Our DSP this week is Kenzie. She celebrated her one-year work anniversary last week but has technically been with us a bit longer. How is that possible? Kenzie started as an art intern and loved it so much that she got hooked and applied for a job. She is young but has a long work history of caring for others, and we are delighted she spends her days at work at our Powell house in Big Lake.
Program Manager, Julie Oachs, who has been with Living Well, and at the Powell home, for 33 years, says. “Kenzie is forward thinking, creative in what she does, and when she sees something needs to be done, she does it.” Julie is impressed by how she is always looking ahead to see what she can do for the next shift. Get supper in the crock pot, check. Prep breakfast, check. Make sure laundry is started or done, check. She also takes a lot of extra hours when the house is short staffed. Kenzie puts the time and effort into doing things for others, both staff and people served, and it is appreciated by all.
Julie adds that she is a wonderful listener who goes out of her way to make experiences meaningful for the people who live in the house. Kenzie is up for trips to the store and basic errands, but she also scours the area for events that will thrill them. Recently she saw the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile and took Carl to get his photo taken with it. Carl LOVES hot dogs, and this was just the thing to make him happy!
If you listen to the people she works with and for, you will understand why she is the perfect DSP this week. Coworker, Robert Watkins APM, calls her a caring team player who loves to cook. And Rachel Otten, who also works at the house, loves how she comes up with creative outings for the individuals. Julie cannot say enough good things, and adds that she is super positive, and has some of the best one liners ever. Julie also sincerely appreciates her willingness to speak up when she thinks something might work better or could be improved to help support the people with ease.
Carl, who loved his visit to see the Oscar Meyer Mobile, calls her fun. While John says, “I’m lucky to have her here, I’m a lucky guy.” This last one is extra special as John has lived there for 17 years and often takes a bit to warm up to new people. But not Kenzie, he warmed up to her quickly and sincerely appreciates his time with her.
Kathy Anderson, Volunteer Program Manager, customized an internship for Kenzie because she could immediately tell she understood the mission and would be an incredible asset for Living Well. Kathy says, “I am grateful for Kenzie’s initiative, compassion, creativity, communication skills and genuine dedication to adding in a meaningful way to the lives of people Living Well supports. That she continued to work here after her internship means the world to me.”
Thank you to everyone who chooses to make a career out of caring. Working in a house is much like living in one—in that the mundane often mixes with the chaotic as well as the beautiful. See the tale of wasps, chaos, and teamwork in Kenzie’s craziest story below. Thankfully, with staff like Kenzie, everything magically works out and the people we support get to live rich and full lives each and every day. No one day is perfect, but all are impactful.
Congrats, Kenzie, we appreciate you! Thank you for choosing to work with us and share your gifts of art, kindness, and positivity.
Number of years/months with Living Well: 1 year and a week
Hobbies/Interests: Anything artsy (acrylic painting is my favorite media though), cooking/baking, animals (especially cats), traveling, camping, swimming, puzzles, thrift shopping, listening to music/going to shows.
Education: Bachelor of Arts, Psychology.
Job Experience/History: I have previously worked as a nanny for young children. From there I moved onto working at the YMCA as a youth development staff for after school programming for middle and high schoolers. I then worked at a YMCA summer day camp as a lifeguard. I was promoted the following summer to Waterfront Director where I was in charge of all employees at the waterfront and all water activities. I left my job at the YMCA to pursue a job as a staff member at an adult day center for adults with disabilities where I found a true passion for working with this demographic. When Covid hit, the day center closed and eventually closed for good. I was out of a job, so I decided to start as a full-time student at St. Cloud State. I already had my associates at this point, so I was going to get my bachelor’s in psychology.
Favorite part of the job: The people! Both the people we serve and the people I get to work with—they are all amazing in their own ways! I am always laughing and smiling at work with them, so it never really feels like work to me. The people I work with are truly selfless and we all look out for one another.
Favorite or craziest work story: One day while I was working, we had one resident sick with a cold and another fell off a scale. He was okay and laughing after but my PM, Julie, and APM, Rachel, went to find a safer scale in the back shed. While out there they encountered a swarm of wasps. The APM got stung once or twice but Julie was stung several times. They ran inside and told me what had happened. Shortly after we realized they had brought some wasps inside by accident. One was flying right above a resident’s head. While the APM tried to kill the wasp, Julie grabbed the resident and brought him into the bathroom and closed the door, so he was away from it. We killed the wasp and went to tell the resident he could come out. I walked into the bathroom and the resident said “look” and pointed at another wasp that had been flying around in the bathroom while he was in there. We killed all the wasps but that was by far the craziest day!
What is your motivation for coming to work: The people we serve are the biggest motivation for coming to work. I know if I am not there it can affect their ability to go out into the community and do the things they really enjoy. I really want them to be able to live their best lives.
What made you apply: I actually was not looking for a job at the time. I was looking for an internship for one of my classes for my degree. I had heard about Living Well from a job fair I had attended. I reached out to Kathy Anderson. Kathy had told me that they had filled their internship spots, but she was eager to make a position for me. It meant so much to me how Kathy, someone I had never met or spoken to before, did so much to help me out. She had informed me that there was a part time position that would be perfect for a college student. She connected me with Julie Oachs who I met shortly after. I felt so welcome at Powell from the very first time I stepped foot into the house. Julie even sent me home with fresh herbs from their garden, which really sealed the deal. I worked part time for a while, while completing my internship and going to school.
What makes you stay: Knowing that the work I am doing is making a difference in the quality of life of people who deserve it the most. I love coming into work and making the people we serve laugh and smile. Getting to see how excited they get when we go out to one of their favorite places or even somewhere new is very fulfilling.
What would you tell people interested in joining the team: It’s one of the most rewarding jobs you’ll find. If you have an interest in helping people live happy healthy lives, it’s probably for you! This organization also really cares about their employees and your hard work will not go unnoticed.
When not at work what do you like to do for fun: Most of the time I go home, cook dinner with my boyfriend, then I watch a comedy show or movie until I go to bed and cuddle with my cat. On the weekends when I have more time, I like to do some of the hobbies I listed above. I also spend a lot of time with my family and friends. If it’s nice outside I like to be outside either just going on a walk or doing some sort of other activity.
Do you volunteer in your community or school: No, I just don’t have time. I have thought about volunteering at the animal shelter in St. Cloud but have been so busy.
Want to nominate a DSP? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to nominate a Living Well DSP. Special thanks to Miles and Cheri Cohen for their support of DSP of Week. Want to join them in underwriting our DSP Shoutout Program? Please contact Devan Heinsen at email@example.com for sponsorship opportunities.