Maintenance work is an important part of any business. Working on anything that may need fixing and building upkeep are only a small part of the daily task of a Maintenance Supervisor. At Saint Anne Communities in Fort Wayne, Maintenance Supervisor John Eastman has gone above and beyond the typical duties of someone in his position; so much so that his coworker and the Environmental Service Coordinator for Saint Anne Communities, Allison Geyer, nominated him for the 2022 IHCA Caregiver of the Year award.
To everyone whose life has been touched by Eastman, his winning of the award came as no surprise; that is, no surprise to anyone but Eastman himself, who humbly says, “It’s not just me” when asked about the award.
A Fort Wayne native, Eastman worked as a mechanic for more than 30 years. Feeling a little burned out from working the same job for so long, a friend suggested the move to Saint Anne, thinking it might be just the change of pace he needed. While leaving his position was a difficult one, Eastman took the plunge and began his new job as Maintenance Supervisor. He quickly learned that his job would not just be fixing things, but changing the lives of the residents and the staff of Saint Anne Communities.
Almost immediately, John asked his manager if it would be possible for him to attend a residential outing, as there needed to be a staff member present for each resident to help push wheelchairs and help with whatever the residents may need. This was a welcomed offer, and not only did the residents themselves love having Eastman along, but he also loved being there. “After that first outing, I was hooked,” Eastman recalled. He soon asked his manager if he would be able to attend all of the outings.
“A few weeks ago, John took the residents for a day to his lake house!” Geyer excitedly shared. At the lake house, Eastman took the residents on a pontoon ride around Big Long Lake and had a cookout, providing some of their favorite foods.
Another favorite outing for Eastman is the zoo. “They love it!” he recalled. Outings also have included chocolate confectionary classes and the Fantasy of Lights at Christmastime. Eastman’s cell phone is full of photos of these outings, capturing the true joy on the faces of the residents.
Eastman is also known to drive residents to their appointments, with special trips for ice cream afterwards. Visitors to the home are as likely to find him fixing a wheelchair as to find him praying with a resident for a loved one. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he took the training needed to help with the dietary needs of residents when they were short-staffed. At Easter, Eastman even took on the task of playing Easter Bunny, dressing up in full rabbit costume to visit the rooms and interact with the residents. “One lady was so excited she chased me around the hallway. She was all smiles,” he fondly recalled.
Elaine Wilson, COO and Administrator for Saint Anne Communities remarked that: “John takes care of the residents, mentally, physically, and spiritually.”
Eastman has gone far beyond the duty his position requires of him, turning a career into a vocation, saying, “Every day is different and there has never been a day where I haven’t wanted to come to work.”
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