Local Leadership Empowers Senior Living Residents

Community Life
Jill Vitale Aussem, Local Leadership in Senior Living

Posted: March 7, 2024

Holly Creek’s parent organization – Christian Living Communities (CLC) – was founded right here in south Denver in 1972. With a vision of “creating communities where aging is honored and celebrated,” CLC’s family of senior living communities impacts the lives of more than 1,500 Coloradans each day.

CLC is revolutionizing aging services by fostering cultures of citizenship and belonging, and is encouraging other senior living communities to do the same.

While our leaders are often called upon as national experts, mentors, and partners, they are right here in town. Our leaders know Holly Creek residents, and vice versa. They listen to and partner with residents, sharing a deep understanding of our unique community and how to make it stronger.

CLC Senior Living Local Leadership

“What makes Holly Creek special are the residents,” reflects CLC President and Chief Executive Officer Jill Vitale-Aussem. “They have incredible life experience that they want to – and do – put to use. They know they are part of the bigger picture of making the community better for everyone.”

Just 15 minutes up the road is the Christian Living Communities support office, where Jill, along with Chief Operating Officer Jayne Keller and CLC’s executive leadership team, are based. Both Jill and Jayne have deep ties to Holly Creek and our sister communities. In addition to her current role as CEO and previous role as Executive Director at another CLC community, Jill also has a unique perspective as a family member of a Holly Creek resident, her father.

“Holly Creek is a place where people look out for each other, and where residents surround each other with warmth and kindness,” Jill expresses. “My Dad can have as much influence in the community as he wants. And he found a place where his photography brings joy to other people.”

Jayne Keller, COO, previously served as Holly Creek’s Executive Director from 2011 to 2018. “Just like citizens of a town or city, each Holly Creek resident is responsible to their community through volunteerism, leading a committee, sharing a talent, organizing an event, educating peers, or providing support to a friend or neighbor,” she shares.

Chief Financial Officer Bryon Childs – whose parents are also residents at our sister community, Clermont Park – meets with Holly Creek’s resident Finance Committee every quarter. “The same information that is reported quarterly to CLC’s Board of Directors is also reported quarterly to Holly Creek residents,” Jill explains.

How Proximity Impacts Community Life

Having our executive leadership team right up the road offers tremendous benefits to both Holly Creek residents and leaders, but perhaps the greatest benefit is the opportunity to build strong relationships.

For Jayne, time spent in the community is irreplaceable. “If one of our communities needs support with a problem, or asks me to speak with a resident, family member, team member, or a committee, I have the flexibility to rearrange my schedule and drive no more than 15 minutes to participate in meaningful conversations with the citizens of the community,” she says. “Being a part of community life is my happy place. Having served as a nursing assistant, nursing home administrator, and Executive Director for more than 35 years, I know the importance of being present for our communities.”

Having both served as executive directors for CLC communities, Jill and Jayne have a profound understanding of what true community is. Jill adds, “Being accessible to Holly Creek – and being a family member – keeps me very connected to the humanity of our work.”

She also recognizes how distance can affect decision-making and alter one’s perspective. “The farther away you are, the easier it is to make decisions that are flawed, or make assumptions that aren’t true,” Jill says. “Hearing from folks directly impacts the way you think about things.”

The Christian Living Communities leadership team visits Holly Creek regularly – from formal quarterly meetings with resident committees to stopping in to talk with a resident about a particular topic or to support community events and celebrations.

“Having our leadership team so close fosters a deeper connection with residents, promotes community engagement, and enables more effective decision-making and problem-solving,” says Michelle Fraternali, Executive Director at Holly Creek. “It creates a supportive and responsive environment where the needs of residents are prioritized and addressed in a timely manner.”

Partnerships Between CLC’s Leadership the Holly Creek Community

CLC leadership’s relationships with Holly Creek residents and team members provide a foundation of respect and trust that helps our community thrive. Jill points out that the executive leadership team is intentional about ensuring the autonomy of each CLC community and supporting them in whichever ways they find most valuable. “We don’t want our communities to be cookie cutter,” Jill explains. “We have overarching organizational goals, but we rely on our local leadership teams and residents to determine the best route to get there.”

Ideas and feedback from Holly Creek residents aren’t just influential within our own community, but across the broader organization as well. These open lines of communication keep residents’ best interests at the forefront and allow great ideas to be passed along to and modified by other communities.

HC Silverton GalleryJayne recalls how she and residents partnered together to refresh Holly Creek’s Town Center when she served as Executive Director: “A resident approached me and asked if he could form an art committee to help select art for the community,” she recounts. “Of course, I agreed, as I valued their input. We met with a local designer who shared different types of artwork and the residents ranked what they saw. The designer used their input to select and purchase artwork that is still enjoyed today. This was so meaningful and purposeful for the resident artists that we continue to seek input from residents before any major changes are made to the décor of the community.”

This same approach can be seen at our sister communities as well. Residents are key stakeholders and influencers in community projects large and small, such as Someren Glen’s Independent & Assisted Living renovations and Dayspring Villa’s new community library.

Holly Creek’s Unique Senior Living Culture

In many organizations, culture is often fostered by the leadership team. What makes both Christian Living Communities and Holly Creek unique is that every individual – residents, family members, team members, and leadership – has a stake in the organization’s and community’s success and well-being.

HC Concierge DeskOne aspect of resident life at Holly Creek that Jill most appreciates is that residents look after team members. “Residents see that they have a role in making sure that team members are treated kindly and are happy in their careers,” Jill shares. That camaraderie and mutual respect contribute to low team member turnover rates, which then help to sustain the social bonds and thriving culture at Holly Creek, and so on.

During her time as Executive Director, Jayne was involved in Holly Creek’s Keepers Committee, a group of residents and team members who met monthly to focus on team member retention efforts. The group reviewed employee survey feedback, reasons for team members leaving the community, and citywide trends. “With this transparency, the committee was able to develop actionable plans to improve team member retention,” Jayne explains. “As things developed with the committee, a strong culture of responsibility, mutual respect, and grace started to take hold among all residents and team members. The formal committee has since dissolved, but the culture remains through day-to-day life at the community.”

The outcomes have been undeniable. While the average turnover in senior living and long-term care is around 70%, Holly Creek’s turnover in 2023 was just 34%.

Experience the Benefits of Local Leadership at a Senior Living Community

Every day at Holly Creek, we experience the benefits of having a local leadership team that knows and listens to our community members. Our culture of citizenship and sense of true community would not be the same without the trust, respect, and understanding that exists between all of our community members.

We invite you to join us on March 12th for a Lunch and Learn with CLC’s leadership team. Meet Jill, Jayne, Bryon, and more, and learn what sets us apart.

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Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is owned and managed by Christian Living Communities and is a full service life plan community. We offer active Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care as well as Skilled Nursing, and Rehabilitation. Holly Creek Active Senior Living Community is located in Centennial, Colorado and services the areas in and around Greenwood Village, Englewood, Columbine, Cherry Hills Village, Highlands Ranch, Lone Tree, Heritage Hills, Meridian, Dove Valley, Stonegate, Parker, Aurora, Lakewood, and South Denver. We also are an ideal senior community for those in the zip codes 80122, 80120, 80121, 80111, 80130, 80126, 80129, 80112, and 80124.

A Neighborhood of Christian Living Communities

Holly Creek Retirement Community adheres to all regulations as written in the Americans with Disabilities Act and The Fair Housing Act and accordingly prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, familial status, disability (whether it be mental or physical), or sex (including gender identity and sexual orientation).