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Hoyt House in Sweetwater is welcoming a new member to their staff. Helen Marshall is serving the local assisted living center as the Residence Sales Manager.
Marshall's journey to this new role began three months ago when she was contacted by the regional director of Assisted Living Concepts (ALC), Joshua Lindsey. As a result of her skills and educational background, she joined the Hoyt House team in October.
Marshall recollected her hiring, as the new occupation was similar to a past employment at Abilene Christian University (ACU). For twelve years, she had been a counselor for the students, faculty and staff at the campus, leading cultural diversity training, conducting presentations and workshops and providing therapy on an individual, family, couple and group basis.
Furthermore, she was responsible for large events at the ACU Counseling Center, and mentored students from various cultural backgrounds as the university has a large international base.
But in 2010, Marshall had to vacate her spot in Abilene for personal reasons--to take care of her mother whose health was failing in Alabama. Up until the time her mother passed away, Marshall took on the role of caretaker.
She then returned to Abilene, but it seemed as if awareness of assisted living facilities was already being brought to her attention in life--even if there wasn't one in that particular area of the country.
"It would have been nice to have had an ALC house in the area where my mother lived," Marshall reflected. "It would have given me the peace of mind that she was being properly cared for and was safe."
She said that the position with the Hoyt House "sounded exciting and challenging because I would have the opportunity to serve seniors and meet so many new people."
"I just believe that it was an assignment from God," Marshall stated, "and I accepted the offer and began my services to the people of Sweetwater."
The fifth of twelve children, Marshall was born and raised in Alabama in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement. She was part of the first generations of African-Americans who were part of the school integrations during the 1960s and 1970s.
The black students' fear of the unknown was identified as she recalled being brought to the auditorium by the school's principal, who verbally berated the students by giving them a list of "do nots" in association with white students.
Personally, Marshall was verbally abused by the principal on a daily basis. Racial slurs were used against her and she was threatened that she would not pass to the next grade, as she was constantly being kicked her out of school and from the school bus--a thirty-mile trip.
But Marshall rose above, and when she wrote an essay at the year's end, she talked about the love of Jesus which knows no race. If at all, the principal changed his tune just a bit toward her and would allow her to pass if she went to summer school.
"Summer school was over 75 miles away," she recollected, "and our summers were spent working in the fields harvesting crop and preparing foods for the winter months. However, my mother and daddy made arrangements for me to go to summer school so I could be promoted to the next grade."
Marshall was one of fifteen black girls in her class, and one of five who passed. But even with her small success, the demeaning words of that principal would infiltrate her mind for the next twenty years until a car accident in 1989 that left her injured.
She accepted Jesus during this time, in which she was also six months pregnant with her son. Out of work and unsure of what to do, Marshall began attending church with a white pastor, who encouraged her to go back to school.
At first, the words of that principal came to mind, but Marshall made the decision to step out on faith and attend ACU.
"God put me in the right place and He put His people in place to encourage me all the way through undergraduate and graduate school. When the time came, He opened the door for me to give back to the ACU community by serving the students, faculty and staff members," she said.
She highly recommends the school not only for the education, but for the relationships of loving people. She said ACU was a blessing to her children, as Marshall has been a single mother of three for over twenty years.
"My children have been a true blessing to me and I thank God for trusting me with their care," she elated.
She had the privilege of receiving her Bachelor in Science degree in Social Work from ACU in 1996 On the same day her oldest daughter graduated college--Marshall at ACU and her daughter at Hardin-Simmons. Four months after her death, Marshall was able to receive her daughter's Masters degree posthumously.
She also has a younger daughter who graduated from ACU and her son also attended the Abilene university. This January, Marshall's son will be enrolled in Culinary School.
Marshall's work in helping people spans over thirty years, as she has worked as a service assistance at Abilene State School, a Psych Technician at Woods Psychiatric Clinic, an Intake Worker at the Resources for Living, a Case Manager at Meals on Wheels and the Betty Hardwick Center, and as a Social Worker and counselor/therapist at ACU--along with work at the school as an Adjunct Instructor in the Social Work Department.
While she has spent many years working to meet others' needs, Marshall cites her work at Abilene Christian in her social work classes as preparation for her current job position.
Following her undergraduate work at Abilene Christian, she would later go on to pursue a Master's Degree in Social Science from the University of Texas at Arlington, and graduated from the school in 1998.
"I am dedicated to serving others," said Marshall, "that's my calling and passion in life. I desire to see others have the highest quality of life that God has for them and I am blessed to be a part of this process."
And in this role at the Hoyt House, Marshall's passion is her work indeed. She works to fill vacancies at the assisted living facility by building positive relationships with a variety of people in the community--civic leaders, medical personnel and the seniors in Sweetwater.
"It is imperative for me to develop positive relationships with doctors in Sweetwater and surrounding cities who can refer their patients that would benefit from assisted living services," said Marshall.
She also does initial and follow-up work on inquiries and referrals, offers tours of the facility and closes sales with move-ins while assisting people in their transition. Her role has her traveling almost 80% of the time she is on duty.
Furthermore, Marshall is responsible for informing new clients about the diverse services offered at the Hoyt House, as she explains to customers the financial options in an effective manner before guiding a family through the arrangements for moving in to the assisted living center.
But how does she do it? With respect.
"My ultimate goal is to treat everyone with the same respect as I would want to be treated," Marshall explained. "My belief is that every individual is unique and deserves to be treated with the highest regard and the utmost respect."
On a professional level, she intends to bring the community and Hoyt House together through educating people and medical personnel about the services available at the center. She hopes to conduct workshops and hold presentations on the care and services offered at the facility.
Furthermore, she plans on holding community events in the center and intends to invite community members and leaders to visit, so that they can be aware of what Hoyt House offers when making referrals. She will also attend monthly meetings where businesses are promoted and senior care is addressed.
She calls the Hoyt House a "warm, home-like atmosphere [where] residents can enjoy a comfortable and pleasant surrounding in their senior years."
But she won't be doing it alone. She praises her co-workers who take their jobs seriously and offer quality care, twenty-four hours a day, to the residents.
Marshall says Hoyt House is "blessed with a wonderful staff" as they provide proper care; activities with fellow residents, family members or the community; and meals and snacks to clients--in which she can personally vouch for the latter.
"The meals are delicious," she exclaimed. "I know this because I personally enjoy them every chance I get."
Collectively, the Hoyt House team is always working toward improving the care and safety of their residents, Marshall said. Short-term care is offered through respite services, and Hoyt House is the only organization that helps veterans apply for the Aid and Attendant Program, where veterans and their spouse can possibly qualify for financial assistance.
Through her work at the Hoyt House, she also wants to plan events that honor veterans as well as promote national awareness days.
"My main goal is to use my skills as a social worker and marketer to fill the Hoyt House once again with residents who can afford the services and for those who are Medicaid/Medicare eligible," she said.
Marshall also works with various community organizations. She makes referrals to other nursing homes in the area, visiting the facilities and meeting the respective staffs in order to provide community members the best services possible for their needs.
Furthermore, she has met several community leaders, who she says have "welcomed me into the community with warmness." And while she understands their busy schedules and has already met a few doctors and nurses, she hopes to meet all of the local medical professionals.
But on a personal level, Marshall desires to build long-lasting relationships founded by trust with everyone she meets. Along with her background in social work, she says she has a "God-given love for others."
This trait allows her to have a genuine passion, empathy, and compassion for demographics that are all too often deemed as underprivileged like senior citizens, children, the poor, disabled and those with mental challenges.
Her faith is also a driving force in her work, as Marshall prays on a daily basis for those she comes into contact and that doors will open to reach out to those in need.
"My prayers have been the source of my success in everything that I have accomplished in my life," she described. "I give God the glory and praise for my life and I am not ashamed to let everyone know that I stand for Jesus because He is the author and finisher of my faith," citing the Bible verse from Hebrews 12:2.
Along with the prayers, Marshall adds love, respect and establishing rapport with fellow community members to her plan of success. She wants to share her heart and passion for people and service with the medical professionals in the community, which is one of the reasons she wants to meet them.
"It is my hope that in developing relationships, the medical staff would feel comfortable enough to make referrals to Hoyt House."
In addition, she wants to get outside the Hoyt House facility, so that she can meet seniors at their homes and other community centers--just to let them know she cares about their needs and their families needs.
"I plan to work hard to prove myself to the people as the new face of the Hoyt House," Marshall stated, "and to show the community that I am someone who is completely dedicated to the lives of others."
Marshall says that she welcomes referrals and visits. By calling 325-235-5655 or dropping by the Hoyt House, tours can be given and discussions can be held for providing care to a potential resident.
And at the end of the day, Marshall's work is all about her clients. She praises her strong, loving and discipline-implementing parents for teaching her how to treat others from an early age, in which her personal experience with caring for her parents in their late years brought her to the realization of meeting the needs and caring for seniors.
"I know what it's like to have your parents in a place and not being properly care for by workers," she explained. "I work with our staff to make sure we never fall into the category of some other organizations that don't take care of their residents."
The residents give love back to Marshall, as she walks in the door each morning and is greeted cheerfully. In turn, she will say something encouraging or edifying to make sure they are not only cared for, but they are happy in the senior season of their lives.
"I want people to know that I didn't major in business when I was in college. I majored in people and that's what I am most passionate about."