Brian Stroud may be young, but he already feels right at home as the Activity Director at River Landing. That’s because even though he started at River Landing just this past August and graduated from college only a year or so prior to that, Brian has been involved with the community for several years.
He started volunteering at the community while he was in high school. “I taught technology,” explains Brian. “I taught residents how to use smartphones and iPads. I had a lot of requests for that.”
During his senior year, he included River Landing as part of his senior project and ended up making a memorable impact. “I went to Southwest Guilford High School,” says Brian, “where they required seniors to do a senior project. I decided to my research paper on Parkinson’s disease.”
Brian had a personal connection with the topic, having developed a friendship with a River Landing resident that suffered from the disease. That resident eventually passed away from the disease. Brian decided that in addition to his research paper, he would organize an event to honor the resident’s memory. He coordinated a one-mile walk through the community that drew more than 100 participants and raised over $1,000 for the National Parkinson’s Foundation.
After high school, Brian went on to UNC Chapel Hill. “I’m a proud Tar Heel,” Brian says. On his way to a double major in management and society, and religious studies, he came back to the community for a summer internship following his sophomore year. “I reached out to Tom Smith (River Landing’s Executive Director) and he said they’d love to have me,” he explains.
Before coming to River Landing full-time, Brian worked for a year as an interim director of youth ministry at a local church. But he soon found his way back to River Landing, starting his current role on August 1, 2019. He quickly jumped into his job. One month in, he found himself leading a 30-resident trip up to Annapolis, Maryland for four days and three nights.
“It was quite the undertaking,” says Brian. “But by the end I just became very comfortable with the residents and it really broke the ice with everything. It’s been fun to grow my relationships with them and help them have the best life they can.”
As Activity Director, Brian researches and organizes events on campus as well as off-campus trips, from weekly local shopping trips and lunches to multi-night excursions like the one to Annapolis. They make around 10 off-campus trips every month.
According to Brian, the best part of the job is seeing the residents enjoy themselves. For instance, he books all of the Tuesday performances at the community. “All the time it takes to find and book the acts and get the residents excited for it,” he explains, “all of it is worth it to see the residents dancing and smiling.”
The residents’ favorite event so far, though, has been the “Everybody’s Birthday Party” they threw in January. “We had a different table for every month so people can go from table to table and celebrate everyone’s birthday,” says Brian. “And have 12 different kinds of cake!
“It was also a fun way for the new residents (in the expansion cottages) to meet and get to know everyone,” he adds.
When Brian took over the role of Activity Director, the previous director had been with the community for 12 years. “It was challenging at first to take on that role, but the (residents and staff) welcomed me with open arms,” says Brian. “It helped to have members of my church, and even my high school guidance counselor, living here.
“We are a family,” Brian says about River Landing, adding, “I say I started at River Landing with two grandparents and now I have 200.”
But the welcoming, supportive culture extends well beyond the residents. “As a staff we support each other so well that it makes going to work enjoyable,” he continues. “You get to go to work and make people happy.”
Trip highlights from February included outings to the Greensboro Science Center, a tour of Victory Junction, an organization that provides a camping experience to children with serious illnesses, and a performance of the U.S. Air Force Band at the High Point Theater. The next big trip will be an April adventure to Charleston, South Carolina. “I’m very excited,” says Brian. “I’ve planned a lot of fun things for that trip.”
“We have a very active community,” Brian explains. “The residents want to enjoy life, so they want to be involved. It’s great to go and have a full busload to go.
“They keep me young,” Brian adds with a laugh.