Lisa Waite decided she wanted to be a social worker when she was only 16 years old. “I just knew that was the field I wanted to go into,” she says, “and I never wavered. I just knew that was my path.”
At the time she wasn’t sure what area of social work she wanted to enter, but she discovered her calling when she was in college at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. “I started volunteering at different places that involved seniors and senior resources,” she recalls. “I was also employed with a home health company, and that furthered my desire to help seniors in a certain way. Then I had an internship at a large skilled nursing center, and I just knew that was the area I wanted to be part of and that’s where my talents were.” Going into a profession that involves helping seniors was, Lisa says, “the best decision I ever made.”
After college, Lisa began her career at a retirement community in Modovi, Wisconsin, and was there for about five years. How she got to North Carolina is an interesting story. Through a mutual friend, she met the man who would eventually be her husband, but he was in North Carolina and she was in Wisconsin. So, they dated by phone, talking every day for a month. Then he flew up to see her and they finally met face-to-face. After six more months of a long-distance relationship, she knew she was in love and decided to move to North Carolina, so they could be together. (He had two children here, so he couldn’t move to Wisconsin.) She moved down in 1999, they got married, and they’ve been together ever since.
Not long after moving to North Carolina, Lisa was hired at The Presbyterian Home of High Point as Director of Resident Services by a woman named Betty Hayes who, Lisa says happily, is now a resident of River Landing. River Landing was built a few years later and in 2008 the remaining residents from The Presbyterian Home of High Point transferred to River Landing because The Presbyterian Home of High Point closed. Lisa then came to River Landing as Director of Resident Services. It was a job she enjoyed, since it involved, she says, “helping residents with transitions, finding counseling needs, resources, those types of things. It’s more of a social work type role.”
Then two years ago she had the opportunity to apply for the Associate Director job at River Landing, and she got it. Her role now, she says, involves overseeing operations and working with the staff to make sure they’re providing the best services for the residents. “I work with each of our departments to make sure things are going smoothly for all of our residents, and my past role has really helped with that. Being in Resident Services, I know the things our residents want. And having been here so long really helps out, too.”
It’s the residents who really decide what happens at River Landing, according to Lisa. “All of our programming is really driven by our residents. They come to us and say, ‘We’d like to do this, we’d like to create this.’” The most recent example is a Bluebird Committee to maintain the 50 bluebird homes throughout the community. A group of residents formed the group and has now partnered with Birds Unlimited in High Point to learn how to maintain the bird houses.
“This is the most active community I’ve ever been involved in,” Lisa says. “We have a lot of different talents that are awesome, and who help us make this the best community it can be. It truly is a team effort, and its staff and residents together that make the overall community happen. We could not do half the things we do without our resident leaders. We have residents that run our choirs, that run bands, they run our intellectual programs with a DVD lecture series. We couldn’t do those things without them.” She sees her role as helping the residents bring their ideas to life. “Our residents know what they want, so why not make it happen,” she says.
After 19 years with Presbyterian Homes and River Landing, Lisa is right where she wants to be, doing what she wanted to do since she was 16. Her biggest joy, she says, is “just being able to serve people. That’s the joy that I get. It’s not a job – it’s truly a serving opportunity for me.” She also likes being able to get to know the residents. “The biggest thing is forming relationships here, to say hello to someone and call them by name. Being able to see someone from all levels of care, transitioning from independent to assisted living to skilled care, but they’re still with us as a family. That’s the beauty of a CCRC like this.”