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Career pivot impacts lives at local senior living community

Kelli Bailey, community outreach liaison at Santa Marta retirement community in Olathe, had to reinvent herself as face-to-face meetings became impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic. She turned to social media to connect with families unable to see residents in person, despite having no previous professional experience as a social media manager. PHOTO COURTESY OF SANTA MARTA

OLATHE — When COVID-19 struck, Kelli Bailey found herself in a predicament.

As the community outreach liaison at Santa Marta, her role involved helping seniors and families determine how the Catholic-sponsored retirement community in Olathe could address their health care needs. This traditionally requires daily in-person meetings and networking, which were out of the question due to restrictions.

“Being unable to do the work I love was daunting, so I knew I had to reinvent myself,” explained Bailey.

With on-campus visits prohibited, Santa Marta had to use social media to connect with families unable to see residents in person. Despite no previous professional experience, Bailey independently stepped up to manage the community’s Facebook page.

“It’s unfortunate that the best thing you can do for your loved ones during this pandemic is to not see them,” said Bailey. “This is scary, so it became incredibly important to share what’s going on behind the scenes online.

“Pictures of Mom and Dad being engaged, laughing, and enjoying life bring peace of mind during this challenging time.”

To ensure her social media posts were up to par, Bailey took an online photography course. Her shift to the de facto social media manager has had a positive impact on community relations during this period of uncertainty.

Residents and team members are excited to be featured on Facebook, she’s found. Residents who previously had no social media presence have even signed up for accounts on the platform so they can participate in online conversations.

“Not only do we have cheerleaders at Santa Marta; we are embraced outside the community as well,” said Bailey. “We have a pretty engaged fan base of family members who are eager to share positive comments and show gratitude for what we are doing to keep everyone healthy and safe.”

The numbers bear this out, with the Santa Marta Facebook page recently surpassing 1,000 likes — a 233% increase from just two years ago. Bailey’s contributions have undoubtedly helped the community reach this milestone. 

“Social media is all about building human connections, so Kelli’s background is a natural fit for it,” said Marsha Anderson, sales and marketing director at Santa Marta. “Her self-initiated pivot to this new role speaks volumes about the dedication of our team members. We’re thankful for all her ongoing efforts.”

Eventually, COVID-19 will pass, and Bailey will revert fully back to her original responsibilities as community outreach liaison. However, she is confident the Facebook page will be in good hands once she relinquishes the reins.

“My colleagues are enthusiastic about helping me capture moments for social media, so I have no doubt whoever takes over will be just as passionate as I am,” said Bailey.

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The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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