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Penney Retirement Community: A Beacon of Compassion and Inclusion

In the heart of Clay County, the Penney Retirement Community (PRC) shines as a beacon of compassion, acceptance, and genuine love. This not-for-profit organization stands as a testament to the power of faith and core values rooted in neighborly love and volunteerism. What sets the PRC apart from others is not just the care and support it provides to its residents but also the exceptional treatment of its employees. With a majority of staff boasting impressive longevity, PRC demonstrates an unwavering commitment to its workers, showcasing the true essence of a close-knit and caring community.

One of the many remarkable initiatives undertaken by PRC is its collaboration with Clay County District Schools (CCDS) and Challenge Enterprises through The WOLF (Working Opportunities Leading to the Future) Community Transition Program. This initiative aims to provide work-readiness training to differently-abled high school graduates, preparing them for meaningful employment opportunities in the future. PRC’s involvement and dedication to the success and growth of The WOLF Program have been nothing short of outstanding.

From the outset, PRC embraced the mission of The WOLF Program and wholeheartedly supported its interns. By offering hands-on training and mentoring, PRC has provided realistic work experiences for differently-abled learners, fostering a nurturing and inclusive environment. The organization’s commitment to patience, compassion, forgiveness, and encouragement has proven invaluable to transition students, making them feel valued and appreciated.

The results of PRC’s efforts speak for themselves, as two WOLF graduates enthusiastically accepted offers for employment within the community. Among these talented individuals is Noah Kite, a graduate of the Project SEARCH program, who made a lasting impression during his time in The WOLF Program. Initially described as a “shy guy,” Noah has blossomed into a confident and proactive team member at The Pavilion’s dining services. PRC’s support and encouragement have enabled Noah to advocate for himself, participate actively in team meetings, and even initiate new learning experiences. His boss, Ricky Viaccardo, commends Noah’s transformation, emphasizing that having more individuals like him would make the world a better place.

Another shining star from The WOLF Program is Sydney Adams, who not only excelled during her time at PRC but also volunteered at the community during school breaks. Her exceptional customer service and dedication in the dining department caught the attention of PRC’s CEO, Theresa Scott, and the Director of Nursing, Roger Vernon. Both expressed a strong desire to retain Sydney within the PRC family, offering unwavering support to ensure her success. Described as a social butterfly, Sydney’s warm personality has won the hearts of PRC’s residents, making her a cherished member of the community. Accepting a full-time housekeeping position at Beyer House Assisted Living, Sydney continues to thrive with the help of her encouraging supervisor and natural supports.

The heartwarming success stories of Noah Kite and Sydney Adams exemplify the values and culture embraced by the Penney Retirement Community. Their journey from program interns to valued employees reflects the transformative impact of inclusive work environments that prioritize empathy and encouragement.  “Being able to provide real-life work experiences to interns who have deferred their diplomas is an important piece of the puzzle for individuals with different abilities on their journey to successful competitive employment and self-sufficiency. Interns that have successfully completed WOLF, or other transition programs, are highly likely to have positive employment experience. This is in part due to the soft skills that they have practiced and mastered at WOLF. There is an emphasis placed on excellent job skills, but more importantly, the soft skills needed in any work environment. Our interns at WOLF are learning to navigate any employment situation. The Penney Retirement Community has embraced the interns and considers them an essential part of their community. Interns provide necessary services as well as bring a youthful exuberance to the already vibrant community,” explains Jo Binder Employment Specialist with Challenge Enterprises. 

PRC continues to set an inspiring example for other organizations, showcasing that fostering a compassionate and supportive culture benefits not only the employees but also the entire community. As they continue to exemplify the essence of love and acceptance, Penney Retirement Community stands as a testament to the power of bringing people together, regardless of their differences, to create a brighter and more inclusive future for all.


Contributor: Kelly Bowden, Supportive Employment Specialist with Challenge Enterprises