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Summit Place Assisted Living, Bellingham’s premiere assisted living community, recently appointed Emily Kyllingmark as its new community relations director. Locally owned and in the Fairhaven area, Summit Place offers assisted living services in 34 apartments and help residents with everything from medication assistance to help with daily activities. Fresh, local food and engaging life enrichment activities make Summit Place a wonderful place for senior living.

Adding to the many pleasing things about calling Summit Place home is Kyllingmark’s knack for helping folks feel settled in as quickly and easily as possible — which often includes greeting new community members with a personalized gift.

Born and raised in Blaine, Emily Kyllingmark’s first work experience was in the service industry, working at a pizza chain after graduating from Blaine High School. She later found a position at Barlean’s Organic Oils in Ferndale, where she met the man who has been her husband for the last 10 years. But the manufacturing environment didn’t match what she describes as her bubbly and talkative personality, so she made the move to a cell phone company, where she began to develop her customer service skills.

She added sales to her repertoire when she became the wellness director at Ferndale’s Comphy, a position that found her selling linens and supplies to day spas, resorts and medical spas across the United States. Then COVID came along.

Kyllingmark shares a moment during lunch with (from left to right) Soon Noh, Jeanne Franklin, and Yoshiko Haskins. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

The Move to Summit

“In March of 2020 I went to a trade show in Texas, and was fortunate I made it home,” she says. “Just a couple of days later the airport shut down, and I was laid off for about six months.” Kyllingmark couldn’t just sit still, so she found a position for herself as the assistant chef at a retirement community in Ferndale, her first professional experience in the field of care.

As she picked up new skills, Kyllingmark also thought about her long-term goals. The careers she was drawn to included working with children with mental disabilities and pediatric nursing.

“I had the idea of working with vulnerable people in general because my stepfather is 25 years older than my mother. From a very young age I was very comfortable working with vulnerable populations and got a lot of joy from it.”

Moving from customer service to sales, and from medical spas to a retirement community, Kyllingmark had been inching closer and closer to her dream job for years. When she heard about an opening at Summit, she made her move.

“I was going back and forth: maybe caregiving, maybe administration work. So much of my background has been in sales and marketing,” she says. “When the position opened up, I felt like that was my niche, where I should be going.” In April of 2024, Kyllingmark officially became Summit Place Assisted Living’s community relations director.

A Resource for Her Community

One of Kyllingmark’s priorities is guiding folks through the admissions process. “Nobody prepares our seniors or their adult children for this time in their lives,” she says. “So often when families come in, I can see their anxiety is through the roof. One thing I really enjoy in this position is being the solution, helping ease them through as their right-hand woman.”

Because she meets people at what she calls a tender time in their life — a time when they may feel they are giving up some independence — she enjoys greeting new community members with a personalized gift. When a woman who was moving in mentioned she loves marmalade, Kyllingmark had some waiting for her in a gift basket. Kyllingmark figures that if she enjoyed this little treat in her old home, she should be able to enjoy it in her new home, as well.

Seeing Kyllingmark trade jokes with Russell Agnew, it’s hard to believe she’s been on the job for only a couple of months. Photo credit: Steven Arbuckle

The same drive to make individuals feel warmly welcomed extends to larger crowds, too. Right now, Kyllingmark is putting together a picnic to kick off the summer season, and the invitation is wide open. Naturally residents of other assisted and independent living communities in the area are welcome, but doctors, dentists, podiatrists, and any other providers in the senior care network are on the guest list as well, because they’re all part of a vibrant and well-connected senior care network Kyllingmark knows is so important to the community.

Covering All the Bases

A job description so diverse means the community relations director needs to cover a lot of ground, and Kyllingmark brings plenty of energy and practical know-how to her position. Outside of work, she’s a Whatcom County native who loves to sing, a devoted dog mom to a five-year-old chocolate lab, and a lover of the arts. At work, she is whatever she needs to be.

“I wear lots of hats within our building, and there’s never a job I would expect our staff to do that I won’t do. So you’ll find me cleaning toilets, running furniture through the building, and serving dinner,” she says. “Just the other day I was out planting flowers in front of the building. Whatever’s needed, I will always put it on my plate. Because I want to be that resource, and the best way to do that is to build relationships.”

About Summit Care

Summit Place Assisted Living is an assisted living community that offers a true continuum of care for its residents. Family-owned and operated by Nightingale Healthcare, the community offers independent and assisted living services, complete with 24-hour skilled nursing assistance, long-term care, out-patient therapy, concierge services, and an abundance of community-oriented activities in a safe and compassionate setting. For more information, please visit their website or call them at 360.734.4181.

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