many more choices of what to do. So many jobs have opened up that were not available when I was there,” she said.

Just a few years earlier, a young Jennie Rose from Toledo, Ohio, had a similar fervor to serve her country that landed her in the United States Navy.

Jennie Rose

“I’d always envied people who could serve. Everyone in my family had served in the military somehow. As soon as I was old enough, I enlisted,” Rose said.

Rose was stationed at Great Lakes Communication Facility in Illinois where she ran background investigations for military personnel during the Korean War.

“I didn’t have what some might call an ‘exciting’ career,” she claimed. “But I enjoyed it and I met a lot of wonderful women who were doing the same thing.”  

Due to certain policies at the time and a denied request to be transferred to her husband’s base, Rose eventually stepped down from her position in the Navy; however, as the wife of a sailor, her military journey was far from over.

“My job in the Navy prepared me for a lot of things. By the time I married and started moving around with my husband, I already knew what it was like to travel from place to place” she said.

Because her husband was attached the National Security Agency, she and her family also had to be prepared for evacuation at any given time, particularly when they lived in Japan and Germany. Though stressful at times, Rose feels her experiences gave her a unique perspective.

“Having the opportunity to live in different places and experience different cultures, we lived a lifestyle of patriotism,” she said.

Years later, Whitworth and Rose both found themselves residents of Buckner Villas in Austin, Texas. It was there that they were presented with the opportunity to receive recognition for their service through Honor Flight Network, an organization that transports veterans from across the country to visit war memorials in Washington D.C.

Whitworth heard about the organization through Anna Gatti, fellow Buckner Villas resident and World War II veteran, who had previously attended an Honor Flight and insisted that Whitworth needed to go.

Rose was recommended by her daughter, a resident of Austin, Texas, who volunteers with Honor Flight Austin through an organization called Overseas Brats. As soon as the opportunity arose to travel on the All Women Honor Flight #54 last month, Whitworth and Rose knew they couldn’t turn it down.

From boarding the plane to landing in D.C., to returning home, the women veterans received a once-in-a-lifetime experience and the utmost appreciation from the community. Each veteran was even assigned a guardian, comprised of volunteers committed to assisting the women for the duration of the trip.

Austin resident, Ronna Robbins, attended the trip as a guardian and was paired with Rose. As someone who is not a veteran, she explained that traveling on the All Women Honor Flight was a humbling experience. 

“It was such an honor to give back and thank these women. They faced a lot of challenges when they served—low pay, no benefits, and sometimes poor housing. It’s an emotional experience to get to be a part of their bond, even for a little while,” she said.

Whitworth and Rose, like so many other women veterans—past and present—are a shining example of courage and patriotism. Thanks to organizations like Honor Flight Austin, their contributions don’t go unrecognized. When asked if they would recommend the Honor Flight to other veterans, the answer was a resounding, “yes!”

“It’s an experience you’ll never forget,” Whitworth said.

A Miracle in Disguise

seniors smiling

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Jerry Jefferson, member of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo, TX, shared a little bit of her story with us. 

The day that Jerry Jefferson went in for her regular mammogram 25 years ago looked like any other day. Little did she know, a miracle was in the works.

“Miracle” isn’t a word typically associated with a breast cancer diagnosis, but when her physician requested a follow-up mammogram revealing a lump in one of Jefferson’s breasts, a miracle is exactly what took place.

The decision was made to remove the small lump, which turned out benign; however, upon examining the tissue, Jefferson’s doctor found an additional spot which had evaded the mammogram. This time it was cancerous.

“I just praise God for the fact that I had the mammogram because it pointed to one thing and through that, something else was found,” said Jefferson, a member of Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo. “I didn’t have to have treatment; instead I opted to have it removed through a mastectomy. I just wanted it gone.”

From the first mammogram until the mastectomy, the entire process spanned only a few weeks, but that didn’t make the experience any less unsettling for Jefferson. After all, no one is ever fully prepared to hear this kind of news.

“I was startled when my doctor called me, saying ‘we have a problem’,” she said. “Treatment has gotten so much better, but back then, reports were not always good.”

A 59-year-old at the time with two daughters, Jefferson credits her friends, faith and family to being strong sense of support throughout the surgery and recovery process.

“My husband was so supportive. His first words were, ‘honey that was no big thing anyway,’ and we laughed over that,” she said.

Anyone who has experienced or walked through Breast Cancer with a loved one can attest to the fact that there is no “easy” way. While everyone’s journey is different— each with its highs and lows— the thing that remains constant is the bravery of each woman who has fought the battle. That’s why we recognize women like Jerry Jefferson, who can now share her encouraging story of hope and restoration with others.

“I’m just very thankful,” she said. “I’ve had a close walk with the Lord the whole time- before and after. I think sometimes that makes things easier than if you don’t,” she said.

Her advice to women everywhere: “Be sure to have your mammograms.”

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