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Residents of Friendship Village in Schaumburg are accustomed to wining and dining in the finest style. The senior living community’s five-star quality restaurants, including Seasons and Mosaic, offer exceptional cuisine served in swanky, open settings by a friendly wait staff they know by name.
But current times have changed things a bit for both residents and staff. In accord with mandated safety measures amidst COVID-19, dining personnel have been bringing food and beverage to individual apartments. “Room service” is what some residents call it, as they are receiving all the fresh, savory fare that defines Friendship Village – on time, made to order and delivered personally by those same congenial servers.
While most people get their recommended 10,000 steps per day by taking a long walk, some Friendship Village dining staffers are getting as many as three times that amount just by doing their jobs.
“Our servers are doing a crazy amount of walking… left, right, in circles, getting food, drinks and packing meals to go for about 450 residents in independent living,” said Joanna Chan, who oversees dining operations at Friendship Village.
Andy Jensen, a server in the community’s restaurants Seasons and Mosaic, has clocked as many as 30,000 steps a day in his quest to deliver meals to residents as efficiently as possible.
“It was hectic at first,” said Andy, who was leaving work around 7:30 in the evening when the new procedures were implemented. “A month in, I was out by 6:15. We picked up the pace and developed a better system. More orders are going in and out, and residents are happy.”
“We fight for carts,” joked server Barb Niewiadomska, whose daily steps number around 15,000. “We consider it our exercise. But Andy walks really fast.”
Omar Hernandez puts in about 20,000 steps a day. “We compete over who can get the most steps,” said the affable bartender who’s been employed at Friendship Village for over seven years.
Despite the friendly competition, there’s one thing the three have in equal measure: commitment to their jobs, residents and one another.
“We have the best managers, and most of the residents are fun and pleasant to be around. They’re good people; they make me laugh,” said Barb. “This is our new normal; we’re in it together and we make the best of it.”
Added Omar, “I love helping our residents; they treat me like family. Some give me cookies and treats and even try to tip me at the bar!”
According to Andy, the self-described “clown of the staff,” “I love our residents’ stories; some are Vietnam and even WWII vets. I really like talking to them.”
The high esteem in which Chan holds the Friendship Village dining team is palpable. “I am extremely proud of them. It’s hard to explain, but we’re like a family. We all stick together,” she said.
“The residents love our servers, especially these three [Andy, Barb and Omar]. They tell me ‘Barb’s smile makes my day’; they compliment Omar and Andy and recognize their friendly voices over the phone.”
While it is unclear exactly when residents will be able to dine together in Friendship Village’s first-class restaurants again, there are signs and hope that day will arrive soon.
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