The mission of Bellingham’s Rosewood Villa is to create a positive and healthy environment for all members of its assisted living community. Part of that means engaging with the larger community around them, and that communication is the specialty of its community relations director, a position recently filled by Charmae Steele.

While she is new to the position, Steele is already very familiar with Rosewood Villa and Whatcom County—she was born and raised in Everson. “I grew up in the county and have been here, all over Whatcom, my entire life,” Steele says. “I’ve never really imagined living anywhere else, because there’s something special about Whatcom County. People are friendly; there a lot of smiles wherever you go.”

Charmae Steele is Rosewood Villa’s new community relations director. It takes a high level of caring and kindness to work in the healthcare field, and the staff at Rosewood are looking to include more team members. Photo courtesy Rosewood Villa

Steele has worked at Rosewood for more than seven years but only recently accepted her new job title. “My role now is all about people, and I really have a heart for people. It’s about hitting the pavement in the community and making relationships, introducing myself to people and letting them know what Rosewood is all about,” says Steele.

Her message is a blend of making sure the public knows about Rosewood Villa as an option for family members that need care, and also finding partners for the programs that enrich residents’ lives. “I’m showcasing how, here at Rosewood, we really care about people, and building relationships and connections with people and with the community.”

Rosewood Villa maintains a home-like feel, and residents and staff are excited to be able to add to that by inviting families inside once again. Photo courtesy Rosewood Villa

Having a public spokesperson who’s already spent so much time on the job is a valuable asset in the eyes of Executive Director Melinda Herrera. “I think it’s important that she has been a part of the Rosewood family for almost eight years now. She did have a brief vacation from us, but her love for Rosewood Villa and the residents who live here brought her back,” Herrera says. “She started off as a caregiver and was able to move her way up within the organization to med tech, to receptionist, and now our community relations director. That upward mobility with an organization is really important. People are able to see there’s room for growth in assisted living.”

If you’ve ever wanted to work in healthcare, now is the time, says Herrera. The whole country is facing a shortage of kind and caring people who want to work with the older population.

“Think of your parents and grandparents,” Herrera says. “Wouldn’t you want someone who has a passion for taking care of our most vulnerable adults?” Rosewood Villa offers on-the-job training and can help you get your certification to work in long-term care. “If you want to know more about what we do on a daily basis, you’re welcome to stop by or give us a call. We have a great team and would love to welcome you to our family, too.”

With vaccinations and weather both cooperating, residents have been able to bring back a favorite event—the barbecue. Photo courtesy Rosewood Villa

Moving forward, Rosewood Villa is also working to carefully move past the social distancing of recent months. One of the first steps is getting back into the habit of monthly barbecues.

“Our residents love to be able to be outside, so we cook on the grill and do all of those things. We also have live entertainment for them,” says Herrera, talking about a band that comes to play covers of songs from decades past. “We’re just trying to see what life is going to be like after COVID and get back to some normalcy.”

A large part of that recovery involves finally being able to welcome outside visitors into the building. “Things are just starting to get back to normal where we’re able to do more activities, like a lady who comes in to do musical therapy every couple of weeks,” Herrera says. “We’re able to have families come back into the community and having that buzz around—everything coming back to life—is really nice.”

While it’s impossible to know what the future will hold, the team at Rosewood Villa is making the most of their opportunities and keeping an optimistic eye on the future. “We just had our first official outing this month. We had a group of people that went to a picnic at Marine Park, and that was a lot of fun for everybody,” says Steele. “And now that restrictions are opening up, we plan to do a lot more activities like that.”

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