Updated 2 hours ago
Jill Loeffler’s job at Overlook Green Senior Living in Whitehall began as a way to earn extra money to pay for a family vacation.
In the 16 years since Loeffler began working at the facility, a three-minute walk from her home, she has gone from part-time worker to full-time employee and to Pennsylvania Health Care Association’s Assisted Living/Personal Care Most Valuable Employee of the Year.
“I found I like helping people,” said Loeffler, now the facility’s activities director. “A lot of the residents here don’t have family that come visit very often.
“As you age, you lose a little bit of your independence every day.”
Loeffler, 49, said she fell in love with the residents of Overlook Green, which is why she has stayed. Their smiles kept her coming back, she said. And when she was made a full-time employee and the center’s activities director in 2014, she knew she had found her niche.
In her position, Loeffler plans and schedules the activities for residents living at the facility, which can range from an outing to a local Wal-Mart to a manicure, jewelry making to flower arranging.
Sometimes it can be something special.
Last summer, a resident of Overlook Green and a World War II veteran, learned he was going to receive a medal from the French government in recognition for his help to liberate France from the Nazis. Loeffler arranged for a van and a driver to take the honoree and a group of 10 friends and relatives to Soldiers Sailors Memorial Hall Museum in Oakland for the award ceremony.
“It was great,” she said. “There were a lot of smiles that day.”
But, it was that extra effort that prompted Michelle O’Donnell, Overlook Green’s executive director to nominate Loeffler for the health care award.
“I am forever grateful for Jill, she means so much to me and the residents at Overlook,” O’Donnell said in her nomination letter to the statewide group that serves as an advocacy group for seniors and their care providers.
The group’s Hero Awards honor people who have excelled in providing outstanding care in the spirit of teamwork.
“You get attached to these people and sometimes they die on you,” Loeffler said. “It’s hard. When people come here, it is usually for the rest of their lives. You want to make it the best for them.”
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-871-2346.