Our front desk mentors have always acted as Coburn Place’s vanguard. But now, more than ever, they act as our front lines while shining a beacon of comfort and safety to the residents of Coburn Place.
Our front desk team works so hard on our front lines, greeting expected guests, answering phones, and spreading cheer among residents. Because they fill a vital role in our community, we’ve allocated a portion of a $50,000 grant from the Central Indiana Covid-19 Community Economic Relief Fund (C-CERF) and a $2,500 grant from The Women’s Fund of Central Indiana to funding our front desk needs.
All our Coburn Place front desk mentors work hard, but we want to highlight what a typical day looks like – with Roni, Violet and Stephania. These three and the entire mentor team are “knocking it out of the park,” according to CEO Julia Kathary.
What does a standard day look like and how have social distance restrictions changed work for our front desk mentors?
It’s the start of Roni’s morning shift. She brings her smile with her every day. And even now, you can see it in her eyes despite the mask covering her face. She checks the front desk log for notes from the previous evening and then reads her emails from Coburn Place staff.
“Everyone here has definitely come together,” Roni says. “We’re putting our heads together to keep this a safe place. We’re trying to not change as much as we can for our residents and staff here. We’re spreading love during a time when it’s very important.”
Roni waits by the computer, getting ready to take a group video call to help train new front desk staff. “We train while we’re on shift at the front desk, in case a resident needs anything we can be here to assist.” It’s clear her dedication to helping others is further highlighted by the current shelter-in-place orders.
As the day warms up, shelter-in-place restrictions become more readily visible. Fewer visitors, more phone calls. “We must follow safe protocol. We need to keep this building clean, keep a distance away from the residents, all while completing our everyday job tasks and functions.”
When asked how she’s handling the changes, two-year veteran Roni replies with a weary smile: “Everything has pretty much changed. Normally, the whole building is one big family. But right now, you can’t give residents hugs to show them love. It’s challenging for them a little bit.”
The phone has been ringing nonstop for the past 45 minutes. “There’s really no way of knowing if the information you’ve given is going to help the caller,” Roni says. “But I try to keep in mind that each phone call, each person I come in contact with, I give them 110% of my love and energy. I hope I’ve been able to answer some questions, or alleviate stress, or redirect their attention to something that’s more positive and productive.”
After a particularly stressful call, Roni sighs and says, “I know I’m going to do my best to try to help them in any way that I can.”
Roni ends her shift, and Violet takes off her jacket while still wearing her mask. Just beginning her shift, Violet mentions she’s worked at the front desk for about six months, and says that every day is different from the last. “There are different things going on in the building right now,” she say. “Though with the shelter-in-place, there aren’t as many activities or functions happening. So I gear up with gloves and I wear my mask. The first thing I do is check the mail and put it in the appropriate places. Soon, our residents will come up and get their mail.”
When asked if she has any quiet time at the front desk during the evening, Violet shakes her head. “I get visitors and residents calling here throughout my shift,” she says. “Some of them are donations, some are people asking how to donate, where to donate, things like that. And then we get calls for people seeking shelter. Those calls can take a little while because we need to get a full overview of their situation and experience.”
Flipping to her email on the computer, Violet says, “I check my email often because a lot of our staff are working from home. They may need me to print out some things for them, or rearrange binders, or put some packets together. It just depends on what’s going on that week.”
After she finishes responding to emails, she pulls out a blue binder that Roni wrote in earlier, saying, “Then, of course, I need to check the other mentor notes from the night before and the morning. We look at the previous shifts’ mentor notes to see what’s happened over the evening and the morning before I get here.” This process keeps the entire mentor team apprised of important happenings and news.
When the residents get packages and items delivered, they must follow a new system. “Because of the shelter-in-place order, everyone’s purchasing things online,” Violet says. “Our current system for deliveries is that residents must call before coming to the mentor desk. We have things down here like trash bags and diapers, so they need to call ahead before coming. And we restrict desk visitors to one family member, one family at a time. Other than that, no one is coming through that lobby.”
Even with the added quiet of night, Violet works to keep the front desk area clean and sanitized. “I can’t wipe the visitor window and door handles with every visitor or resident in the lobby, but I clean as often as I can get there.”
As Violet clocks out for the evening, Stephania’s shift begins. It’s far quieter on the third shift, as many of the residents sleep.
After settling in, two-month front desk veteran Stephania explains her shift. “First, I sanitize everything and then read through the previous mentor notes and agency emails, sometimes just for that current day, to make myself aware of any updates or pressing concerns.”
As Stephania quietly reviews delivery logs and camera activity, she says, “I usually make a list of resident room numbers receiving packages, mail or items that need to be dispersed. I then check the camera screen to make sure all screens are visible, and I observe the cameras for movement or strange cars lingering nearby, and take notes of day-to-day movement.”
Silverware clinks. Stephania pauses in order to muffle her own noise while loading dishes in the dishwasher leftover from the previous day. She doesn’t want to wake anyone, but during her shift she tends to pick up clutter and do dishes if there aren’t too many.
The darkness outside starts to lighten to a muted gray, and Stephania sits at the front desk. “Since I’m still becoming familiar with the procedures, culture and shift, I review our manual when I have the time,” she says. “I then conduct at least one walk-through [of the building] sometime during my shift, to ensure the floors are safe.”
As Stephania makes notes in the big blue log book for Roni to review, she looks up and says, “My very favorite part of working at Coburn Place is [when] the residents get excited when they hear my voice greeting them over the speaker.”
She disinfects the desk one more time before the end of her shift.