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  • Many of the staff members at Sunrise have spent a decade or more working with the company and look forward to many years to come of caring for seniors.
    Many of the staff members at Sunrise have spent a decade or more working with the company and look forward to many years to come of caring for seniors.

Sunrise Of Severna Park Celebrates 20 Years Of Memories

Gracie Fairfax
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September 7, 2017

For 20 years, Sunrise Senior Living of Severna Park has been home to many aging residents. More than 35 years ago, Paul Klaassen knew of the care options available to his relatives in the Netherlands, and he wanted to provide similar options for the aging mother of his wife, Terry, in the United States. What began as one community in Virginia in 1981 has since grown into more than 315 communities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Each Sunrise location seeks to live up the Klaassens’ mission: To champion quality of life for all seniors.

Staff members, residents and their families met on the front porch and driveway area of the community during the Severna Park location’s 20-year celebration, which was complete with an orchestra, pork-style entrees prepared by their dining services coordinator, and a chocolate cake. Longtime staff members were recognized and a speaker from Woods Church, who owns the land Sunrise is built on, gave a few words.

“They were big on wanting this to be a senior living community, so they really drove for us to be here,” said Shannon Burgoon, director of sales. “It’s really a wonderful partnership with them.”

Being a part of the Severna Park community, Sunrise has benefitted from the many school groups, churches and community members who visit the home or spend time volunteering on a regular basis. Some family members of residents continue volunteering even after their loved one has passed away.

“We thrive because of our community here,” Burgoon said. “Our families [of residents] – a lot of them are connected in this community.”

Most of the employees at Sunrise have been a testament of the great place it is, and much of the staff has been at the facility for over 10 years. Both Hazel Dennis, the activities assistant, and Stella Zeller, the lead care manager, have worked at Sunrise for 20 years. Burgoon worked at Sunrise of Severna Park as a high school and college student and then returned after working for several years at another senior living community. The executive director, Illona Meyer, has been with Sunrise for 18 years; she started her Sunrise career at the Severna Park location and then returned after a few years at other locations to serve in her current position. Joie Stapleton, director of sales, has been at Sunrise for 17 years.

Both employees and residents alike agree that Sunrise has a warm, welcoming environment that initially drew them in.

“I think the biggest thing is what people say when they walk in our door – it feels like home,” said 19-year employee and activities director Kimberly Best.

To add to the homey feeling, the staff puts out fresh flowers and has community pets – a Sunrise signature. The Severna Park location is home to a golden retriever named Buddy and a rescue cat named Snickers.

Sunrise of Severna Park prides itself on the number of options available to residents, from independent living to assisted living to memory care. It also offers a living with fulfillment program that acts as a bridge between assisted living and memory care for residents who can benefit from smaller group settings but are not yet ready for a memory care community. Those in the program have maintained much longer in assisted living because of the program and a few have even improved.

As a part of ensuring all seniors have a great quality of life, Sunrise has a designated caregiver rule, which assigns the same group of caregivers to the same group of residents so they can build a relationship and celebrate each individual’s interests, hobbies and talents.

In addition to offering trips to places such as Ocean City and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Sunrise ensures the individual’s interests are honored through checking items off bucket lists.

One resident, who was in his 80s, used to be a fighter pilot and wanted to fly one last time. Staff members from Sunrise took him to Kent Island and put him in a plane with a fellow veteran. When the pair landed, the younger pilot said to the Sunrise staff, “He knew everything, so I let him fly.”

“The only thing he didn’t do was let him land,” Best said.

With 20 years in the books, the staff members at Sunrise have many fond memories behind them and look forward to the memories they’ll make with seniors for years to come.

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