Maintenance employee cares for residents and their homes

National Ever Forward Champion Jerry Kelch is ‘an angel’ to those who know him

Maintenance employee cares for residents and their homes

Setting up his own surprise without knowing it, Jerry Kelch carefully affixed a balloon and confetti drop to the ceiling at Good Samaritan Society – Water Valley in Windsor, Colorado.

“We told Jerry we have this town hall we got to set up,” jokes Society administrator Amanda Kerr. “There’s going to be lots of residents and staff there.”

Home to a fun-loving atmosphere, the assisted and independent living location was preparing to celebrate Kelch, 63, but didn’t want the senior maintenance mechanic to find out.

“Jerry means everything. He’s our angel,” Kerr says. “We didn’t know what we got when we hired him.”

When the gathering took place that day, Kelch was called to the front and named Good Samaritan Society’s National Ever Forward Employee Champion.

“Receiving this award has just been an ultimate surprise,” Kelch says with a laugh. “I set up my own decorations. I had no clue this was coming.

“It’s an honor to be a part of this and to serve Good Samaritan.”

Four people – teammates and residents’ family members – nominated Kelch for the award. While he’s only a year into his role at the Society, many consider his presence a gift from above.

“If there was an angel on this earth, it’s going to be disguised as Jerry,” says Randy Fitzgerald, Good Samaritan Society VP of operations for Colorado, Kansas and Hawaii. “He is just one of the most caring, dedicated men that I’ve ever been around. He has made such a huge difference in so many of our residents’ lives.”

‘God just put this job in my lap’

After years in sales at Coca-Cola in Arizona along with facilities jobs at churches there and in California, Kelch is right where he belongs.

“I always thought you had to have a nursing background to work at a facility like this. I never thought of just doing facilities,” Kelch says.

The quest to serve had been a desire in his heart since losing an older friend who was dealing with dementia.

“God just put this job in my lap, and it’s been the best,” Kelch says. “My whole goal is to take care of the residents, so they have a better life here.”

It’s like a big family at the assisted living where he has an office near computer servers and tools. A twin and the youngest of 11, Kelch loves being around people.

“The ladies and the residents always come up to me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got a light bulb out’ or ‘my TV doesn’t work.’ So, it’s always a constant variety of things to do here,” Kelch says.

In fact, while he was helping serve breakfast in the dining room, resident Jo Ann Morrissey enlisted his assistance.

“I frequently hit something that makes it not work,” Morrissey says trying to get her cell phone to call out. “‘User error’ as my son calls it.”

While a simple fix, having Kelch nearby brings Morrissey a sense of comfort.

“Never gets upset or frustrated when we ask him to do stupid things like this,” Morrissey jokes.

“He makes me happier to live here.”

‘They love when he walks in the room’

Marraya Metzger volunteers at the center. Kelch helped her mom move from assisted living to memory care recently.

“My mom seems to have made a great adjustment,” Metzger says. “I noticed that she was in decline after she had COVID earlier this year.”

Getting help with the transition meant a lot to Metzger, but Kelch’s care for her mother over the past year has been special.

“I nominated Jerry (for Ever Forward) because he is just outstanding,” Metzger says. “He’s just attached to all of these people, and they are attached to him. They love when he walks in the room.”

Not afraid to put himself out there, Kelch shares his faith freely with those interested and always has a dad joke at the ready.

“Oh, the dad jokes are every day,” laughs Lacey Bigler, lead resident assistant. “They’re at dinner. Jerry sends them to the group messages. We have them in morning meetings.”

Kerr adds, “the residents love the dad jokes.”

It’s all in an effort to promote a positive work and living environment. Bigler credits Kelch and her leaders with bringing everyone together.

“It brings me happiness. I don’t have a lot of family, so I feel like it’s nice to see someone make you feel like you have somebody,” Bigler says.

It’s a tough task to get men to attend activities, so Kelch has been setting up movie and pizza nights to get residents out of their rooms.

“Gentlemen are hard to get out to activities. Jerry saw a need there,” Kerr says.

Kelch adds, “most of them come down for three meals a day and that’s about it.”

‘Here to shine God’s love’

Going beyond his job description, Kelch treats every day like his own ministry and tries to build genuine relationships with those around him.

“I have just a heart to serve these residents. Once you get to know them, you just want to help them any way you can,” Kelch says.

Resident Mary Ellen Hadad says “you can ask him to do almost anything, and he will try. I think he’s well-deserving of any award he gets, and we’re so proud of him.”

Quick to shed the spotlight, Kelch calls out his unique team.

“We’re here to shine God’s love and light to people,” Kelch says. “It’s the team that Amanda has put together which God has really put together. I can’t do it without them; they can’t do it without me. We make a great team here.”

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Posted In Awards & Recognition, Non-Clinical Support Services, Sanford Stories, Senior Services