BEAUMONT, Texas – Not many people go to work every day and see their mom. Ben Mazzara, executive director of Buckner Calder Woods, says he’s an administrator from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. but before 8 and after 5, he’s family. His mom moved in several weeks ago and now “every day is Mother’s Day.”<!–more–>
His 84-year-old mother had a stroke about six months ago while on the waiting list for a spot at Calder Woods. She’s in skilled nursing as she rehabilitates but she told Mazzara that after all she’s survived in her life – including a German bombing during World War Two in the Italian village she grew up in and Hurricane Carla in Galveston in 1961 – “no stroke is going to get me down.”
Mazzara, the only son in the family, is very close to his mother. His fondest memories are going on family cruises and going to church together. His parents were both born and raised in Sicily, Italy, so he grew up hearing them speak Italian around the house. He loved hearing stories of their home country.
Mazzara was also very close to his grandparents. Growing up, he visited his aging grandmother every day at a nursing home in Galveston. His father visited her in the morning; his mom visited in the afternoon; and Ben visited in the evenings.
“I had the grave yard shift,” he joked. “But I was what they call a ‘late in life’ child, so I was used to being around senior adults.”
One day, the executive director of the nursing home approached Mazzara and told him he should seriously consider getting a license to operate a retirement community. The director saw his passion and dedication to his grandmother, and at the time, he was a hospital administrator, so it wouldn’t have been a huge stretch.
Mazzara decided to go for it. He sat for the boards and 20 years later, he still loves every minute of it.
“I don’t look as this so much as a job as it is a ministry,” Mazzara said. “My favorite aspect is that we’re a faith-based Christian ministry. My mom loves God so much and she is truly devoted to her faith. It made the decision easy to choose Calder Woods.”
As his mother recovers from the stroke, he is hopeful she will be able to talk and walk again. But most of all, he’s looking forward to his mother’s Italian cooking.
“They staff treat her just like they would treat anyone else. They treat everyone as though it’s their own mother, and I treat everyone as if they were my own mother.”
Another reason Mazzara chose Calder Woods is because of its U.S. News five-star rehabilitation facility.
“There’s such a stigma attached to nursing homes and nursing facilities. We need to invite people from the outside to come in. If they look at Buckner, they’ll see we are a family and we exceed minimum standards.”