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By Blog Master
Posted: 08/03/2021
Where are they now?

Many of us will remember Claudia Chavez.  She was assigned to the Pasadena Village as a social work intern during the academic year 2017-2018, the first year of her two-year program at Azusa Pacific University. She brought energy, enthusiasm, a drive for organization, and great people skills to our Village.  One of her significant contributions to our community was the development of a template for the management of the Volunteer Recognition event, which at that time was an annual event. She assumed the role of coordinator of the event in 2018 and created a detailed step-by-step guide listing all of the tasks and the time frames for each step to be used by future coordinators of the event.  The event was a grand success. She graduated in 2019 and upon completion of her second-year placement at the Huntington Hospital Senior Care Network, she was hired as a part time employee.

Today Claudia is working as the Community Social Worker, at the Health Services Center at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California.   Claudia agreed to be interviewed for our “Where are They Now” a column on past Pasadena Village interns that will appear periodically in the Pasadena Village Newsletter. 

“In late 2019 I was looking for a job that was full time and I came across a notice for a social work position at Pilgrim Place.  I applied; I was hired. Little did I know that this would turn out to be a social worker’s dream job. I love what I am doing.”

In order to describe what her current position involves Claudia shared some history about Pilgrim Place.  The community was founded over 100 years ago by missionaries affiliated with the Universal Christ Church who were retiring and returning home to California from assignments abroad. They needed a place to live. So, they set out to create a community for themselves in Claremont, California.  Originally limited to retired missionaries, Pilgrim Place is now not only home to missionaries but retired teachers from the surrounding Claremont Colleges and their family members, and other residents from the area.  Designed for older adults, Pilgrim Place offers several distinct programs: Independent Living, Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing and Memory Care. 

Among its many unique characteristics, Pilgrim Place is neither a gated community nor a set of distinctly identifiable set of structures but consists of 185 private residences and 57 Assisted living units which blend into city of Claremont. Their residences are about two blocks from downtown Claremont allowing residents to walk into town to do shopping, eat out, go to the library, etc.    Its 62 unit skilled nursing facility was not built following the medical model – long corridors with doors to rooms off to the side. Instead, each wing has been divided into neighborhoods where the residents decide on what their neighborhood will look like: the furniture it will contain, how it will be arranged, and how it will function. It is made to feel like a home.  Patients decide on when they will eat, what they will eat and are supported in every way to ensure the dignity of the patient and his or her ability to make autonomous decisions about how they wish to be treated.  

“What I love about Pilgrim Place” says Claudia, “is that it is ‘person centered.’   Members receive what they need and are not limited to a set of the organization’s predetermined options. I also love the fact that the organization is driven by a specific set of values that are known and practiced by all employees:  peace, justice and sustainability. The members have skills and resources and contribute to the Annual Festival, the primary fund-raising effort, along with community members who support the event.   Pilgrim Place partners with the Claremont Colleges where some members act as mentors for the college students; others actually teach classes to the college students in areas related to the Pilgrim Place values.”

In response to the question, “What do you specifically do?” Claudia responded.  “I am the go-to person for 200 members in the Independent and Assisted Living programs.  When anyone has a problem or an issue that requires assistance, they come to me. Yes, I am kept busy, but not all 200 members have immediate needs at one time.  It’s all very doable. I also have some responsibilities within the Skilled Nursing program and I can be involved in some of the partnership programs.”

Claudia was asked, “If you were to provide feedback to members of the Pasadena Village about the year that you spent with us, what would you say?”  

“The experience taught me to slow down, to become more centered and present in the moment.  I learned how to engage a family, how to assess situations. I learned to work with older adults.  I learned that older adults can create their own programs.  They don’t need program coordinators.  I learned that whenever there is need for a helping hand, there is someone there able and willing to step forward. What I learned at the Pasadena Village made it possible for me to understand and work with the older adults in my current position.” 

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