New Inter-Faith adminstrator realizes life’s goalConnie Anderson just checked off the final item on her “bucket list.” “I read a book years ago called ‘Write it Down, Make it Happen,’” she explained. “It says if you write down your goals ,you’re more likely to meet them.”
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Connie Anderson just checked off the final item on her “bucket list.”
“I read a book years ago called ‘Write it Down, Make it Happen,’” she explained. “It says if you write down your goals ,you’re more likely to meet them.”
So, Anderson created her own list, writing down all sorts of things from getting a camper and boat so she and her husband could go camping and fishing to becoming a gourmet cook. It included a little of everything, including both personal and career goals. One by one, she set about making them happen.
“When I came across the list about six years ago,” she related, “the only thing on it I hadn’t done yet was to become a nursing home administrator. It was really something to find that after 15 years, I had done everything else on my list, but that was still hanging out there.”
A couple of weeks ago, that dream came true. Anderson is the newly-appointed administrator of Inter-Faith Care Center in Carlton, replacing retired administrator Larry Penk after his remarkable 28-year tenure at the long-term care facility.
“To follow someone of Larry’s caliber is inspiring,” Anderson said. “My hope is that I can continue the good work he was doing here, build on that and do good work, too. It’s hard to replace someone after 28 years. He’s done such a terrific job.”
Anderson hasn’t exactly been sitting around waiting for her dream to come true, however. Hers has been more of an effort in self-determination, one that began back when she was still in high school.
She grew up in Prior Lake, and the year her dad retired and her parents moved to McGregor just happened to be her senior year in high school.
“I finished out the year living alone in a travel trailer in Shakopee so I could finish with my class,” she said. “I was an honor student and in student council, and I guess my parents thought I could do it. I was busy going to school, working and saving money for college. Looking back,” she added with a chuckle, “I never would have let my kids do that!”
During high school, she worked three jobs – at an ice cream shop, a toy store and a plastics factory.
“I went from school to work and then I worked all weekend, too,” she said. “Then I stayed there that summer following graduation and worked at Gedneys, smashing all the big cucumbers with a wooden mallet for pickle relish!”
Anderson attended college at Winona State and Mankato State universities, earning her degree in recreational therapy and psychology. During the summers, she went home to McGregor and was working at a paint store when the state park manager approached her and asked if she would be willing to help lifeguard at Savannah Portage State Park, which she did.
It was one of those summers that she met her husband Tom, a native of Tamarack, while she was life guarding.
“He never talked with me for a long time,” she said, “but finally he came up with his dog. After that, he started bringing dinner – and here we are, 34 years later!”
Anderson also worked as waterfront director at a camp for the developmentally disabled and taught private swimming lessons for three summers as well.
She graduated from college in 1977, and she and Tom were married a week later. She went to work at the Moose Lake Treatment Center as a recreation therapist.
“My first job I worked with the profoundly retarded,” she said, “and then I quit in order to start our family. I was off for 10 years because I decided to be a stay-at-home mom.”
She then went back to Moose Lake Treatment Center and worked with patients who were acutely
“We decided since we had a young family, and the fact that Moose Lake was going to change the facility into a prison,
it was time for a change,” said Anderson.
One day her husband brought home an employment advertisement for a position at what was then called the Itasca Nursing Home in Grand Rapids (now known as Grand Village), and she was hired there as a recreation therapist.
As the years went by, her job changed and she worked in fund development, marketing, grant writing, and many other aspects of operating a long-term care facility.
“I tried to take advantage of whatever came my way,” she said.
She was there for 15 years and soon realized that working in long-term care was her true calling.
“I don’t think I realized until the age of about 40 what I really wanted to be when I grew up,” she admitted. “Working at Itasca, and later at Evergreen Terrace, I found that I have a passion for working in long-term care.”
After leaving Itasca Nursing Home/Grand Village, Anderson worked for a time as a social service director at a nursing home in Buhl before being hired as assistant administrator at Evergreen Terrace in Grand Rapids. There, she was offered the opportunity to go back to school to gain her licensure. She took classes through the University of Minnesota in nursing home/ health care administration as part of a program for professionals in long-term care.
“It was probably the most fun experience I’ve ever had – going back to school at age 49,” she said. “I was nervous the very first day, but it was so exciting and so much fun, and I got so much more out of it. When you’re in your 20s and you go to college, you spend a lot of time wondering if you’ll ever use the things they teach you and asking ‘Why are they teaching me this?’ It was really a great opportunity they made possible for me, and I will be forever indebted to the company for doing that for me.”
She had her first interview for the job as administrator at Inter-Faith Care Center last spring, on May 20 – “The day our youngest granddaughter was born!” she exclaimed – and was offered the job just before the Fourth of July.
From that time on, the wheels were in motion as Anderson prepared to change jobs, change communities – and realize her life-long dream.
“My husband and I came in to take an informal tour [of Inter-Faith Care Center] the Saturday before I started work here,” said Anderson, “and I was so surprised there were so many families here. It was really, really nice. Everybody was happy and visiting, and I think that says something. It’s beautiful here, but it isn’t always just about bricks and mortar – it’s about who’s here. The board is great, the volunteers are great and the family members are so friendly. It’s a really nice environment to be in.”
Anderson’s first day on the job was Wednesday, July 27, and since then she has been busy getting acclimated to her new responsibilities. She is out on the floor every day, making rounds to visit all of the residents and getting to know the people who work there.
Right now, a typical day for her is at least 10 hours long when she factors in drive time, since she is still commuting daily from McGregor.
“We’d like to move here and are exploring that option,” she said. “In the meantime, I’m looking for a nice little rental where I would feel safe. I want to become part of the area and involved in the community.”
Anderson and her husband have three sons, ages 32, 30 and 28. Their youngest, Kyle, is stationed in Kuwait with the Red Bulls of the National Guard, helping to support and assist with the draw-down of troops there.
“We’re very proud of him,” she said. “My dad would have been so proud, too – he was a two-time
veteran, serving in Korea and World War II. He knew that at some point Kyle would be deployed somewhere with the Guards, but he died before that happened.”
Anderson said her “favorite thing in life” is to go fishing and camping with her husband, and she’s also an avid reader and loves to spend time with her kids and grandkids. She said she also loves to work, which explains that becoming a nursing home administrator was at the top of her “bucket list.” And though she’s only been at Inter-Faith for a short time, she said she already feels as though she’s part of a close-knit family.
“We are fortunate here [at Inter-Faith Care Center],” she reflected. “I can tell, even after only two weeks here, we have a tremendous, wonderful staff here. A lot of them have been here for a long time, and that says something right there.”
In the meantime, Anderson has started a new “bucket list,” and chances are it has a lot to do with her new life and career in Carlton County.
“This is my last stop,” she said. “I have found a home here.”