Workforce Solutions and Baptist Retirement Community Partner to Provide CNA Certification Courses and Training for San Angelo CNAs

Wanting to provide certified nursing aid (CNA) certification courses and quality, hands-on training for aspiring CNA’s in San Angelo, Baptist Retirement Community (BRC), a continuing care retirement community in the Concho Valley, is partnering with Workforce Solutions to provide these educational opportunities three to four times a year. The pass-rate for these classes is exceptional, as every student has graduated. In recognition of the community’s efforts, BRC was nominated for the “Local Employer Service Award” and for “Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) 2019 Small Employer of the Year.” Mary Jackson, director of human resources for Baptist Retirement Community, has facilitated the relationship throughout her career of more than two decades.

“Providing these classes allows us to offer quality training to those interested in pursuing careers in the medical field, and many of our students use this as a stepping-stone to get into nursing programs,” said Jackson. “The classes also allow us the opportunity to let students know of open positions within our organization, and we hire approximately one-third of the students that go through each class. Even if they choose to work someplace else after receiving their certification, we hope that they might be inclined to join our team in the future. Through the clinicals and learning environment, we enjoy showing students how positive and supportive the work environment and team at Baptist Retirement Community is.”

The second course wrapped up in June, and the third course began on August 5. The courses are three weeks long and cover classroom and lab skills from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. during the first two weeks, followed by clinicals in the third week. Clinicals consist of three 12-hour days of hands-on experience shadowing CNA’s and serving residents in different capacities. The program is made possible by the Texas Talent Connection Grant. Baptist Retirement Community contributes by providing the space and instructor(s) for the course. Workforce Solutions has a team member who is dedicated to recruiting students before the courses start. One of the community’s recent new hires, Kevin Lord, learned of the opportunity through Workforce Solutions, completed his training in June and started his first day at BRC on July 1.

“My family has served in the medical field for a long time, and I was ready to try it out after working in the mechanic field for 10 years,” said Lord. “I was not sure where I was going to apply after getting my certification, but I ultimately fell in love with the work environment and residents at Baptist Retirement Community. The team at BRC is supportive and friendly. Everyone loves their job and walks around with smiles on their faces. During my clinicals, I got to interact with residents and found that their personalities are amazing. The three I worked hands-on with are the main reason I chose to work at BRC. Seeing the compassion that the team had for these residents also made me want to be a part of the team. It is a unique work environment that I did not want to pass up. I knew I wanted to work alongside these health care professionals every day and be here for these residents. I value delivering care with the dignity and respect these residents deserve. I am grateful for the CNA certification course, because, without it, I would not have gotten my training and learned of what awaited me at Baptist Retirement Community.”

“All of the students are very appreciative and feel the course adequately prepares them for their new role as a CNA,” said Jackson. “We have done several projects with Workforce Solutions over the years, and we greatly appreciate the partnership. Overall, working with Workforce Solutions is positive and supportive. We bounce ideas back and forth to come up with amazing opportunities that enhance people’s lives. Our goals are to provide quality training that helps people gain experience and get back into the workforce. We are both willing to try new things, and it is very rewarding to do so.”

Baptist Retirement Community also offers a summer internship program where they take in four students and teach them skills pertaining to maintenance, housekeeping, life enrichment activities for residents and clerical/admin. The senior living community also offers positions to people who need to gain experience in a certain area or have been out of the workforce for a while.

If you are interested in covering this story or setting up an interview, please contact Lauren Witt via phone at 214-378-7970 ext. 306 or email at:”.

Buckner Westminster Place member and author reads to children on National Read a Book Day

seniors reading to children

Thursday, Sept. 6 was National Read a Book Day – the perfect day for children’s book author and Buckner Westminster Place member Ida Luttrell to share some of her books with children at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Longview.

Ida, 84, read from her book Three Good Blankets to the group of 10 children, ages 2 to 4 years old. After she finished, one of the Family Hope Center staff read another of Ida’s books, this time translating it into Spanish for the bilingual children.

National Read a Book Day is an annual awareness day inviting all people to pick up a book and spend the day reading. The day also promotes reading to others, whether it be aloud to children or seniors.

According to the site, “reading improves memory and concentration as well as reduces stress. Older adults who spend time reading show a slower cognitive decline and tend to participate in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetime.”

Ida was joined by her friend and fellow Buckner Westminster Place independent living member Mary Ellen Andrews. Their time at the Family Hope Center merged two of Buckner International’s pillar areas of service: vulnerable children and seniors.

For more about Ida Luttrell, read our resident feature article on her.

Three World War II veterans embark on Honor Flight Austin

senior veterans

Three World War II veterans who call Buckner Villas home will take a trip of a lifetime today. David Moore, 92; George Walker, 91; and Herb Witzel, 93, will travel from Austin, Texas, to Washington D.C. thanks to Honor Flight Austin, a nonprofit organization focused on funding trips for veterans to visit national monuments and memorials. The members of Buckner Villas are three of nearly 40 veterans who will take part in the free Thundercloud Appreciation Flight.

“Several people told me to go on the Honor Flight, and I am thrilled to finally go,” David said. “I know I will always remember the experience. I know this trip is a privilege, and it will be emotional for me. I am grateful to everyone for helping me go on this journey.”

David was born in Alabama and joined the Army in 1944. He served in Germany and Belgium during World War II in the 750th tank battalion as a crewman on a medium tank. He then served in the Army of Occupation with the constabulary patrolling the border between east and west Berlin. After World War II he went to college on the GI Bill at the University of Alabama and graduated in 1951. He then rejoined the Army as a second lieutenant. David retired from the Army in 1975 after 31 years.

For George, the trip will give him the chance to honor relatives who died while serving.

“I have never seen the National World War II Memorial,” he said. “I had two cousins killed during the war, and I will look for their names to pay tribute. Honor Flight Austin is truly amazing, and I am thankful for the opportunity to share my experiences with other veterans.”

George grew up in West Texas and graduated high school in May of 1944. He went to Texas A&M University until December of 1944 when he turned 18. He then volunteered to join the Navy and began six weeks of flight radio training in Tennessee before transferring to the V-5 pilot training program. After leaving the Navy in 1946, George attended and graduated from the University of Texas. He held several jobs including a teacher, as well as a sanitarian with the health department before starting the Kwik Wash Coin Laundry business in Austin.

The trip David, George and Herb will go on includes a special ceremony at the World War II Memorial as well as visits to the other service memorials. Veterans will also get the opportunity to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider.

“I find it fascinating that this organization helps so many veterans witness the war memorials and Arlington National Cemetery firsthand,” Herb said. “I have to say, I am really looking forward to seeing the World War II Memorial.”

Herb is from the Northeast and joined the Army right out of high school in June of 1943. The World War II veteran was a technician fifth grade (T-5) and was stationed in California and Hawaii. He worked on radar for anti-aircraft weapons, specifically for 120 mm M1 guns. While stationed on the island of Oahu, Herb oversaw coastal control for Pearl Harbor. In 1946, he left the Army to pursue a career in education. He retired after nearly 40 years.

“We welcome speakers who come to the community to describe Honor Flight Austin and explain how veteran members can participate,” said Janet Burnett, life enrichment coordinator at Buckner Villas. “I am thrilled to see three members who are all World War II veterans going on this upcoming trip. “You don’t see as many World War II veterans today, so for them to be able to fly to D.C. and see the World War II Memorial is truly amazing.”

Hurricane Harvey survivor declares ‘I am blessed’ after Parkway Place rallies around his family

In late August 2017, Hurricane Harvey made landfall across southeast Texas, leaving a trail of damage, loss and destruction in its wake. For several days following the storm, flooding overtook much of the area, forcing many to abandon their homes and possessions.

Daniel Madison, a utility worker at Buckner Parkway Place, was one victim of Harvey’s wrath. With only the clothes on his back, his wife and a small bag, Madison found refuge somewhere most would never think to look: his place of employment.

“My wife and I stayed at Parkway Place for two months until we got back on our feet,” he said. “Everyone did what they could to make things easier for us and make us comfortable. I was blessed.”

The senior living community’s hospitality toward Madison was simply an added benefit. His motivation to be there, however, was not to seek his own comfort. It was to serve others.

“We were short-staffed. I was just trying to get over there to help and do what I could,” Daniel said. “I knew we were needed.”

Touched by the selflessness of staff members like Daniel, the Parkway Place community decided to act. They wanted to find a way to give back to the people who had given so generously of themselves during such difficult circumstances. Aaron Mendoza, a member of Parkway Place since 2009, worked with a few others to organize a fundraising effort.

“These employees go all-out to serve us, so we felt that it was our time to help them,” Aaron said.

The task was large and proved to be more challenging than expected.

“We had to have a lot of discussions about when to give the money, how much to ask for and where to deposit it. I was a believer that we needed to do it as quickly as we could. These people needed help now, not later,” Aaron said.

With determination and a little bit of problem-solving, everything came together. The members of Parkway Place raised over $20,000 to aid staff members who had lost everything to the storm.

“I’ve always felt, all my life, that it’s better to give than to receive. I try to help people wherever I can,” Aaron said.

A year later, Daniel and his wife, recipients of the fund, have a new apartment close to Parkway Place and are doing better than ever. Though the trials of Harvey will not be soon forgotten, the love and servant-heartedness shown among members and employees at Parkway Place is more powerful than any hurricane.

“Parkway Place members are like God’s helpers. Without them, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. They took me in and they never looked back,” Daniel said.

Written by Caitlin Heffley, content editor for Buckner Retirement Services.

Beaumont couple finds new hope at Buckner Calder Woods after Hurricane Harvey

Living in Southeast Texas for over 60 years, Ronnie and Sherry Adams thought they had seen it all. Hurricanes were no surprise, and the couple had become accustomed to preparing for them. So when Hurricane Harvey hit in late August 2017, the couple didn’t expect anything out of the ordinary.

“We thought we’d just put things up high enough that everything would be alright, and it wasn’t,” Sherry said. “The water came within a foot of our ceiling.”

Former volunteer firefighters, Ronnie and Sherry were skilled at handling stressful, and sometimes disastrous, situations, but nothing could have prepared them for this kind of devastation.

“All of my children and grandchildren came to help us. My grandson said, ‘Granny, you have got to leave now or you’re not going to be able to get out,” Sherry recalled.

After they evacuated, the couple was forced to wait five days for the water to recede before they could get back into their home. They braced themselves for the worst.

“All my stuff was ruined … I washed a few clothes and glassware, but Ronnie didn’t save anything,” Sherry said. “I had some things that meant a lot to me. I wanted to save them. Finally, my son told me ‘You’ve got to turn it loose.’”

Sherry remembers repeatedly asking God “Why?” One evening, however, as she surveyed her damaged belongings, she received a distinct feeling of hope.

“I found my mother and daddy’s picture. Then I turned around and there was the most beautiful full moon you’ve ever seen. God was telling me everything was alright,” she said.

After living in temporary accommodations for several weeks, Sherry and Ronnie knew they had to find a permanent home. That’s when they came to Buckner Calder Woods in Beaumont. They toured the senior living community’s new independent living apartments and immediately were sold.

“We came here and fell in love with it. Everybody was so friendly. This was going to be our home. We never looked anywhere else,” Sherry said.

A year later, Sherry and Ronnie are active members of the Calder Woods community, where they regularly participate in community activities and have gotten to know several other members. Sherry is even a community ambassador now and volunteers to help keep the campus beautiful.

“Our kids told us, ‘get out and do something. Don’t just sit around – get involved.’ That’s what we did,” Sherry said.

Though memories of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey still cause pain from time to time, the couple likes to remind themselves that the past is behind them, and better days are ahead.

“We’ve had several full moons lately, and I think about that time. It reminds me that God says everything is going to be ok,” Sherry said.

Written by Caitlin Heffley, content editor for Buckner Retirement Services.

Ventana by Buckner reaches construction milestone

Ventana by Buckner, a $140 million luxury high-rise community for seniors in North Dallas, marked the project’s halfway point with a topping out ceremony.

The milestone included the raising of a ceremonial beam and tree to the top of the north tower. Speakers included Charlie Wilson, senior vice president for Buckner Retirement Services; Rick Pruett, executive director of Ventana by Buckner; and Albert Reyes, president/CEO of Buckner International. The trio thanked workers with general contractor Whiting-Turner, who began construction on June 12, 2017.

“We are extremely grateful to every single person who has labored to bring Ventana by Buckner to its midway milestone in only 13 months,” said Pruett. “The high quality of work put into the construction process is representative of the high-quality of life Ventana will provide its residents with luxurious features and amenities and excellent health and wellness services.”

Ventana by Buckner is Dallas’ first and only luxury high-rise Life Care community. Its adjacent 12-story towers will house 189 independent apartment homes, including one-, two- and three-bedroom options and ranging from 800 to 1,900 square feet. Ventana includes the full continuum of care for senior adults, with assisted living, nursing care, memory care and a rehabilitation component.

The community will also include underground parking, multiple dining venues and lounges, spacious common areas, modern wellness and fitness centers, heated indoor pool, salon and spa, movie theater, rooftop garden, multiple patios and more.

Ventana was designed by Dallas award-winning architect David Dillard and his firm, D2 Architecture. It will open to its first residents by mid-2019.

Buckner opened its first retirement community in 1954. Ventana by Buckner will be its sixth retirement care property in Texas.

For more information about Ventana by Buckner, visit

Ventana by Buckner changing Dallas skyline

Once, it was just a dream to create the pre-eminent senior living community in Dallas. With each passing hour, that dream moves closer to becoming reality.

Each day, Ventana by Buckner climbs a little higher as it takes its place in the Dallas skyline. Already, the structure stands out along Central Expressway. It’s newly installed windows glisten in the sunlight. It stands as a beacon of a bright future for future residents.

“This growth is exciting!” said Charlie Wilson, senior vice president of Buckner Retirement Services. “We take our calling to serve seniors seriously and do whatever we can to sere them with excellence.”

Ventana is proud to offer its residents a comprehensive range of hospitality services and a maintenance-free lifestyle, along with a full complement of recreational, culinary and wellness opportunities. Looking for a five-star senior living experience? Look no further than Ventana.

From our pristine fitness center to our sparkling community pool, amenities here will set a new standard in senior living. Services at Ventana are comprehensive, providing each resident with the peace of mind that comes with knowing their every need has been anticipated and addressed.

Learn more at

How seniors can prepare for hurricane season

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey took Texas by surprise.

This year, we want you to be prepared. Here are six easy ways senior adults and their families can prepare for hurricane season.

1. Know your neighbors.

It’s a good idea to have people close by who can check on you in the event of an emergency. If you know their schedule and they know yours, each of you can be aware of when to look out for each other.

2. Keep hurricane-specific emergency numbers easily accessible.

Store emergency phone numbers in an easy-to-find place on your cell phone. If you don’t use a cell phone, put those phone numbers on a brightly colored piece of paper. Laminate the paper so you can still use it in a flood. Good phone numbers to have handy include the Coast Guard, neighbors and your local senior living community.

3. Create an emergency kit.

Having an emergency kit ready to go makes even small emergencies like losing power easier to handle with peace of mind. Emergency kit must-haves include flashlights, first aid materials and water bottles.

4. Pack an overnight bag.

Keep a bag packed with overnight essentials in case you need to relocate quickly. Be sure to include a list of any medications you use and copies of personal identification.

5. Sign up for emergency alert systems.

Most cities have emergency alert systems designed specifically for seniors. Make sure you’re signed up for these weather alert phone calls because they’ll be your first source of regular information.

6. Have a plan.

No one wants to think “worst case scenario,” but when it comes to the unpredictability of hurricanes, the best thing you can do is have a plan. Know in advance who you’ll call and where you’ll go. Have multiple contingency plans just in case.

Ultimately, the best way to be prepared for a hurricane is to join a senior living community.

There, any homeowner maintenance necessary for hurricane preparation is already covered by the 24-hour maintenance staff. Should a hurricane or tropical storm come, leadership teams are in communication with Coast Guard every few hours. Residents, meanwhile, still enjoy three full meals a day and experience little to no interruptions to daily life.

As one resident at Calder Woods in Beaumont said, “The Lord helped me find Calder Woods just in time. Harvey flooded my home in Bridge City one month after I moved to Calder Woods. I’m so grateful God brought me here when he did.”

For a complete look at what it’s like to weather a hurricane at a Buckner senior living community, read this account from Parkway Place and see how one Houstonian found hope at the senior living community.

A day in the life of a senior living nurse

Angela Britain

Meet Angela Britain, a certified nurse assistant (CNA) at Buckner Westminster Place! Angela serves as a “shahbazim,” a unique position within the Green House® Homes concept that incorporates home-like  tasks such as cooking and cleaning into the traditional CNA role. Check out a day in her life for a closer look behind the scenes of Buckner Retirement Services.

6:45 a.m.: Arrive at work

I work the morning shift, which is good because I’m a morning person. We get there at 6:45, and at that point all the residents are still sleeping. Green Houses are designed to have a smaller staff to resident ratio, so we only have two shahbazims per shift and 10 residents total.

Shift change

The first thing we do is a shift change with the night shift. During these meetings we get all the information from the overnight team regarding anything that may have happened, any resident who didn’t sleep well or anyone was ill. These are important meetings because they tell us how to plan the day.

Breakfast prep

Once shift change is complete, we’re getting ready for breakfast. We want the table to be set and all the food to be ready so we can begin serving residents as soon as they’re up.


Next, we’re going room to room to say good morning and help residents with their routines like shaving and showering. This is my favorite part of the day! I enjoy getting to tell them I love them, and they bless me with some of the sweetest things they say.


Green Houses are designed to have a family atmosphere, so during mealtimes we sit at the table and eat with the residents. If you were caring for your grandparents, you’d of course help them with the daily tasks they need to do, but you’d also help them cook and spend quality time with them. That’s what we do here too.

Lunch prep and activities

As soon as we’re finished with breakfast, we’re cleaning up dishes and beginning preparations for lunch.  It’s a juggling act. You’re cooking, cleaning and tending to the residents’ needs all at the same time.

While we try to maintain some sort of normal schedule for the residents, we also have to be able to acclimate to changes very quickly. We’re in constant communication with other nursing staff so that if we notice any changes in behavior or mood we can address those needs as well.

In between breakfast and lunch we’re also moving the residents around so they’re not in the same place all the time. The activity director will also come in and lead life enrichment activities for the residents.


Before we know it, we’re setting everyone back up at the table for lunch. One of the biggest blessings of working at a faith-based senior living provider like Buckner is that every day a resident prays over the meal. It’s such a sweet time! Family members also often join us for lunch. Some residents do eat in their rooms, so we work to accommodate those needs as well.


Then we start the process all over again of doing dishes, cleaning up and getting residents back to their rooms for an afternoon nap. During nap, we’ll look at the menu for the next day and see if there’s anything we need to do for prep. We’ll also do charting for the day and see if there’s anything we need to do for the next shift.

2:45: Final shift change

We’re relieved at 2:45, and at this point we do another shift change to keep the chain of communication going between nurses. Together we all work hard to let residents know they’re special, they’re still a blessing to others and they still have purpose.

I never would have picked nursing for myself, but now I know I was made for this. The Lord showed me he could open my heart to something unexpected, and he’s made this work so fulfilling.

Faith Focus: Seeing what you didn’t before

senior citizen banquet

Last week, Buckner Senior Living and Cooper Aerobics announced a collaboration that will bring Cooper experts to the Ventana by Buckner campus in Dallas. In the process of the day, I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Kenneth Cooper and learn more about what sets him apart.

Fifty years ago, Cooper wrote Aerobics, which introduced the world to the benefits of aerobic workouts. Prior to the book, many people were discouraged to exercise after the age of 40 as experts believed it would shorten a person’s lifespan.

When Cooper’s book not only contradicted the contemporary thought, but put forward the notion that regular exercise would actually prolong health and lives, he was called a crackpot. Potential patients were steered away from him. But he stuck it out and his theories have proven true.

He’s revolutionized what it means to be healthy as we age. He’s even proving it day after day personally, having run more than 38,000 miles at the age of 87. His concepts have helped popularize the notion of each person needing to walk 10,000 steps daily. He trained a World Cup team. He has promoted healthy living around the globe.

And all that has led people to live far different lives than they once believed possible.

That struck me as extremely similar to what we do through Buckner Family Pathways and Family Hope Centers: Change individual’s and families’ perceptions of themselves and empower them to live lives they didn’t think possible.

Like Cooper’s efforts, the work of changing someone’s long-held beliefs is difficult. But just like the good doctor, we have examples we can point to where lives have been transformed. Single parents who have graduated from college. Families that are strong and raising amazing young people. Cycles of poverty that have been broken.

The impossible is possible – even in your life.

Do you believe it?

Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. –Matthew 17:20

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