Spirituality, staff help residents thrive at Santa Marta

Jeff Hohman (center) of Santa Marta prepares a ride for residents Buck and Marie Weafer. PHOTO BY DAVE DUNN

OLATHE — “He’s my Santa Marta son,” said Marie Weafer, a resident at the Catholic retirement community here for seven years.

She’s referring to Jeff Hohman, lead driver in the transportation department at Santa Marta. It’s not something you hear customers say about staff at most businesses, but the bonds at Santa Marta run deep. 

“They go beyond the call of duty and it’s such a wonderful feeling to know they care so much,” added Weafer. 

Hohman and his transportation team make a dozen or more trips a day, taking residents to appointments, shopping excursions, specialty dinners and other places.  

“We’re punctual and want it to be a good experience for them,” said Hohman. “We get to know them well — it’s professionalism with some feelings, respect and compassion.” 

“Sure, getting paid is nice, but more rewarding is helping older adults,” he added. “I love the people we’re around.” 

In late June at the annual staff celebration, associates enjoyed a catered lunch and summer gifts, like sunshades for their car windshields and baseball caps with Santa Marta logos. 

“There is a lot of great camaraderie among associates here, and the appreciation shown is considerable,” said Hohman. “More importantly, I couldn’t be happier with leadership at Santa Marta for giving us the tools we need to provide a good experience for residents.”

Sometimes, tools aren’t tangible things like comfortable transportation cars or other equipment. They’re more spiritual and supportive in nature. 

“If they’re going to a doctor’s appointment to get some test results, we’ll say a prayer for them that things go well,” said Hohman. “We’re not being called to ask to pray, but we pray that things will go OK. It’s support in a respectful way and you have to be sensitive.” 

“They’re all like part of your family,” Weafer said. “From gestures and words of encouragement from staff to daily Mass with Father Frank [Burger], the spirituality here is fantastic. And it’s been especially helpful over the past year or so.” 

Weafer, other residents and associates at Santa Marta credit executive director Chet Surmaczewicz for setting the tone.  

“We’re blessed to have an uplifting culture with strong bonds among those who live, work or spend time at our community,” Surmaczewicz said. “Anyone who has an interest in exploring the range of career options we offer is more than welcome to connect with us.”

“It takes strong, kind people to make a place successful, and they have it here,” said Weafer. “A little honey goes a long way and there’s a lot of honey here.” 

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The Leaven

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

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