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Forging a bond

Ashby Ponds’ strong staff-resident relationships earn ‘Top Workplace’ recognition

Created date

September 25th, 2015
Ashby Ponds resident and staff
Ashby Ponds resident and staff

The strong partnership between community members and staff at , an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., provides an unbeatable quality of life based on respect, camaraderie, and a genuine caring for each other’s best interests.

“Ashby Ponds should get an award,” says community member Sue Vitale. “Not only do my husband and I enjoy the amazing services, but the staff seem perfectly matched with the people who live here.”

It seems The Washington Post agrees. This summer, the newspaper named Erickson Living, Ashby Ponds’ community manager and developer, a 2015 Washington Post Top Workplace.

“It is an honor to be recognized as a Washington Post Top Workplace,” says Ashby Ponds Executive Director David Gallagher. “Our employees demonstrate a passionate commitment to providing superior care and service to those who call Ashby Ponds home. It is that dedication that sets us apart and allows us to achieve our mission of helping our residents live better lives.”

“I am not surprised at the high rating of Erickson Living,” says community member Bruce Vernor. “The staff at Ashby Ponds are always happy. I think Ashby Ponds attracts high quality staff members because of honest recruiting and a management that listens. I always receive cooperation when I make a request.”

Staff that go above and beyond

While Ashby Ponds staff members enjoy employment in a top Washington, D.C.-area workplace, they show their appreciation through performance of their duties. Hundreds of residents cherish personal stories of the various ways in which their lives were bettered thanks to the thoughtfulness of a staff member.

“Recently, my husband Glenn and I were having an emergency with some medical equipment,” says community member Joan Lehman. 

“Then, I ran into [security guard] Kevin Gonzalez going past our door and described our problem to him. He turned right around, came into our apartment, and fixed the problem. This was not the first time that Kevin has resolved an issue for us. He is just a gem to all of us.”

Other community members, like Barbara Hanson, enjoy a working relationship with various staff. As a member of the dining services committee, she regularly interacts with members of the dining services staff, all of whom exceed her expectations.

“I work closely with Director of Dining Services Kera Wooten, and I must give special kudos to her,” she says. “I also enjoy working with Margo DeLong and Elisabeth Longworth in community services. They help resident groups plan many events. Their patience and attitude are always tops. Ashby Ponds has a marvelous staff.”

Answering back

At Ashby Ponds, where staff care for the community members they serve, the community members go above and beyond to care for their staff members. This unique relationship reinforces the bond between staff and residents. 

Each year, residents voluntarily donate to the Staff Appreciation Fund as a way of saying thanks to the community’s non-management hourly employees. In 2014, 82% of all residents donated $137,570, which was awarded to 320 employees.

Eligible employees include wait staff, security officers, communication and administrative staff, banquet servers, maintenance workers, culinary team members, housekeepers, and the special projects crew. 

“We are not able to tip or give gifts to the staff, but we enjoy being generous with our staff appreciation donations each fall,” says Joan. “A few years ago, a group of cleaning staff were caught dancing in the ladies room after receiving their gifts. One of the women said she’d never had that much money at one time. I do not know what that amount was, but it still makes me smile when I remember that story.”

In addition to the annual Staff Appreciation Fund, community members find other creative ways to thank their generous staff members. For the past six years, a group of retired educators has collected funds to buy school supplies—based on lists provided by the school districts—for the children of hourly employees. 

Ashby Ponds community members also show their commitment to the youngest employees through the annual Scholars’ Fund. Since 2010, the fund has raised more than $325,000 in support of 57 student employees. Each $4,000 scholarship is paid directly to the college or trade school of the student’s choice.

Kindness pays off

The supportive relationship between community members and staff at Ashby Ponds creates a positive environment that is felt from the moment you walk through the front doors.

“When we first moved into Ashby Ponds in December 2008, we were immediately impressed with the congeniality of the staff,” says Joan. “And then we noticed that this congeniality extended to the residents, too. I remember asking if we all had to pass a niceness test before moving in. That’s how pleasant it is to live at Ashby Ponds.”

In typical neighborly fashion, Bruce agrees. 

“I continually remark on the very thoughtful, pleasant, nice residents we have at Ashby Ponds,” he says. “I am hard-pressed to explain how we recruit such nice residents, but maybe being nice is catching.”