Associate Spotlight – Always on a Mission

Benchmark plant operator’s military experience guides career

Man posing for photo on outdoor bench

You can be sure there will be a humble, yet fitting Veterans Day celebration this Thursday at The Atrium at Veronica Drive in Danvers, Massachusetts. George Little, plant operations director at the Benchmark community, will make sure of that.

“It’s so important that we celebrate the military veterans who are still alive today, to thank them,” says Little.

Little retired in 2012 after two decades of active duty with New Hampshire Air National Guard. Thursday, he will put his uniform on and work to ensure that his fellow veterans at The Atrium feel a special sense of community and appreciation for their service.

“It may be a flag-folding ceremony, or we may hand out American flag pins,” he says. “But we make sure to celebrate those who did their time.”

Little joined the Air Force reserves in March of 1980, leaving for basic training that May. He decided to join after talking to a childhood friend who had joined a year prior. He served and became a food service instructor until 1984, when he transferred to the Army National Guard for a year before finding a home with the New Hampshire Air National Guard in 1985. He also found the time, soon after, to marry his best friend and love of his life, Lisa, with whom he has three children.

“I began my career with them as an instructor and continued to progress up the ranks,” says Little. “In 1993, I was given the opportunity to work active duty and oversee all kitchen, mortuary, honor guard and fitness activities until my retirement in 2012.”

Like so many veterans, Little sees his military experiences as having shaped him both personally and professionally. The habits he formed and the endless skills he learned through military service are what makes him an invaluable Benchmark employee today. In the military, he drove a bus, unclogged drains, and even designed an industrial kitchen.

In short, Little did whatever needed to be done.

“I had every possible license I could get,” he says. “I was never afraid to say that I wanted to be involved in something.”

He remembers one time when the civil engineers on his base had been deployed. As luck would have it, there was an issue with a drain. So Little put on a jumpsuit, grabbed the necessary tools, got down on the ground and fixed the drain. When a young airman passed by and paused to ask what he was doing, Little told him to get down on the ground with him or leave him alone. The job needed to get done.

He arrived at The Atrium a couple of years ago, bringing that same work ethic along with him. As plant operations director, Little and his team are responsible for, well, just about everything at the Danvers property.

While the work itself is rewarding, whether it be repairing something in the physical plant or shoveling out snow in the winter, it is the residents and his co-workers at The Atrium that make it so special. The Atrium is home to mostly Mind and Memory Care residents, and the past year or so, says Little, has been especially challenging because of COVID-19. He said it has been heartwarming to see the community’s associates rally around the residents.

“You’re the family,” he says. “Because their families could not come and be with them, we became their families.”

That meant doing anything possible to make them feel supported.

“It is not unusual to come into our facility and find me singing or dancing in the hallway,” says Little. “I’m not much of a singer and I’m definitely not a dancer, but if I can bring a smile to a face, even for a minute, my job is complete.”

The Atrium at Veronica Drive