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Look What Happens When One Person Dreams Big

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By Pam McDonald

Sean Tracy has unique talents and interests, and, in the process of pursuing them, he secured a job for himself, helped usher in a senior living Veterans Program, and aided in making dreams come true for four resident veterans.

It began with Sean’s abiding respect and affinity for veterans and his desire to demonstrate his gratitude for their service. A longtime Michigan resident, he began interviewing veterans at Story Point/Independence Villages senior living communities.

But Sean possesses a gift, he builds miniature replicas of military fighting vehicles – tanks, planes, trucks, and ships. He began videotaping resident veterans, documenting their stories, building military equipment models based on their service, and then gifts residents with their own personalized replica.

From A Hobby to A Career

Sean wanted to do more; he says, “After meeting so many amazing veterans, I felt compelled to become a caregiver to them.” He landed a position as a resident assistant at Independence Village Brighton Valley in 2014,

The community was home to a significant number of veterans. When he asked the Executive Director if he could continue pursuing his hobby at the community, he was met with a resounding, “Yes.”

A Company Culture of Saying “Yes”

He also was encouraged by the company’s CEO to take his efforts companywide, not surprising given Story Point/Independence Villages’ Employee First culture. They focus on creating the absolute best work experience for their employees, so they can provide the absolute best experience to residents, their families, and other team members.

StoryPoint and its sister company, Independence Villages, manage nearly 3,500 units throughout the Midwest, offering independent and assisted living as well as memory care in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky.

They inaugurated their Veterans Project in 2016, making this programming part of the resident experience at each community. Sean direct the program and continues building models. It can take anywhere from 20 to 300 hours to complete a single one. So far, he has bestowed over 150 of them.

Last month he helped expand the Project by connecting with Honor Flight, a nonprofit organization that takes veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the memorials honoring them.

The selection criteria required participants to be somewhat ambulatory and willing and able to travel. They also needed to have served between the years 1935 (the World War II era) and 1975, two years after the Vietnam Conflict ended.

Four residents from StoryPoint Troy were chosen to make the trip: Don Barnes, Julia Willoughby, Richard Votaw, and Vickie Boone. Don’s military service began in 1954 when he was drafted into the army and trained and served in the military police in Fort Lewis, Washington.

Julia enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served as a Registered Nurse, she practiced that career for 50 years. Vickie, too, served in the Navy, which she joined in 1952. She was originally placed in a clerical position at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, but eventually found her career as a traveling nurse, working at all the hospitals in the State of Florida.

Richard Votaw served as an electronics technician in Naval Aviation. After nine months of training in Tennessee, he was stationed in London, England, where he met his first wife. 

Senior Housing Forum salutes Veterans in senior living communities throughout the nation.

We would also love to know how you’re honoring your Veterans on November 11th.

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