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A true calling

Kera Wooten’s career change a plus for Ashby Ponds

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September 22nd, 2014
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style="font-size:0.923em; line-height:1.5em">A Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., is pleased to announce the promotion of Kera Wooten from restaurant manager to director of dining services. 

“I am truly looking forward to continuing to serve the residents of Ashby Ponds and shaping the future of the community’s dining program,” she says.

In her new role, Wooten will oversee a staff of over 130 employees, including chefs, restaurant managers, service managers, catering staff, and servers at Ashby Ponds’ full-service restaurant and café, as well as an upcoming new restaurant, Windows, opening next year.

An epiphany

Wooten began working in a retirement community as a young girl. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the experience would prove invaluable to her future career. 

“As a teenager, I performed a very similar job to the one the teens working as servers in dining services at Ashby Ponds perform today,” she says. “But I always thought my career would be behind a big boardroom table in a big city high-rise. But as a friend of mine said, ‘Make a plan and God laughs.’ He had other plans for me.”

After college, Wooten worked briefly at a bank before quickly realizing that the position did not fulfill her in the ways she wished. 

“I found that I felt most comfortable visiting the retirement community where I had worked during high school and college,” she says.  “I often visited with the residents and reconnected with the leaders who had taught me dining basics.”

Deciding to leave her banking career behind, Wooten went to work as a dining services manager at Marriott International-Senior Living Services before accepting the position of restaurant manager at Greenspring, an Erickson Living community in Springfield, Va., in 2000. 

Rising through the ranks

During her years at Greenspring, Wooten rose through the ranks from restaurant manager to staff development manager to service manager. 

“I had a strong desire to influence change, develop leaders, and create successful programs,” she says.  “One of the ways I did that was to help out other Erickson Living communities when they experienced gaps in leadership. That is exactly how I was afforded the opportunity to come to Ashby Ponds. 

“I joined the team to lend a hand in the absence of a restaurant manager,” she adds, “and in the end, became the community’s new director of dining services. I am excited to lead the Ashby Ponds dining program through its next phase of growth.”

Over the next few months, Wooten’s focus will be on opening Windows Restaurant in the Willows Crossing neighborhood. Unlike other meal options at Ashby Ponds, meals at Windows will be served along with sides selected by the chef in an effort to heighten the flavor profile of the entrée.

“The opening of Windows will add a new dimension to Ashby Ponds dining,” says Wooten.  “My number one goal when it comes to dining at Ashby Ponds is to understand the residents’ needs, provide a quality product, and do it all while having fun. That means expanding dining options and hosting fun dining events.”

Giving back

Away from work, Wooten’s priority is giving back, especially to the youth in the community. She has served as the chair of family and consumer services for Fairfax County Public Schools and as a board member for the Ronald McDonald House of Northern Virginia.

“I started volunteering early in life and remember my father telling me that if I shared my gifts with the community, the community would grow,” she says. “So that’s what I strive to do both within the community and at Ashby Ponds. To me that is a win!”

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