Understanding, Empathetic and Patient
By Kathryn Speer
Although the staff here is small, one person stands out as a model we all should aspire to. She is not your average person, and certainly not an average associate. She does good deeds because she is a good person, not for the pat on the back.
She is Kerileigh, “Keri” Sherman, the social service coordinator, who began her career working in The Shores’ kitchen while in high school and continued while earning her undergraduate degree. Later, she interned at a youth shelter and became a case manager before coming to Wesley by the Bay.
Keri patiently goes beyond and truly wants to help everyone — nothing is too much trouble. For example, two residents needed stair lifts in their apartments in order to remain living independently. With a heart of gold, Keri beat the pavement fundraising to help defray the residents’ costs. Keri and Sharon Sparks, Wesley by the Bay’s wellness nurse, visited a resident in hospice and supported the heartbroken family.
Last year, Keri completed her Master of Social Work at Stockton University, balancing a full load of graduate courses in the evenings and Saturdays, while working full time. In addition to her duties as the social service coordinator, she simultaneously serves as the resident wellness director. For the benefit of the wellness program, she is forging community partnerships, conducting in-depth social service assessments with residents and working with the wellness nurse to develop healthy aging plans.
Residents faced challenges regarding cell phones. The process required more than just finding an affordable program. Keri patiently helped them to fill out forms, unbox and set-up the phones, and then became the technical support. Regardless of the issue, she takes the time to understand, troubleshoot and provide one-on-one education as needed for each resident.
To facilitate clear communication among the house cleaners and the residents, Keri created a chore list in English and Spanish. When residents request cleaning assistance, they point to the chores they want done so the cleaning service personnel easily understand.
Keri has empathy for any and every situation that arises. She is able to listen, comfort and support residents in matters big and small. Residents often express statements like, “Thanks to Keri I am getting food assistance. I completed my Medicaid application. I got a new phone. She checked on me when I didn’t feel well, and helped me understand a letter I received in the mail.”
Kathryn Speer is Housing Administrator of United Methodist Communities at Wesley by the Bay.