Cross Keys Village – The Brethren Home Community is a historic community that provides a wide range of senior living services to older adults during all stages of life after retirement. Based in New Oxford, Pennsylvania, Cross Keys Village is the largest single-site non-profit retirement community in the state, and the eighth largest in the country. Since 1908, they have been dedicated to enriching the lives of area elders. Their service offering has vastly expanded over those years – in addition to skilled nursing and rehab, they offer four styles of Residential Living, Personal Care, Memory Care, Adult Day Services and Memory & Caregiving Education. But the essence of their mission has never changed.
That mission currently reads: “A Brethren ministry dedicated to enriching the lives of older adults.”
Mindy Becker is the Communications and Gift Officer for Cross Keys Village, and has been with the organization since 2007. In her time there, she has observed continuous improvement, especially in two facets of the organization: workforce engagement and the quality of life of residents. She has also noticed a change in the perception of the village, likely as a result of that improvement.
“The image has definitely evolved,” she says. “People younger and younger are moving here. Thankfully, they don’t see us as the depressing stereotype of a retirement home.”
“People come here in their early retirement years and they just fall in love,” she adds.
One of the ways Cross Keys Village is changing perceptions, Mindy says, is through their philosophy of ‘living with a purpose.’ They give residents choice, she explains, including the choice of various ways to stay active and productive. Every season, they offer countless courses, classes, exercise programs, trips, groups, art, crafts, music, gardening, worship, and more volunteer opportunities than any other retirement community. These options are all available for residents on any given day, allowing them to fully customize their retirement living experience.
Cross Keys Village has a range of Residential Living accommodations to suit various budgets and lifestyles. The campus includes an apartment building, cottages, larger Bridgewater homes, and the upcoming ‘Hearthside’ residences – beautiful new buildings that will feature 10 flats each, all with garage space.
The same notion of choice applies in the village’s main Health Care building, called Mission Point, for residents who need personal care or skilled nursing care.
“In elder care, it used to be: ‘This is the time to eat, and this is what you’re having,’’ Mindy recalls. “Not anymore, at least not with us. Here, residents have control over their choices. They choose when they get out of bed, when they want to start their day, whether or not they want to sit in the dining hall and socialize or whether they prefer to spend time alone.”
“It’s all about person-centered care here,” she says in summary.
That person-centric care is a large part of what sets Cross Keys Village apart. There are other differentiators, too. For example, while “most communities are at a premium for space,” according to Mindy, “Cross Keys Village spreads out over 334 acres, giving residents ample breathing space and privacy.”
There’s also the value factor: Cross Keys offers “the solid range of programs you would expect in Lancaster or Philadelphia,” Mindy says, “but at Adams County rates.”
Furthermore, “Cross Keys Village offers memory care expertise throughout its range of services, and has evolved into the region’s premier provider of memory care services and education.”
Then there are the staff members – who are highly competent and dedicated at all levels, Mindy says, from the caregivers to the team in the billing office. “From award-winning chefs, to licensed nurses, from talented landscape artists, to personal trainers and therapists,” she says, “A 725-strong team is at the disposal of those who call Cross Keys home.”
The right people
Mindy joined Cross Keys Village as a Certified Nursing Assistant in 2007, working the nightshift for six years while she earned a degree. When a position opened up in the Volunteer Services Department in 2013, she eagerly seized the opportunity. A couple years later, she ascended to her current position. She says that in each of her roles, she has been surrounded by the “right people” – people have pushed her professionally and given her opportunities to grow.
This kind of experience with Cross Keys Village is not unusual. In fact, the vast majority of employees report feeling welcome at the company, feeling good about the work they do, and feeling like they make a difference.
However, Cross Keys Village recognizes that retaining people – nurses in particular, given the nationwide shortage – is an ongoing challenge, and they want to do everything they can to be an employer of choice.
That’s why, in 2016, the organization created a new position they called ‘Champion of Employee Engagement.’
In announcing the mew role at that time, President & CEO Jeff Evans wrote that at Cross Keys Village, “We are absolutely passionate about our workplace culture. We strive each day to foster unity, positive energy, fulfillment, and joy as we achieve our mission to enrich the lives of older adults. Our culture development efforts are focused on employee engagement and development of our managers through servant-leadership principles. Our workplace spirit fosters enjoyment and fulfillment as we go about the challenging work of health care.”
The new position was created to support the ongoing development of the corporate culture, as well as to serve as a “storyteller” – so that the “many wonderful acts of compassion, love, and devotion by team members” that happen every day do not go unnoticed.
“Our Champion gathers stories from the front lines of our spirit in action and then communicates them in different ways for all to hear,” Jeff wrote.
The role was also created to give employees an advocate. As part of her job description, the Champion of Employee Engagement seeks to open communication pathways at all organizational levels, promote conversation and feedback, and improve employee access to information.
“This new position is a significant step in fostering a great place to work and serve,” Jeff concluded.
Moving forward, Cross Keys Village is refining and expanding their already-exceptional senior living environment. As previously mentioned, they are in the process of creating their new ‘Hearthside’ residential program. Each Hearthside building will contain 10 generously-sized models with garage space, and will be designed to evoke local architecture.
“In the Adams County area, we have beautiful stone farmhouses, which people have added on to over the years,” Mindy explains. “That’s what Hearthside will feel like. It will match the architecture and the tradition here.”
The individual models within Hearthside will include “country living” touches, she adds – such as a farm sink in the kitchen, and the use of barn doors. At the same time, the models have also been designed to incorporate oversized storage, large bathrooms and tiled showers, high ceilings, and lots of light to suit the wishes of today’s retirees. The first Hearthside homes are expected to be move-in ready for new residents in 2020.
Cross Keys Village will also be improving their existing facilities. Many of these upgrades are at the suggestion of the Village Council, which is made up of villager-representatives from the different neighborhoods. In order to prioritize projects, Cross Keys leadership solicits feedback from the council regularly.
Moving forward, both restaurants in the Harmony Ridge Community Center will be expanded to meet the needs of the growing number of residents – one restaurant will double in size, and will include a new “open kitchen,” where diners can experience the food be freshly prepared in front of their eyes.
The village will also expand its cultural arts and wellness facilities. In their community center, for instance, they are creating a new hallway called the ‘Avenue of the Arts.’ One side of the hallway will feature windows looking out into the beautiful courtyard. The other side will feature new meeting spaces and leisure rooms. There will also be a new creative arts room, as well as a new theatre classroom with approximately 100 seats with reclining chairs.
On the wellness side, the organization has plans to expand their current cardio room, and to expand their studio area where they conduct wellness classes. They also plan to add more showers and locker room space.
Mindy explains that the organization will continue to improve structurally and programmatically, always looking for ways to enhance the quality of their services and the engagement of their team. Their goal remains the same as ever – and if there’s a better way to enrich lives, they aim to find it.To learn more about Cross Keys Village and their service offering – as well as more on their culture of life enrichment and purposeful living – visit https://www.crosskeysvillage.org/