Cook loses home in fire, still shows up for residents

Anna Izer named National Ever Forward Employee Champion

Cook Anna Izer

This kitchen at Good Samaritan Society – Beatrice in Nebraska is always kicking out something special for residents and staff.

“They deserve to have the best thing that we can make them,” cook Anna Izer says.

Resident ‘gained 10 pounds’ since moving in

Izer guides the ovens in the 24-apartment Samaritan Springs assisted living building.

She holds nothing back when it comes to taking care of her guests.

“They’re a part of you in a way because they become your family,” Izer says.

The dining room falls silent when Izer’s mouth-watering meals are on the table. Don’t even get co-workers started about her desserts.

“She has these cookies and they remind me of an Almond Joy bar. They have coconut and chocolate and they are just fantastic,” Society administrator Correne Adams says.

Whatever she thinks up, the culinary creation doesn’t last.

“We always seem to be out of those,” Izer says. “There must be a mouse or something here.”

The quality of life seems to rise when Izer’s around.

“In fact, a couple of the residents have said, ‘I’ve gained weight and it’s Anna’s fault,’” Society community liaison Robin Gascon says.

E’Linda Thornburg and her husband arrived just over a year ago.

“I’ve gained 10 pounds since I moved in here. That’s a testament,” Thornburg says. “Everything that Anna makes is delicious.”

A ‘scoop’ to remember

Izer can do way more than scoop cookie dough.

Ralph Kassing lives here too and volunteers his time managing the pond out back.

“I just kind of watch it and take care of it,” Kassing says.

The 90-year-old with an artificial leg says it gives him purpose.

“It was something for me to do because I was always a country guy,” Kassing says.

One day this winter, after a major snowstorm, he couldn’t get to the serene spot.

“Here we looked out and Anna was going out with a shovel. She scooped that off so I could get out there. I’m just amazed at her for that because she didn’t have to do that. That’s not her job,” Kassing says.

As he wipes away tears and adjusts his glasses, he adds, “I get kind of worked up sometimes. Excuse me. When you talk about somebody that’s pretty good, you’ve got to praise them. A lot of people do a lot of things and don’t get credit for it.”

An employee champion

Thankfully, credit is being served to Izer on a shiny award. She is the Good Samaritan Society’s National Ever Forward Employee Champion.

“It’s wonderful. We’re so proud of her. She’s so humble about it,” Thornburg says.

The recognition comes after a tough year.

“She’s one of a kind and has gone above and beyond anything we could have asked for her to do under circumstances we wouldn’t wish upon anyone,” Society assisted living manager Stacey Gydesen says.

From the pandemic at work to challenges at home.

“I was at work. My daughter called me and said, ‘Do you know your house is on fire?’” Izer says.

Putting residents first

While she gets emotional about it now, she didn’t when it was happening in real time.

“She stood very nicely. I couldn’t see that anything was wrong,” Stacey says. “She walked in and said, ‘Stacey, is it OK if I go home? My house is on fire.'”

Izer’s two cats, Crash and Stomper, were inside. She considered them her kids.

“One of those things that happen. You don’t think it’s going to happen to you but you make the best of it and go on,” Izer says. “Unfortunately, we lost our ‘kids.’ I think that was probably the hardest part.”

But she kept serving and was back at work the next morning.

“She said, ‘Oh no, I’m coming in. I have already planned the dessert. I’ll be here the rest of the time.’ She never missed a day,” Stacey says. “I can’t compare her to anyone.”

Izer finds comfort in taking care of others.

“That was kind of my ‘away.’ It’s not like you didn’t want to deal with it. It’s just you felt comfortable being here. So I just came to work,” Izer says.

‘Anna makes it feel like home’

Izer is a staple ingredient to life here in Beatrice.

“She’s a wonderful person,” Kassing says.

One who believes in the Society’s mission and bakes it into every day.

“She’s always cheerful. She puts so much meaning into the morning devotions. There’s no end to her talents,” Thornburg says.

“Anna is what makes it feel like home,” Adams says. “She is just really a blessing to the residents and staff here.”

The feelings are mutual.

“They just kind of lift your spirits,” Izer says. “They are very special to me and if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”

Consider it a job well done by a rare employee going all out for her residents.

“They’ve struggled, strived. They’re here, so now someone takes care of them instead of them taking care of themselves. Hopefully we do a good job,” Izer says.

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Health Care Heroes, Senior Services

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