Connor Chmiel has worked with seniors for over ten years. What began as a convenient situation—turned into an undiscovered passion. When Connor was in college he was without a vehicle and needed a job that was within walking distance. This requirement led him to work in dining services at a local senior living community. “I fell in love with interacting with the seniors and consider them my extended family,” recalls Connor. “I can’t imagine working in another field. Growing up I was very close with my grandparents and I think that helped translate to work for me.”
In his current role as a Community Life Specialist at St. John’s Meadows Connor is able to creatively plan events, trips, and outline a detailed monthly program for residents. “A pretty typical day would involve hosting a musical program for the residents. Last year I had almost 9,000 resident attendees for music programs. I spend a lot of time working on the monthly calendar that goes out to all the residents and staff members each month. The calendar covers the majority of programming we have going on at the Meadows,” explains Connor.
Connor mentions that one of his favorite interactions with the residents is when he gets an email just to share a story or joke. “The unexpected moments keep things fresh and fun at work.” These conversations led to one unique program that Connor helped develop and promote with the residents at St. John’s Meadows—his TED Talk discussions. “Several times I have had residents come up to me and say they had showed a TED Talk to a loved one and it helped to change their perspective.” Connor realized residents enjoyed learning more about TED Talk topics through both a structured program and simple conversations. “Something even small can make a difference in how they view the world and it is amazing, the residents help me change my perspective too.”
It has not been only the residents who inspire Connor, but also his fellow staff members and the overarching culture at St. John’s. Connor relays how the encouraging and consistent leadership sets St. John’s apart in senior living. With the support from coworkers and strong examples to follow, Connor appreciates seeing staff members reach “remarkable benchmarks” such as 10, 20, and 30 years with the company.
Outside of work Connor has had the ability to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, specifically on an extraordinary trip to Kenya. “I took the trip to help build a school for children and was able to go on a safari afterwards. I slept in a tent right out on the land and saw lions, elephants, giraffes, cheetahs, and leopards.” Connor plans to return to Kenya next year and has regularly stayed in touch with several friends he met there. He also spends quality time with his family, girlfriend, and their two cats while watching sports, movies, and playing video games.
St. John’s Meadows is fortunate to have staff members like Connor who strive to make programming engaging for residents and who are available to assist them with anything they might need. If you would like to join the St. John’s team to experience the reward of working alongside residents please click here.