Pendleton Manor is devoted to the care of our community’s elders in their last days, and its responsibility is a heavy one. That responsibility has recently come to rest in part on the shoulders of a new Administrator and a new Director of Human Resources.
Todd Switzer and Jason Smith would seem to share little in common. Todd enjoys fishing, cycling, and hiking; Jason loves history, theater, and science fiction. Todd is a “born and raised” Methodist, while Jason attends Calvary Lutheran. Jason is “from here,” belonging to the Smith clan in Sugar Grove, but Todd was born in Pennsylvania has only recently “come here” to Franklin. Jason received most of his schooling in West Virginia and at the nearby Eastern Mennonite University. He worked for ten years at the Sugar Grove Naval Base and never traveling farther away than D.C. to live and work. Todd, schooled at Marywood University in Pennsylvania, arrives in Franklin from job tenures in the far-flung fields of Iowa and Idaho. He has been to forty-two of the United States, plus Ireland, and has never lived in West Virginia until now.
Despite these differences, the old adage holds true: that which unites Todd and Jason is more than that which might seem to divide them. Both men come from small towns, and both are committed to building community. Both have made their most recent career choice partly because they want to invest in their family relationships. Perhaps most importantly for the health and wellbeing of Pendleton Manor, both men are thoroughly committed to excellence in long-term resident care. It isn’t just “a job” to them; it’s a job that matters to them.
Jason’s family worries that maybe he is “settling” by coming back to Franklin, but he says, “I don’t look at it that way. I see it as a step in the right direction. . . . I learned in graduate school what my core values were, and this place has family, friendships, community—things I wasn’t able to find in DC.” In fact, Jason feels that his most notable contribution to the military base where he worked in DC was one of bringing people together on a relational level. At Pendleton Manor, that’s not exactly an uphill battle; Jason remarks that, “My door always seems to be opening with people coming in and wanting to talk—I haven’t had that for several years, so it’s very refreshing. I really enjoy the family environment.”
To Jason, working at the nursing home is a way to invest in the community that raised him. He wants not only to enjoy the family atmosphere at Pendleton Manor, but also to help keep it strong. “I’ve always had a relationship with the nursing home,” he reminisces, “The building was actually my preschool when I was a child, before they remodeled it.” Even beyond the nursing home, Jason has plans to invest in his home county. He wants to get involved again in local organizations such as the Free Masons and the local theater company.
The theme of a young man putting relationships and community first continues in a conversation with Todd. In fact, the similarity is striking. Like Jason, Todd is driven partly by family considerations. He wants to be closer to his family, including his widowed mother in Pennsylvania and a brother in DC.
Yet, eager as he is to be closer to his most important relationships in other states, and much as that closeness helped to drive his original decision to come to West Virginia, Todd is prepared to dig deep roots in Franklin. “I’m willing to stay for as long as they want me,” he says. More than that, Todd is in it for the long haul where Pendleton Manor’s residents are concerned. “It almost takes a calling to be a resident caregiver,” he observes, explaining his attitude, “When I was in grad school I decided I liked long-term care. Both my grandmothers were in long term care in Pennsylvania. I like being around the residents, hearing about their stories and their lives.”
But Todd doesn’t only listen; like Jason, he is actively looking for ways to build up the community at Pendleton Manor. “I always felt bad for residents who had no family left,” he says. “We used to set aside a couple hundred dollars at Christmas for residents who didn’t have families, and I used to be the guy who went to pick out the presents. I loved that. I love trying to do special things with them. At my last job I baked cookies with a resident, which was great. I also love to find out about unfulfilled wishes that residents have. We had a resident [In Iowa] who was 88 years old and had always wanted to fly. We found a guy with a plane and we took her flying.”
Also like Jason, Todd has community interests even beyond Pendleton Manor. “I will get more involved as I get unpacked and get out in the community,” he says. “Probably I will work with the local board of pastors, and with the local Lions organization, if there is one here.”
At a time in history when one hears on every side the lament that young people seem uninterested in building up their families and communities, it is refreshing to discover a deposit of enthusiasm—even of personal commitment—at Pendleton Manor. For our community’s dear elders, and for the future of our town as a whole, these two young men express an attitude that is welcome indeed.