Associate Spotlight: Stefanny’s Passion

Associate credits Colombian heritage for connection to seniors

Woman posing for photo in

Stefanny Florez has always had great respect for her elders.

Coming from a big family in Medellin, Colombia, Stefanny grew up helping care for the older members of her family – an experience that would later help shape a career in senior living.

“Our culture is one where it’s understood that it’s your duty to care for your parents yourself in your home when they grow old as a way to show gratitude,” she explains.

In 2005, at the age of 15, Stefanny immigrated to the U.S. and settled in Norwalk, Conn., with the rest of her immediate family.

She worked part-time in high school and wondered how she’d juggle working and going to college. That’s when she heard about Meadow Ridge, a Benchmark continuing care retirement community in Redding, Conn.

“My friend told me about a full-time day position as a server in Meadow Ridge’s independent living dining room, so I could go to college at night. I’ve always had a special connection with older people, so it just made sense,” she said.

In 2007, Stefanny started working at Meadow Ridge while attending school.

Over the next decade, Stefanny was promoted to lead server, hostess, assistant dining room manager and administrative assistant. She even took on additional responsibilities like training new managers.

Then, in 2019, she considered the role of food service manager. Her supervisor encouraged her to spend some time working in assisted living and skilled nursing dining to learn about the healthcare side of the community.

“I immediately loved the challenge of figuring out what each resident could eat and how to make it an enjoyable experience for them,” she said.

Her supervisor told her that Meadow Ridge’s lead Certified Dietary Manager would soon be retiring and encouraged her to apply for the role. However, Stefanny wasn’t sure how she would pay for the education and certification the position required.

Luckily, the Meadow Ridge Annual Scholarship Fund deadline was coming up. She applied and was thrilled to learn she’d been awarded a grant.

“I wouldn’t have been able to go back to school if it wasn’t for the scholarship,” she said.

After 15 months of school and passing her credentialing exam, Stefanny was promoted to Certified Dietary Manager in January. She says it’s been her most rewarding role to date.

“Some of my residents can’t always communicate due to health issues. Being able to creatively problem-solve so they get the nutrition they need is incredibly gratifying,” she said.

Her connections with the Meadow Ridge residents continued to grow.

“The Meadow Ridge environment really promotes the relationship between residents and associates. The residents genuinely want to know you, what’s next for you, what’s going on with you, etc.,” she explains. “It’s like having hundreds of surrogate grandparents. I always tell my grandma she has competition.”

Stefanny, who recently returned to Medellin to celebrate her grandmother’s 80th birthday, said the family matriarch is happy with her choice of career.

“She loves the fact that I work with older people and enjoys hearing updates about my residents,” she said. “She’s really proud of me, and that feels good.”

Woman and senior couple posing for photo