Three from The Dalles win state awards
By Rodger Nichols
There are a lot of caring people in The Dalles. That was confirmed in November, when the Oregon Health Care Association gave three of its annual awards to people from The Dalles.
Aubree Schreiner of Columbia Basin Care was honored as administrator of the year—skilled care; Eunice Denudt, who volunteers at Columbia Basin, was named volunteer of the year; and Rodney Taylor of The Springs at Mill Creek received an Above and Beyond Award.
Wasco County built the not-for-profit facility in 1964 and maintains ownership, but during a budget crisis in 2004 turned over operations to a private company. The results have been positive.
The facility, which offers both long-term care and short-stay rehabilitation, has been upgraded several times.
Aubree went from college student to intern to executive director in less than a year. Born and raised in Hood River, she is a graduate of Oregon State University, where she earned a degree in public health with an emphasis in health management and policy.
Aubree was an intern at Columbia Basin Care when she was offered supervised training that led to becoming the facility director at completion. That training can take anywhere from six months to two years, and hers was on the short end of that scale.
At 22, Aubree became one of the youngest administrators of a skilled care facility in Oregon, managing 100 employees and overseeing the care of 65 residents. Just three years later, she won this statewide award.
Aubree praises her staff, calling them “a great team where we really all support each other.”
She says the smallest things make a difference at Columbia Basin Care, such as stopping to ask someone about their day, taking a moment to get them a cup of coffee, or sitting and having coffee with them.
“This population has so much experience and so many life stories to share, I think it’s really important that we pause and listen,” she says. Eunice has listened. Having been through a stroke in May 2016, she knows some of the needs of care residents intimately. She was found lying on her bathroom floor at her home in Arizona. She had already turned blue, but first responders were able to get her to a hospital in time to save her.
“I had to learn to walk and talk and even swallow again,” Eunice says.
She moved to The Dalles to be near her daughter.
Eunice fondly remembers a shawl she had during her recovery and how comforting it was. She had crocheted for several years prior to her stroke. When she recovered, she turned to it again as part of her rehabilitation.
“Next thing I knew, I had five of them,” she says. “What was I going to do with them? We took them to Columbia Basin, and they said they’d be happy to have them.”
In the three years since, Eunice has made more than 150 shawls. She says she could do more, but loves to watch TV and only crochets during the commercials. She can finish a shawl in just three days.
Eunice says she doesn’t want a lot of attention and initially didn’t want to attend the awards banquet. She is glad her daughter persuaded her.
“It was great,” Eunice said. “The presentation was great. The people were great. Lunch was great. And then I won the drawing on top of that.”
The drawing included tickets for a ride on the sternwheeler Spirit of Portland, a trip to Oregon Zoo and an overnight stay at a Portland hotel. About 1,400 people attended the banquet, but the odds were all in her favor that night.
Rodney, who received one of two Above and Beyond awards, was nominated by his employers at The Springs at Mill Creek.
“He’s an exceptional man,” Executive Director Tony Sly says. “He truly cares, and you can tell by the way he treats our guests. He takes time to talk to them and get to know them.”
Rodney began in the business 29 years ago as a janitor at Columbia Basin, but has been at The Springs at Mill Creek and its predecessor, Mill Creek Point, for 18 years.
“We call it ‘plan ops,’ because we cover transportation and housekeeping and building maintenance,” he says. “We do anything and everything that doesn’t require a contractor’s license.”
That includes helping guests in their quarters—everything from unplugging a toilet to hanging a picture or replacing batteries in a wall clock.
Rodney says he has many friends there, and particularly enjoys talking with the guests. That includes joking around with people in the memory care unit. They enjoy it, he says, because they would rather be treated normally than with kid gloves.
“Sometimes people treat them as if they’re sick,” Rodney says. “They’re not sick. It’s an aging process. So when someone tells me they had something they wanted to tell me but can’t remember it, I tell them, ‘They make me put my name on my shirt so I can remember what my name is,’ and we get a good laugh out of that.”
Rodney credits his mother for his success.
“I know my mom’s up there, doing the happy dance,” he says, pointing skyward. “She’s the one that trained me. It’s been a nice ride. I’ve still got a few more years and a lot of plans.”