At Saint Therese of Woodbury, Seniors and Servers Have Become Fast Friends

Grace Millington serves Mary Berg and Sally Nestor at Saint Therese of Woodbury.

Like a lot of high schoolers, Grace Millington and Michael Skara have part-time jobs that keep them busy after school and on the weekends. But they’ll be the first to say that these aren’t the typical teenager’s job. Though they work hard taking orders and serving meals, they’re not flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant—instead, they’re servers at Saint Therese of Woodbury, a faith-based senior care community that opened its doors last spring. Millington and Skara have been working there almost as long, and they say they’ve grown to really love their jobs not just for the extra spending money (although that’s definitely nice) but also for the close relationships they’ve developed with Saint Therese’s residents.

Saint Therese has a range of living and dining options to best meet its residents’ individual needs, and Millington and Skara’s work is just as varied. Though they also serve residents in the long-term care and transitional/memory care units, they spend most of their time in the main dining room. “It’s just like a normal restaurant,” says Millington, a soon-to-be senior at East Ridge High School. “Residents come in. We give them menus, they choose what they want, and we take their orders.”

But, unlike a typical restaurant, which sees a turnover of customers day-to-day except for maybe a few regulars, the Saint Therese dining room is all regulars. The student servers see the same people every day, which has naturally led to them getting to know each other on a deeper and more personal basis. This, both Millington and Skara say, is the best part of the job.

“They love to share their stories and whatever else,” says Skara, who attends Park High School. “It’s just interesting learning about the past.”

“I really, really love connecting with the residents, especially getting to know them on a first-name basis and them getting to know us on a first-name basis,” Millington says. “They like to know about our ‘outside of work’ life, too. It really does help with communication, and it builds that skill of learning how to talk with others. Working with a different generation gives insight into how people think [and] it’s a really big lesson on how to treat people.”

Saint Therese residents can also attest to the closeness of these relationships. “It’s kind of like having your grandsons and granddaughters here,” says Sally Nestor. “There’s a bunch of old grannies and grandpas here, and it’s almost like we’ve adopted them as substitute grandkids.”

And, they’re always happy to go the extra mile to help someone out. Mary Berg laughs when she remembers the day she couldn’t get out of one of the booths in the dining room. “I had to call Michael over, and he, of course, said, ‘Sure, I’ll help you out!'” Berg says that she especially enjoys talking with the boys on staff because they remind her of her own three sons, but she also notes that all of the students are not only great at their jobs but exceptional people as well. “They’re all so considerate,” she says.

Working at Saint Therese also gives students the chance to learn valuable life lessons, which further sets the job apart from the normal high schooler’s gig. “They have the opportunity to work in a faith-based environment, which I think is really important for our youth,” Dannelle Bautista, director of dining services, says. “They also have the opportunity to serve others while they’re working, which is a pretty rare thing.”