Be The Change at Brightwater

– Deborah Stephens –

What is your position at Brightwater?

Social Director

How long have you been at Brightwater?

I have been at Brightwater four and a half years.

What excites you the most about this position and this company?

The ability to put smiles on the faces of our Independent Living Members, the gratitude that they express when we plan something they really enjoy is unimaginable.

What is your favorite thing about working for Senior Living Communities?

The ability to network with team members at any of the other 15 communities, to source ideas, help with issues, brainstorming, and much more. Senior Living Communities partners with an organization named CARE for AIDS, which helps support the physical, spiritual, economic, and social needs of men and women living with HIV/AIDS. I had the opportunity to attend an Impact Trip to Kenya to get hands on experience to the amazing work that this organization does every day.

Describe a time that a Member had a positive impact on your day?

I have to say it happens often, one was when I went home to Ohio because my father was dying, a Member who is very devout, sent me home with a package for my father. It was full of prayers, prayer beads, and a letter. This letter expressed her prayers for his health but told him how very grateful she was that she had moved to Brightwater, and I was partially responsible for those feelings. I know it had a huge impact on my father to hear that someone had such a high regard for what I was doing and was so grateful for the programming we provide for her. Of course, it made a wonderful impact on me as well, knowing that a Member felt that strongly about our programming.

How have you grown professionally and personally since joining the Team?

The biggest impact personally and professionally has been gaining more of a sense of selflessness. Additionally, learning from the stories our Members tell of their lives has been a tremendous opportunity to hear.

What about your position allows you to pursue things you’re passionate about?

I am passionate about planning events that make people happy, to be able to do that for a living is just an added bonus.

When it comes to your programming, what is the motivation behind specific activities, events, programs that you do with your Members?

In planning our programming, I am always cognizant of what our Members really enjoy doing.  In 3 ½ years, I have learned what our Member’s likes and dislikes, it becomes the motivation behind what I plan even when we try something new or are following a theme.

Your community has a monthly social event called a Signature Experience, what is your favorite part of planning, executing, and experience itself?

These are my favorite events, picking a theme for a whole day, working with the Dining and Wellness departments to plan a complete day around that one idea. It’s exciting, creative, and very gratifying when the Members get invested in the day, fully enjoying the activities!

Tell us about your favorite Signature Experience from your time at Brightwater?  There have been a few favorites.

In 2019, our 1939 Oscar Red Carpet Event was one of my favorites. The day centered around the wide range of movies released in1939 that were huge blockbusters. The day ended with a red-carpet event with an actual red carpet, 9-feet Oscar statues, brass rails, velvet ropes, terrific centerpieces in the dining room, an amazing dinner, dancing, even our very own Joan Rivers!

How does your community come together to work together to provide a vibrant social life for your Members? Dining, Wellness, Social?

I feel fortunate in that our leadership team works so well together, but especially the wellness, dining, and social teams. We have a terrific rapport and support each for all events that they put on. I know I can depend on their team members to assist in my events, and I am here to chip in with theirs when they plan something. Those relationships mean that events we plan for Members are not only well thought out and executed, but planned for their total, stress-free enjoyment.

How do you incorporate your Member’s feedback, personal lives, preferences, etc into your daily programming?

We take our Member feedback seriously, whether it is via email, verbal suggestions, or group comments from the RAC (Resident Advisory Council), committees, etc.  If they let us know an entertainer was not especially likeable, we generally won’t book them again, etc.  We also rely heavily on a survey we take every couple of years asking for their preferences regarding programming, personal tastes, and preferences.

Fun Fact: What are a few of your favorite hobbies?

My favorite free time activity is hanging at the beach.  I love the sound, the smell, and the sun. It’s my happy place and my stress relief. 

What is something many people don’t know about you?

I have had three complete professional careers – 27 years as an Interior Designer, 12 years owning my own Bed & Breakfast business, and now Social Director for Brightwater.

How has COVID-19 impacted your programming? Why are activities important during this time?

Naturally, we had to stop all large group activities to adhere to DHEC and CDC regulations.  Covid-19 programming is a lot more labor intensive as each activity must incorporate the social distancing and safety precautions. We have to think “out of the box” and come up with activities that can be mobile, i.e., art projects delivered to the villas/cottages, bar carts and food carts that travel, bingo and other activities that can be done in golf carts or outside. This pandemic is something new to all of us, it is difficult, to say the least, for everyone. But for the elderly who live alone, it is even more challenging and emotional.  Not being able to see family and friends can isolate and lead to depression and feelings of helplessness.  Activities became much more important these months to avoid those feelings for our Members.  I feel a responsibility to keep our Members active enough to avoid those feelings as much as possible.