Creating opportunities for residents

Published 10:32 pm Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Whether it’s crafts, bingo, trips or one of their newer activities, Amber Carberry and Lacey Karsjens enjoy bringing fun to The Woodlands at St. John’s Lutheran Community on Fountain Lake.                                                                                                 

The women are activities coordinators at the skilled nursing facility, organizing two to three activities a day for residents to take part in. There are also two coordinators at the St. John’s site off of Minnesota Highway 13, and all of the coordinators work under the direction of a director.

Carberry and Karsjens said they organize everything from cards and cocktails and happy hour, to trips, shopping, woodworking, parties and even a men’s coffee group. An intergenerational program brings in children from a local day care to interact with the residents.

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Carberry said she started at St. John’s 15 years ago in August, first as a certified nursing assistant, but then fell in love with the activities department eight years ago.

“I love the relationship I can build with residents,” Carberry said, noting she has learned much from many of them.

Karsjens said she started with St. John’s 13 years ago as a dietary hostess before becoming a CNA and then an activities coordinator.

She said she enjoys getting to know the residents on a different level.

“It can be very exhausting because you do a lot, but it brings them such joy, too,” Carberry said. “They appreciate it so much.”

Each of the women organizes activities on one of the floors of the skilled nursing facility, but then they also like to host activities together, so residents can get the chance to socialize more.

The women hosted the cards and cocktails activity Friday. With it, residents can either get an alcoholic or nonalcoholic drink and then enjoy time with their peers playing cards.

Karsjens said they have tried to find the drinks the residents used to enjoy when they were younger to make it even more of a special event for them.

They’ve been to the Spam Museum, the Freeborn County Historical Museum, to an Albert Lea Lakers game and out shopping. They said the furthest they’ve taken residents is Diamond Jo Casino.

They also organize a family Christmas party, Mother’s Day tea and Father’s Day barbecue.

“We’re really just trying to make this person-centered and make this their home,” Karsjens said.

Occasionally they do fundraisers to support their activities, such as one happening called Sweets for Sweeties. With that fundraiser, people can pay $3 for one or $5 for two, and each resident will get a hand wrapped cookie with a special valentine.

The women said the activities are a great time for people to volunteer from either the independent living or assisted living facilities or from the outside as well. They can always use more volunteers.

The women said they enjoy getting to know the residents and developing friendships with them.

Karsjens said though it can be heartbreaking to see residents pass away, they enjoy their job because “there’s always someone else who needs you.”

Lacey Karsjens

City of residence: Albert Lea

Livelihood: activities coordinator at The Woodlands at St. John’s Lutheran Community on Fountain Lake

Years in the position: 13

What she loves about her job: getting to know residents on a different level than you do as an everyday caretaker

Family: three daughters, Isabella, 12; Daisy, 3; and Scarlett, 1


Amber Carberry

City of residence: Albert Lea

Livelihood: activities coordinator at The Woodlands at St. John’s Lutheran Community on Fountain Lake

Years in the position: 15

What she loves about her job: the relationship she can build with the residents

Family: daughter, Vanessa, 23