“You will never know unless you try, is the advice I’d give,” says Tony Zaccaglino. “Give it an opportunity, it is not an ‘old folks home,’ it is so much more vibrant. Give the work culture a shot.”
Tony understands what it is like to consider joining a work community like St. John’s at a young age. He has been with St. John’s Meadows since he was 23 years old. He started his career out of high school in the hospitality field. Tony earned a degree in hospitality services and has always “been in search of that wow factor,” he says.
In 2012, in attempt to move up in his career and leave behind the late nights necessary in managing a sports bar, Tony accepted the job of dining services manager at St. John’s Meadows. At first, he was unsure of how he would fit into what a stereotypical senior living community is like. However, since then, he has been able to “branch out and have different experiences.”
“I fell in love with all of the events and activities we were doing, I started the summer solstice festival then,” he says, “and it is crazy to see how it has grown.”
After four years in dining services Tony went on to be St. John’s Meadows Director of Operations in 2016. In that position Tony says he was happy to be able to experience much more than the standard hospitality duties. “I got to oversee the transportation and environmental services, social recreation department, it gave me a lot of roles and responsibilities, and was a huge career advancement,” he says.
The now 34-year-old father of two says he feels fulfilled with the sense of finding that ‘wow factor’ and his previous positions at St. John’s have helped him in his current role as vice president of senior housing as well.
“It is hard to believe it has been a year and a half in this role,” says Tony, who became a vice president in October of 2021. “I love that, to this day, I can still go to the café and work a shift, I have friends in different departments from when I first started.” Tony says, “It is awesome as vice president I could go to these different departments and already have those relationships and friendships.”
He also notes that the relationship with residents makes working in hospitality at St. John’s “so different from other places like restaurants or country clubs.”
“You know, I used to describe it as having 400 sets of grandparents,” Tony laughs. “I had my daughter Emma three years ago and residents act as if she is their great grandchild, they watched her grow up, from being born to her now having a sibling.”
Tony says the most rewarding thing about his job is “hearing that the residents think the events we hold are amazing.”
“Going back to that wow factor idea,” says Tony, “and giving residents those experiences that they would not typically have and say things like ‘I can’t believe I live here, this such a great place and great staff’ is amazing.”
“The other piece I find rewarding is constantly hearing from the staff that they are amazed at all the employee appreciation events there are and how supported they feel.” Tony insists he wants people who work here to experience St. John’s mission statement, to embrace living by being friendly, respectful, innovative, compassionate, responsive, and having fun.
Tony says he takes pride in the “fun work culture,” that he has helped shape since 2012. “It is cool to see events that I started like the [summer] festival, which started out with maybe one tent and 50 people show up, to now my staff leading it and (it) being this huge event with vendors and a few hundred people show up.”
“When you come here it is not a typical senior living facility, it is much more than that. It is nice to be a part of something that gives you the opportunity to build and grow, to be innovative and try new things,” says Tony. And, after 11 years at St. John’s, Tony has the experience to know.