McDowell Place business manager takes care of residents like family

Published 10:22 am Wednesday, October 16, 2019

McDowell Place of Danville’s business manager, Jennifer Phillips, helps serve slices of birthday cake. She said even though she works in an office she, and other administration people often help out at special events. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Being the business manager at McDowell Place of Danville isn’t just about keeping track of paperwork and handling the everyday financial obligations for the facility. It’s also like taking care of family, said Jennifer Phillips.

She’s worked at the assisted living home for almost 10 years and handles payroll, billing, residents’ and employees’ files, and pays the bills, she said. “All of the paperwork.”

But she, like all the other office staff at McDowell Place, also pitches in to help wherever and whenever it’s needed, she said.

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On Monday, Phillips, along with several other staff and administration members, served residents and guests cake for a woman who was celebrating her 100th birthday. Sometimes she steps in to give a resident a shower, and covers for housekeeping when an extra pair of hands are needed.

One may think that with all her duties, her desk would be covered in piles of files and her office overflowing with notebooks and memos. But Phillips keeps her space neat and organized. Looking at her desk one day earlier this week, Phillips said she felt it was messy because there was a stack of papers sitting on one corner that were yet to be filed.

She said it’s imperative to keep everything organized to keep the facility running smoothly.

Her mother, Sheila Wilson, also works at McDowell Place.

“She has always liked books and paper and pencils all of her life,” Sheila said while sitting in her daughter’s office.

Jennifer Phillips steps outside to visit with Ronalie Smith at McDowell Place of Danville. (Photo by Robin Hart)

Phillips said she likes keeping track of the business end, but her favorite part of her job is talking with the residents. “I’ve got regulars who come in here just to talk or ask how I’m doing.”

She said her job isn’t “task oriented” where she’s busy helping residents with meals and daily living, therefore she can take time to visit. Sure, there are deadlines, “But not daily deadlines,” Phillips said. “I’m able to spend more quality time with them.”

Many residents live at McDowell Place for years so she gets to know them and their families fairly well, she said. Watching time take its toll on her McDowell Place “family” is the hardest part of her job, Phillips said. Sometimes aging takes away the person’s personality and memories; sometimes they have to move into a nursing facility; and some pass away.

“You get so attached. … Deaths are the hardest thing to deal with. It’s like losing a grandparent every time.”

She quickly added, “I love my job. It’s like our motto says, ‘A place to call home.’ It is to me too. I feel like I’m home.”