Sister Mary Caritas Geary, a member of the St. Joseph of the Pines Board of Directors who has been affiliated with the nonprofit since 1969, has received the Excellence in Governance award from LeadingAge North Carolina.

“I was very surprised and honored just to be nominated because it was so unexpected,” said Caritas, who is 95 years old. “I’ve spent my entire career in health care and have been happily devoted to St. Joseph of the Pines for a long time. I’m a firm believer in the community-based services and programs that SJP provides in addition to providing excellent care to its residents.”

St. Joseph of the Pines President Tim Buist said he could think of “no one more deserving” of the award than Sister Caritas.

“She has always been a strong proponent of our ministries, especially those for the poor,” Buist said. “Her leadership has been instrumental in helping St. Joseph of the Pines fulfill its mission. Our gratitude can be seen, in part, at The Caritas Center, a special care unit at our assisted living building that houses residents in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.”

While serving her first term on the SJP board from 1969 to 1971, Sister Caritas had the vision that led to the nonprofits’ current focus on the long-term care of older adults rather than maintaining SJP as an acute care hospital.

Sister Caritas served a second term on the board from 1977-2000 – a time period that includes the construction of the Belle Meade campus in Southern Pines – and began her current term in 2013.

“We are extremely thankful for her outstanding leadership over the past five decades,” Buist said. “Along with her strong track record of success, Sister Caritas remains humble, using her wit, charm and humor whenever she shares her life experiences with others and how she has seen the providence of God leading her life. We are truly blessed to have her as an advocate.”

Sister Caritas was one of four award winners for St. Joseph of the Pines. The others were Cassandra Craven, recreation and wellness coordinator at The Coventry, for Service Excellence; Kimberly Morton, director of assisted living, for Emerging Leader; and the new TeleHealth Services program at The Health Center for Excellence in Innovation.

“We are extremely humbled to be recognized by our peers,” Buist said. “At the same time, we are proud that our colleagues have been honored for their hard work and dedication to our residents and to our mission of being a transforming and healing presence within our community.”

The awards were presented May 8 at the LeadingAge North Carolina Spring Conference & Trade Show in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The Service Excellence Award honors those in direct service, either as employees or volunteers, who demonstrate extraordinary talent, expertise, and dedication in provision of exceptional service to residents.

“It is amazing to be recognized for what I consider my honor and duty for our residents and my colleagues,” Craven said. “The people make St. Joseph of the Pines such a special place to work and I feel lucky to be able to serve them.”

The Emerging Leader Award is given to an individual at the early or mid-stage of their career who has demonstrated aptitude for and commitment to professional growth as a leader and who has within the last five years expanded leadership responsibilities within a LeadingAge North Carolina member organization.

“What a pleasant surprise,” Morton said. “I am thankful to St. Joseph of the Pines for consistently providing me with opportunities to grow professionally, which has enabled me to take better care of our residents and strengthened my leadership abilities with colleagues.”

The Excellence in Innovation Award recognizes programs and/or best practices implemented by a member facility that enhance mission, improve service, inspire dedication, and/or demonstrate willingness to take risk (and even fail) in the pursuit of expanded possibilities for aging.

“TeleHealth is an important step in providing excellent care for residents at The Health Center,” said Robert Dickson, vice president of health services for St. Joseph of the Pines. “It allows us to keep a resident from having to go to the emergency room to see a provider. By eliminating unnecessary trips to the emergency room, the provider is already at the bedside via the TeleHealth robot and can direct the care given by our colleagues.”

The awards are presented annually by LeadingAge, a statewide organization comprised of continuing care retirement communities, assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities, and affordable housing providers.
The awards are intended to inspire forward thinking, to foster professional aspiration, and to encourage creativity and dedication that will be required to continue expanding the possibilities for aging in the future.

Mary John-Williams, assistant director for LIFE at St. Joseph of the Pines in Fayetteville, has been selected to be a Fellow in the LeadingAge North Carolina Leadership Academy.

John-Williams started the intensive year-long program after the convention. The program is designed to develop statewide aging services leaders and Fellows are mentored by a faculty of coaches from the field.

“I am excited to start the program because I hear that it is a tremendous experience,” she said. “The challenges we face demand innovative solutions and I look forward to learning from some of the most thoughtful leaders in our field.”

Courtesy photo: Pictured from left to right are Kimberly Morton, Robert Dickson, Sister Mary Caritas Geary, Cassandra Craven and Carron Casillas.



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