Mark Stemmer has proven how far hard work and empathy can take someone in life.
For the past five years, Mark has worked as director of environmental services at All Saints Senior Living Center in Shakopee, where he oversees the maintenance and emergency/safety protocol of the 57-unit apartment complex. He is also responsible for developing strategies to improve the safety for the tenants and staff.
“Senior care is simply respect for the elderly,” Mark said, who is 47. “They’ve done their time, it’s now our time to take care of them.”
Mark’s journey that led him to working at a senior care facility began when he was suddenly unemployed. After a 21-year career at the Shakopee K-Mart, Mark was one of hundreds of workers who lost their job when the department store closed its doors in 2013.
At one point, Mark applied for a Class A driver’s license and hit the road as a truck driver for four months. But truck driving wasn’t the right fit, so he began searching for a job that better suited his skills as someone who was good with his hands and who enjoyed working with people.
Mark received an invitation from All Saints Senior Living Center to interview for a new maintenance position. Unbeknownst to Mark who has lived in Shakopee for 47 years, the All Saints Senior Living Center building was in the middle of construction and looking to build a service staff.
Although he was new to both senior care and the maintenance field, his good health and the opportunity to work kept him inspired. “My work ethic is top notch if you’re not going to do the job 100% you might as well not do it at all,” he said.
Mark’s persistent approach to his job and appreciation from the tenants and staff were recognized by the Care Providers of Minnesota when the organization presented Mark with the 2018 Employee of the Year award.
Despite being new to the maintenance profession, Mark was never concerned about the heavy lift the job often requires. Mark’s work philosophy came to him at a young age when he was a kid working on his family’s Shakopee farm with his siblings.
“I’ve spent a third of my life on a farm,” Mark said. “Work and the community always come first, and you don’t mess around until the work is complete. It’s no different than the work I do now.”
Though maintaining the building’s safety makes up the bulk of his job, Mark has grown fond of the tenants and is proud that he gets to keep Minnesota seniors safe in the later years of their lives.
When asked about his favorite part about working around seniors, Mark says he enjoys the simple “good mornings” he receives and the humorous back and forth conversations he has with them.
“Seniors have a lot of heart and want to have a good time, it makes me smile every day,” Mark said.
Too often, Mark said, some people believe that assisted living is just an “old folk’s home,” which he says is an improper term. Mark explained that senior care is where seniors can go to live and maintain their own lifestyle with access to services and the comradery of their peers.
Mark says that he looks forward to continuing to provide security for the seniors at All Saint’s and hopes to grow professionally in his new-found passion of administering safety for many years to come.
As Minnesota’s senior population continues to increase, Mark wants seniors to know they’re not alone in their journey.
“Life is not over when you become a senior,” Mark said. “Like all of us, seniors want to be seen and heard and I’ll always listen to them.”
Aaron Roundtree is a regular contributor to Face Aging MN. If you want to reach him or have any questions, you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Have your own story to share? We’d love to hear from you.