Heritage United

Heritage Communities employees pose outside a facility in Arizona, wearing “Heritage United” T-shirts. The Heritage at Sagewood is the company’s Grand Island facility, (Courtesy photo)

Heritage Communities, which has a senior living facility in Grand Island, has launched a program that includes T-shirts, posters and employee bonuses to help staff members, residents and family members get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, which kicked off in March, is called Heritage United.

Based in Omaha, Heritage Communities owns and manages 14 senior living communities in Nebraska, Iowa and Arizona. One of them is The Heritage at Sagewood in Grand Island.

As it became clear that COVID-19 presented a serious risk to older adults, Heritage Communities implemented numerous changes in protocol.

“While many of our residents, family members and associates were very understanding about these changes, we received feedback from some who struggled to understand why all these restrictions and changes were taking place,” CEO Farhan Khan said in a news release. “Although everything we were doing was in the interest of protecting a population that is very vulnerable, we would never want any of those audiences to feel like it’s ‘us against them.’ By listening to the feedback collectively, we realized we could do a better job communicating that we were only going to be successful if we were all in this together … Heritage United.”

Heritage United represents the “combined efforts of residents, their family members and all of our associates, working together to keep our residents’ safety and health a top priority,” Lacy Jungman said in a phone interview.

Jungman, who lives in Omaha, is vice president of communications for Heritage Communities.

Families participate in the Heritage United campaign by recognizing that a visit might expose residents to COVID-19.

Residents honor the initiative by making the choice to wear a mask if they need to, or to limit visits to their salon or hairdresser, “because they understand the implications if they should bring the virus back to other residents,” Jungman said.

The campaign is meant to inform, motivate and encourage everyone involved, express respect and boost morale.

Employees, known as associates, should be commended for “continuing to show up every day even though it’s hard. It’s challenging, and they’re on the front lines,” she said. The initiative is about “the three entities working together for the best interests of those most vulnerable.”

Posters and signs are displayed throughout the Heritage communities “to show gratitude and support for the hard-working staff,” says a news release.

The company gave “Heritage United” T-shirts to all 1,000 associates. When families and residents expressed interest in obtaining T-shirts for themselves, an ordering link was set up.

More than $4,000 was raised for the Employee Care Fund. The money will go to employees who are having financial difficulties. The company also tripled the Employee Care Fund resources from $10,000 to $30,000, knowing more associates may be in need.

Heritage Communities is paying all telehealth co-pays for associates who have Heritage benefits through the end of May.

In addition, Heritage Communities will pay $1,100 in bonuses to qualifying associates working through the COVID-19 crisis.

Those bonuses were “created for our front-line staff,” including CNAs, housekeepers and maintenance workers, Jungman said.

The Heritage United mission will continue after the COVID-19 outbreak is gone, she said.

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