Associate Spotlight: Her Special Touch Leaves an Impression

South Farm associate does the little things to connect with residents

Woman posing for photo in kitchen room

Sometimes you just need a little taste of home.

For a nearly 100-year-old resident of The Village at South Farms and five other residents of Italian descent, that yearning was for tripe. This traditional meal was made possible by associate Mary Saraceno, who ordered the food from an Italian restaurant she promised made the best tripe. Mary hosted the dinner on her own time in the Village’s private dining room.

“They’re part of my family,” she says. “They were so happy.”

A Chance to Chat
Although the centenarian and some of the others have passed, the special event and many more like it are something Mary enjoys doing for residents, often in her free time. Whether it’s a few folks in the pub or tearoom or a simple meal with a resident, Mary says, “That’s when we get to sit down and socialize on a one-on-one basis.”

As a programming assistant, Mary helps with activities and loves doing word games with the residents. She also enjoys running bingo, Pokeno and other games. Part of her job involves organizing holiday events and celebrations on St. Patrick’s Day, St. Joseph’s Day and other special days.

But most of that is part of her “official duties.” During her 19 years with Benchmark, she’s helped in the kitchen and with housekeeping during emergencies, filled in for the receptionist and even serves as one of the drivers. As one member of the community said, “You name it, Mary’s done it.”

“I do a little bit of everything. I believe in teamwork and helping out if I can,” Mary explains.

A Passion for Languages – and Cats
As an active member of her childhood parish, St. Sebastian’s Church, Mary is involved in the life of the parish and has helped with fundraising and other programs. She also leads the of the Rosary at the Village each week.

Mary, who taught Italian and Spanish at a Catholic school for a time, now teaches languages at the Middletown Adult Education Program

“It’s more like a passion,” the language major said. “I love languages and I love teaching them.”

It’s also obvious that another passion is taking care of cats.

She is a volunteer at “Cat Tales,” a Connecticut-based nonprofit that protects abused, neglected, and abandoned cats and provides a shelter, foster homes and managed feral colonies.

One of the feral colonies is located near the Village at South Farms. Mary and others feed and help care for those cats. The animals also provide free entertainment. Sometimes they wander into The Village courtyard to play, much to the delight of residents and associates.

Mary finds that creating connections to the community’s residents often requires very little, a quiet conversation or even just a simple gesture.

Recently, it was pizza with a resident who rarely leaves his room. He had sausage and peppers; she ordered vegetables. Mary said they chatted about politics and life, including childhood memories of Italian traditions and neighborhood tales. He also wanted to know when the next pizza would be arriving.

The Village at South Farms