Geurt Van Sant is a man who likes to work, likes to be helpful. His move to Hearthstone: A Ministry of Wesley Life in Pella, IA was not going to change that. “I’m going to be doing something until the day I have to crawl to get out to the yard to help,” he said. “I enjoy doing that kind of work – work that just has to be done.”
So, maintenance man Steve Scull asks Geurt to help him pick up sticks, rake leaves and paint the fence on the grounds. Together, they go for walks and have a coffee break. “He doesn’t like to be tied up inside,” Steve said of Geurt. Steve enjoys talking with Geurt who tells him about the chores he’s done in his life and his time in the service. Steve and Geurt have lived in neighboring towns and they share stories about the common people and places they know.
“I’ve always made it part of my job to talk to people,” Steve said. Because of this, Steve volunteered for the Meaningful Life action team as part of Hearthstone’s transformation. Having someone from maintenance on this action team highlights opportunities like these for Geurt and involves staff who don’t regularly have interaction with residents so that they, too, have a chance to grow relationships.
Geurt helps the kitchen staff too. “I’ve been doing dishes all my life,” he said, recalling how his father would instruct him, his brothers and sisters to clean up after dinner. “So, I thought, what the heck, I’ll find out if there are rules or regulations and help. “ He does; three times a day, every day. Activities Assistant, Katie Wiersma said staff trained him on the use of gloves and where to find cleaning supplies. The kitchen staff appreciate it, and as Geurt said, the job gets done ten minutes faster. He is a man who appreciates efficiency in a job well done.
Geurt, 88, prides himself on having stayed in good physical condition. “If I can do it,” he said, “I might as well do it.” So his helping out allows him to stay active and strong in the ways he can and helps him to continue to live out his values. “I was brought up that if somebody needed help, you helped,” he said.
Steph Kilen has been writing about culture change since 2004. Her work at Action Pact has included writing and editing for Culture Change Now magazine and the website www.actionpact.com, as well as writing and editing workbooks, video scripts, books, blogs, webinars and curricula.