Picture It. Boonsboro 2021. The Activities Department has just come to get you to take you downstairs. You’ve been waiting for this moment from the time you got up this morning. Once in the lobby, you wait in line. You check the clock, anxious for the door to open. Your senses go into overdrive. The sight of staff running around, preparing. The sounds of a table being set. The smell of a home cooked meal wafting past your nose. The imaginary taste on your lips in anticipation. The touch of your stomach as you hold it to keep it from growling. The anticipation is mounting. The excitement in the air is palpable. Then, that magical door finally opens. You tell Activities to wheel you in and don’t look back. Everything has led up to this. The best part of the day.
Food. It’s a vital part of living. No literally, your body needs nourishment from food in order to survive. You need to eat to have energy, boost your immune system, help your digestive system, and strengthen your bones. Besides the boring old nutritional value it offers, food can also be fun. It can mean a birthday or holiday has arrived. It can mean you just sat down to watch your favorite movie or television show. It can mean that you’re at a concert and there is time to kill in between sets. It can mean that your favorite season has finally arrived and with it, comes your favorite seasonal beverage.
Speaking of favorites, do you have a favorite food? Chances are if you ask someone they will most likely say yes. And with so many options out there, there’s a chance you will get a different answer every time. That’s the power that food has. It means so many things to so many people. For Fahrney Keedy, it means a time to come together.
For most of our residents who have private rooms or are not able to get out that much, meal time is their chance to get together with their friends and share a meal and a laugh. For their families, it’s a chance to visit (Mom just called with her McDonald’s order, not visiting is not an option). The residents love getting together to celebrate birthdays, holidays, fun events, or just regular old days of the week. And if you ever question the power that good food can have, ask one of our residents. Her grandson started his own bakery based off of her recipes and every Friday, he drops off his latest creation to her for her feedback (and criticism wrapped in a love that only grandmas can deliver).
With food being so important to the fabric of Fahrney Keedy, one of the most important jobs is managing the operations of the kitchen. Purchase orders, stock intake, staff meetings, payroll, menu planning. Menu planning for over 200 plus residents. Menu planning for over 200 plus residents who have different wants and needs when it comes to food. What if the resident has a hard time swallowing? What if they are allergic to carrots and the dessert for the day is carrot cake? What if they can’t have certain types of meat because it’s a choking hazard? What if they want chicken noodle soup but only if it has the big noodles? What if they want tomato because all you have is chicken noodle with the small noodles? How does one possibly manage all those requests in a day and get meals plated and served on time? How does one do that and manage a staff who are also responsible for making meal time run as smoothly as possible? Well, there’s only one man for the job.
And he has two first names and an affinity for music.
Each week, we will be highlighting a member of the Fahrney Keedy Family to learn a little bit more about their life and career. They will be offering a unique perspective on their role as well as advice for those considering a career in senior living.
This week, we get a snapshot into the life and career of John Thomas, Director of Dietary Services.
Where did you go to school? What was your major? “A much longer time ago than I care to admit, I studied Communication. I am currently enrolled in Western Governor’s University in their Business School, fulfilling a promise I made to myself when I was younger.”
Do you have any other certifications? “Currently, I am a Certified Dietary Manager & a Certified Food Protection Professional. After I finish my business degree next year, I plan on getting both a Project Management Certification as well as becoming a Certified Food & Beverage Executive.”
When did you know you wanted to work in Dietary or work with food? What drew you to your current position? “It was never an “ah-ha” moment for me. All through my 20’s, I played all over in bands, and in between going out on the road, I managed a Border’s Books. In addition to that, I always worked part time in restaurants tending bar and/or cooking when I wanted some extra money. When the Border’s I managed closed in 2010, I was barely making ends meet for a while just in restaurants. I then started to look at anything I could possibly do and found my way to a small Dietary management company, where I could take my customer service background and my food knowledge and combine them. I enjoyed it well enough and once I did some research on how much investing my CDM could give me back, I went all in.”
What brought you to Fahrney Keedy? “The first time I was here , it was just by chance. I was here for a year from 2011-2012 and coming back had always kind of been in the back of my mind. Coming back allows me to be more than just the “dietary guy”. I’m proud to work with and for people who are confident in my abilities.”
In honor of #tbt, we want to throw it back to your first day at Fahrney Keedy. What do you remember? “For my current position, I was just thrilled to be back. I knew the staff needed some guidance, so I just rolled up my sleeves and got in with them, getting to know them, and helping to empower them with the trust to do their jobs.”
What does a day in the life look like for you? What are your duties and responsibilities? “It’s usually some mix of the following: menu planning, coaching/guiding staff, ensuring diet orders are correct, ensuring food consistencies are always correct and safe, payroll, meetings, visiting with staff and/or family members, entering menu requests, vendor calls, inventory, ordering and receiving foods.”
Do you have a favorite memory from your time spent working here that you would be willing to share? “I have really enjoyed reconnecting with people that I used to work with as well as meeting and getting to know the other directors.”
This pandemic has been hard for everyone but especially for those individuals working in healthcare. How did you personally get through it? “Unfortunately, I was in a relationship prior to the pandemic starting and that did not last. The distancing and extra hours I was putting in at my previous job finally took its toll. However, much like any time I’ve ever been faced with challenges, I dove headfirst into music. I have a small home studio set up and I spend a lot of time working on things or just listening to newer bands or my old favorites or going vinyl shopping with my niece. Music has saved my soul on more than one occasion.”
Oscar Wilde once said “with age comes wisdom”. What advice would you give to your younger self? “You can just choose to be happy instead of looking for the perfect time and scenarios in which to be. And invest in Amazon, trust me kid.”
What advice would you give to someone interested in working in dietary or with food in general? “Never think a task is below your station.”
And, last question, why should someone choose to join the Fahrney Keedy team? “It’s the best facility in the state, or at least one of the best ones I’ve worked at. They have the facilities, the team, the training, and the desire to keep the best people, all for the benefit of the residents.”
Five Second Pose!
We asked John five rapid fire questions to get to him a little better:
Favorite Color: Doesn’t have one but is partial to earth tones
Favorite Movie: The Godfather Part 2
Favorite Disney Character: Hector from Coco
Favorite Superhero: The Flash
Favorite Actor, Age 65 and Over: Harrison Ford
1 Fun Fact: John grew up in Europe where he learned to love real football AKA Soccer! He is a massive supporter of Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League.
Thank you so much to John Thomas for sharing! Stay tuned next week when we add another photo to our Family Album!