What initially started out as a way to leave Kodak, which was beginning its era of layoffs and downsizing in the early 90s, turned into a life-long career at St. John’s for Stephanie Krebbeks. Having the choice of a couple different job offers at the time, Stephanie chose to accept one made by then Executive Director of the Foundation Kit Pollicove in 1993 to be the marketing and development department’s next executive secretary. Selecting St. John’s from among her choices was, at first, a way to connect with the older generation, whom, according to Krebbeks, she was missing due to losing all her grandparents by the time she was 19. Thirty years later, what makes her stay, is the people, but also the opportunities that working here has afforded her.
“I never anticipated having my last job interview in 1993,” says Krebbeks. She says that even though she has held relatively the same position over the years, with her assuming a senior housing sales position in 1996 after assisting with the opening of St. John’s Meadows, her work constantly changed. “While I shared the same information all the time, it was with a different person, who held a different story, who held a different demeanor, triggers, emotional points,” says Krebbeks, “I just really appreciated that.”
Over three decades of selling independent living, Krebbeks has seen some changes in the seniors who are looking to buy. “Things are somewhat very different,” quips Krebbeks, “if that makes sense.” In the beginning, St. John’s was one of only a few providers of this type of housing. She says that the older adults interested in St. John’s at that time were in their early 70s and predominately, were couples seeking to be a part of something new in the community. “St. John’s had a stellar reputation that would draw people in,” says Krebbeks. Now Krebbeks says she is working with many more adult children, who are part of the support system for the older adult consumers that are looking to move as a way to escape loneliness and the burdens of home ownership.
The biggest strategy Krebbeks has used over the years in her job–listening–has remained constant even though the people have changed. “People are people and they are very much the same and different all in one breathe,” says Krebbeks, who is rewarded by figuring out how to cater to prospective residents’ needs during the process. “People want to be independent, safe, and happy, and have opportunity. That is what I help guide them for.”
According to Krebbeks, there have also been both gains and losses that she has experienced as part of her work. She says that meeting with people and listening to their stories has helped her build “patience and tolerance.” Krebbeks does not believe that she would have had such an understanding for time if she did not work with this generation. She is also realistic about some of the loss she has experienced as part of this job. “Someone my age should not have known so many people who have died,” says Krebbeks, who notes that losing residents, with whom she has worked and become friends, will never get easier.
However, it is the good memories Krebbeks holds of the people she has known that help bridge these hard passings. A fond one she offers is that of Leon, who she says was so kind and genuinely helpful to everyone he met, that he wore a watch on both wrists so he could offer the time to a questioner if he was carrying something in his other hand. Krebbeks recalls with a smile that Leon always wanted to be “available to help.”
Perhaps it is through one of the simplest of her sayings during the interview, “I am happy,” that one can tell–Krebbeks has found her “home” at St. John’s. Just recently promoted to senior housing sales manager, Krebbeks’ dedication to her work remains constant.
“St. John’s is in my DNA,” says Krebbeks, “I couldn’t dedicate more than half of my life if I didn’t believe in it.”