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Dream catchers

Dedicated staff helps Oak Crest residents pursue their passions

Created date

July 28th, 2015
Oak Crest staff
Oak Crest staff

Catherine Cohen is passionate about helping people. So when the chance to help the creative, enthusiastic residents of Oak Crest discover their passions came about, it was just the opportunity she was looking for. Now, as resident life director at the Parkville, Md., Erickson Living community, Cohen and her team provide support to more than 170 resident-run groups on campus. 

“Resident life is the heartbeat of the community,” says Cohen. “We try to get people to be engaged and stay active and continue to live fulfilling lives. That’s our focus.” 

Together with her team in the community resources department, Cohen facilitates whatever Oak Crest community members need to accomplish their goals.

“Residents come to us and talk about their vision for an idea, and we connect them with Oak Crest staff who can help them put together a plan to get their group started, iron out the kinks, and spread the word,” says Cohen.

Sky’s the limit

Whatever your interest, chances are Oak Crest already has a club for it. Interested in trying your hand at woodworking? How about quilting, painting, acting, or model yacht racing? 

Everything from book clubs and computers to bocce and billiards can be found in Oak Crest’s community resources catalog. And if your hobbies and interests aren’t listed, it’s easy to start your own club. Cohen and her team are happy to help. 

Contrary to the title, “resident life” doesn’t only apply to Oak Crest residents. Cohen reaches out to future residents on the priority list, giving them a preview of what life is like at the community. 

“We interact with you from the moment you decide to join the priority list,” says Cohen. “Once you move to Oak Crest, we then welcome you at an orientation for new community members.”

In addition to the community resources department, which supports Oak Crest residents in bringing their ideas to life, Cohen oversees several other departments that fall under resident life, including pastoral ministries, home health, the community television network WOCV-TV, resident services, and the wellness department, which includes the on-site fitness and indoor aquatics center. 

A licensed clinical social worker, Cohen earned her bachelor of science in psychology from the State University of New York and a master’s in social work from the University of Maryland. 

She started her career at Oak Crest in 1996 as a resident services coordinator. After a brief hiatus at home to care for her newborn daughter, Cohen returned to Oak Crest where she served in a management role before being promoted to resident life director in March 2014, a role that she says is both rewarding and inspiring. 

Heart and soul

“Seeing residents doing things that I wouldn’t dream possible—running marathons, rappelling off the side of high rises, winning softball tournaments, finding love again—or just doing something they always wanted to do is wonderful,” says Cohen. “I truly believe in Oak Crest and the Erickson Living company and their mission. We encourage people to move to Oak Crest when they are still healthy and young enough to take advantage of all the amenities and activities. Life is for living, and you can do that here.”

Cohen, along with her husband of 20 years, resides in Cockeysville. She loves to spend time with her family, read, and has run more than 30 marathons and ultra-marathons (distances greater than 26.2 miles). 

She is an active member of the running community, frequently volunteering at racing events in the area, and belongs to the Northern Central Railroad (NCR) Trail Snails, where she mentors other runners. 

“Everyone here has their own story, and we can learn so much from each of them. It’s wonderful to get to know them and hear their life story,” says Cohen. “The friendships and the bonds you create with the residents is by far the most rewarding part of the job. 

“I have had the opportunity to form relationships with people who are looking to live their life to the fullest. I really enjoy the opportunity to affect someone’s life in a positive way—whether it is an Oak Crest resident, their family member, or staff. So many wonderful acts of kindness happen every day here—it makes all the work we do worthwhile.”