Embrace Living Communities Residents Thrive through Partnerships, Being Good Neighbors

Embrace Living residents prepare needed items for local organizations.

Embrace Living Communities, based in Oak Brooke, Ill., not only extends its quality of service to its housing communities; it also builds quality relationships with people and organizations in the wider community. Its Rockford Communities is just one example.

A common misconception about older adult affordable housing is that the properties are not well maintained, says John Diehl, senior advisor at Embrace Living. “However, if you visit any of our properties, you’ll see that this isn’t the case,” he says. “We have had some first-time visitors entering our Rockford area properties and say, ‘This feels more like a five-star hotel than an affordable housing community.’ We work hard to make our communities stand out as being well maintained.”

One of the ways Rockford and the other Embrace Living communities accomplish this is through well-managed properties. “I process everything through the filter of ‘If my parents or grandparents were living at this facility, how would I want it run? How would I want it to look? How would I want the employees to interact with them?’” says Diehl. “Once you start processing your management style through the lens of ‘We are family, taking care of family,’ you will begin to focus on making that extra effort to develop an exceptionally well maintained, friendly, welcoming living environment. We strive to develop our building grounds to the point where we are recognized within the local community as being one of the best maintained, best run housing communities in the area.”

Partnering with local community organizations is also important, both to Embrace Living Communities and their surrounding locales. Diehl and his team have helped facilitate several partnerships at four of the Rockford area communities. Those partnerships include Northern Illinois Food Bank, which delivers pantry items and fresh produce to the Rockford area properties once a month; Heritage Woods, which provides wellness programs to residents; the Cares Program at Mercy Health at Home, which helps connect residents to care services related to such things as housekeeping, shopping and transportation; a local podiatrist, who comes on-site to provide foot care; the local Comcast office, which offers Internet Essentials, a low-cost, high-speed internet program to both new and existing customers; Rock Valley Center for Learning, which provides a host of educational and affordable recreational programming for seniors; and a local licensed clinical social worker, who help residents deal with health concerns as well as grief and aging concerns.

“We’re always looking for new partnerships that can help us address the needs of our residents,” says Diehl. “Our goal is that we want residents to be able to live long, live strong and engage in healthy aging.”

Not Just Receiving, But Giving, Too

But the partnerships within the local community are not all one way. Some Embrace Living Communities residents also pursue volunteer opportunities to give back to the local community. During the height of the pandemic, Rockford residents wanted to help support the healthcare workers who were working on the front lines in the emergency rooms and COVID-19 wards. These residents raised funds and then distributed healthy snack baskets to the first and second shift health care workers at the area hospital.

Rockford residents also participate in many other programs in their local communities including a penpal program called “Grandfriends,” where they connect with local girl and boy scout troops for games; and donating food and household items to MELD, a Transition Living Program providing housing, education and life skills to young pregnant or young parenting women.

Residents also donate daily necessities and food items to Rock House Kids, an after-school program for at-risk children. They help serve meals to homeless persons at Carpenter’s Place, have donated clothing items to students with special needs at local schools, and participate in fundraising efforts for the Rockford Crisis Pregnancy Center, St. Jude’s, and the Wounded Warriors program.

The combination of communities partners and residents acting as good neighbors in their communities is a win-win, says Diehl. “The definition of a good neighbor is someone who is friendly, welcoming and who keeps their home, or in our case, our retirement communities, in a clean, well-kept, appealing manner,” he says. “Our vision is to provide affordable, welcoming homes for all actively aging adults.”

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