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'Her door is always open'

Dora Howard, executive director of Pioneer Village, has been named Administrator of the Year for Community-Based Care by the Oregon Health Care Association.

Community-based care is centered around individual treatment for each of the residents in Pioneer Village, said Howard. Residents are either in an independent status or assisted living at the only senior care facility in town.

“We start with getting to know the story for the residents. Family dynamics plays a huge part in who they are today,” said Howard. “Every resident is different. It’s very important for (the staff) all to know that there’s not two people out of 117 residents that are the same.”

Teamwork is another important aspect of community-based care, says Howard. Too often in the care industry, people find themselves working only in “the bubble,” dealing with tasks related just to their position, she said. At Pioneer Village, all staffers work across disciplines — from maintenance and food services to activities and resident assistance.

“They have a sense of achievement when we all come together. It’s really important to not stay in your own bubble,” said Howard. “It’s something to let them know how valuable they are and to never stop them in growing.”

The award recognizes the achievement and commitment of facility administrators who demonstrate innovation, leadership and high standards of ethical behavior in providing quality, person-centered care. Fourteen people were nominated for the award. Howard was honored by the association at its convention in Portland last week. The group’s membership includes 90 percent of care facilities in Oregon.

“It doesn’t matter if it is a resident, an employee or an employee’s family, she is ready to just lift everyone up. She’s got an old soul. She just cares for everyone so deeply,” said Peggy Dunphy, activities director. “We have residents who live here, and family is just as important as the residents. Her door is always open to everyone.”

Howard never talks down to anyone even if there is a problem. She always presents everything in a positive light, said Dunphy.

Howard was hired as dining room supervisor at Pioneer Village in 2008, later became activities director, then marketing director in 2013. In 2014 she left to open a new building for another facility, then went to Brookdale in 2015 as community relations coordinator. She came back to Pioneer Village in 2016 as assistant executive director and took over the top role in December 2016.

Howard worked in restaurant and marina management for eight years in California before coming to the Rogue Valley. She was also co-owner of a painting and decoration company.

“As a leader, people want to follow her. She is one of the masters of micro-motivation rather than micromanagement,” said Jodi Guffee, owner of Radiant Senior Living, which operates Pioneer Village. “She really encourages people to want to develop, as she would want to do the same thing.”

Howard has kept the community involved with the facility through programs with first responders, veterans and others, said Guffee. High school students work dinner shifts in the dining room.

“I truly did not see this one coming,” said Howard, who has nominated other Pioneer Village staff for awards. Last year Beondi Hewson won the Above and Beyond Service Award, and Regina Burton was named Caregiver of the Year by the association.

“I almost cried over all the positive things people said about me,” said Howard as she reviewed a four-page summary of comments from nomination letters. She was commended for the way she did things, from simply saying good morning and good evening to comforting residents, families and staff in times of distress.

Reach Ashland freelance writer tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Dora Howard