By Rick Banas of assisted living provider BMA Management, Ltd.
Our 2014 ALFA Hero Elizabeth (Beth) Dreas is doing what she loves best, serving older adults.
As a cook at the Heritage Woods senior living community that BMA manages in Centralia, Illinois, she says she has found her purpose in life. “This is what God wants me to do,” Beth explained.
Located about an hour east of St. Louis, Heritage Woods features affordable assisted living apartments for adults 65 and older of virtually all incomes, including individuals on Medicaid. The community also features senior living apartments and rental homes for low-income adults over the age of 55.
Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) honored Beth and four other 2014 Hero Award recipients last week at a special luncheon held during the organization’s national conference in Phoenix.
”Each with a heart of gold, our ALFA Heroes represent the highest levels of excellence, caring and dedication,” noted Richard Grimes, President and CEO of ALFA. “They embody the very spirit of our industry.”
The husband and wife team of retired U.S. Naval Capt. Mark Kelly and former U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords were the featured speakers at the luncheon. Capt. Kelly is an aviator who flew combat missions during the Gulf War and an astronaut who flew the final NASA Space Shuttle mission – STS 135 – in 2011.
at the luncheon, we were seated with Beth at a table next to the featured speakers. Beth walked over and told Gabby how she prayed for her after a gunman shot her during a 2011 assassination attempt. Then, she introduced herself to Capt. Kelly and mentioned that her son had just graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering, “in case you know of anything.” Later, Beth was able to something she really wanted to do; she went on stage and give Gabby a hug.
Beth also took it upon herself to seek out each of the other Hero Award honorees and personally offer her congratulations.
She thoroughly embraces our values of Love, Compassion & Dignity and is considered the heart of the kitchen and the heart of the Heritage Woods community.
“She is a ball of fire. She is in 100 places at once,” says Crystal White, Dietary Manager at Heritage Woods. “She inspires the rest of us, and we are better people because of her.”
Beth’s story is even more remarkable because of the journey that brought her to Heritage Woods of Centralia. At the age of 11, three weeks after her mother died, Beth went to a boarding school run by Catholic nuns. The other children would go home on weekends, but because of her family situation, Beth stayed behind. She often spent her time in the kitchen with a nun who cared for her.
That is where she discovered her love for cooking. “The kitchen became my comfort,” she says. “Cooking brings people together.”
Beth went on to earn a master’s degree and marry. She and her husband raised their children on their farm.
Coming to Heritage Woods has enabled Beth to fulfill her desire to serve others.
“She is relentless in seeing that residents come first and will not stop until every task is complete,” says Administrator Tom Broughton.
When she’s not at work, Beth is volunteering and touting the benefits of assisted living.
”The people who live here at Heritage Woods have made this world what it is”, she says. “They should have a right to a decent place to live and somebody to take care of them, give them the help that they need, but also encourage independence as much as possible. To see people happy, that is a special feeling.”
“I just want to be a little voice of happiness in the world.” – Beth
To learn more about Beth’s story and what makes her so special, I invite you to watch the video ALFA produced about our hero.
All affordable assisted living communities managed by BMA Management, Ltd. are certified and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. All assisted living communities are licensed and surveyed by the Illinois Department of Public Health.
“BMA Management, Ltd. is the leading provider of assisted living in Illinois
and one of the 20 largest providers of assisted living in the United States.”
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