Many of the residents of United Church Homes’ Fairhaven Community in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, serve as friendship ambassadors for new residents.
The purpose of the Fairhaven Community Friendship Ambassador Program is to provide companionship, comfort, hospitality, service and abundant life to friends and neighbors who have chosen Fairhaven as their home on life’s journey.
Ambassadors spend one hour or more with a new resident during their initial visit. They commit to check in with the new resident during specific times, daily and weekly, and to be helpful and willing to make the newcomer’s experience of moving to Fairhaven easier. Ambassadors also agree to be respectful in attitude by caring and demonstrating empathy toward the new resident.
Wilma, a resident who serves as the group’s secretary, said the program is much more than just visiting with a fellow resident.
“It’s not just walking into someone’s apartment. It’s really getting to know them,” she says. “It’s not something that ends. It’s an ongoing relationship we maintain throughout somebody’s lifetime. The program keeps growing and evolving.”
The program’s guidebook also lays out how the program can impact residents throughout their time at Fairhaven.
“As friendship ambassadors, you are working toward making the journey and experience at Fairhaven Community warm and inviting,” says the guidebook. “If new residents know you are there and that you have a sincere concern for them, then we have fulfilled a wonderful mission. Your heart and care are the key.”
Fairhaven Activities Assistant Becky Blocksom leads the program and matches each new resident with a current resident prior to their arrival. Ambassadors are encouraged to visit with new residents regularly. Becky asks residents to develop a plan for ambassadors to walk with new residents to the dining room for their first meal.
“This simple act can make a big difference for new residents, who may be shy or otherwise worried about their new living situation,” Becky said.
Max, another ambassador, says he tries to be his authentic self when introducing himself to new residents.
“If I have a chance to introduce myself as a Christian, I will,” Max says. “Sometimes, they’ll let me pray with them. I don’t know many strangers.”
Each new resident receives a welcome package, which includes gifts such as candy, crocheted crosses and handmade lap blankets, donated by the women of nearby Sycamore UCC.
For the Rev. Kenneth V. Daniel, president and CEO of United Church Homes, the ambassador program is just one more way Fairhaven lives out the UCH mission of transforming aging by building a culture of community, wholeness and peace.
“Our mission is to transform the experience of aging by providing environments that are welcoming, inclusive, and engaging,” Daniel says. “The ambassador program is an important key to building relationships with new residents and helping them feel a part of the Fairhaven community.”