Deep Roots in Rhode Island Community
for 85 years of service
Rhode Island’s Aquidneck Island is a close-knit community spanning 38 square miles. Although residents of its three towns – Newport, Portsmouth, and Middletown – can easily access the rest of the state via three bridges, Aquidneck Island residents are known for staying put.
That’s certainly true for Jennifer Robinson, Nancy Toppa and Miguel Amoros. Each has deep roots in their island communities – roots that happen to intertwine at Blenheim-Newport, Benchmark’s assisted living and Mind and Memory community in Middletown.
Each has worked at the community for at least 27 years. And, what keeps them?
“It’s the residents. Always has been for me,” said Robinson, who started at Blenheim-Newport in high school. “The residents have had a big impact on my life.”
Jennifer’s father was in the Navy, so as a child she and her family moved around often, before landing in Middletown. She said Aquidneck Island, including Blenheim-Newport, was the first community she really got to know.
She was introduced to Blenheim-Newport by a friend and got a job in the kitchen and then became a server. Today, she is a Program Assistant. It’s a role she relishes – helping each resident connect with the people and activities they love.
The community was also a great fit for her because she always wanted to be a mother. She said her supervisors were always flexible, giving her a schedule that allowed her to spend as much time with her daughter as possible.
Jennifer has fond memories of a resident – and fellow Mom – she had befriended 20 years ago. “I spent a lot of time, when I wasn’t working, in her room. We related to all things, especially motherhood. She was a great mom and I learned from her.”
Since Nancy Toppa joined Blenheim-Newport in 1992, she has always had strong relationships with the community’s residents but not as deep as they are now.
“I’m more their age now,” says the 76-year-old server, laughing. “I can communicate and connect with them more now than when I started. I enjoy their conversations and I think they enjoy mine.”
Nancy was a single mother of four – all of whom grew up to serve the public. A son and a daughter became nurses, a daughter is a police officer and a son a firefighter.
She said it wasn’t easy. And, like Robinson, she would often talk to residents about parenting, among a variety of subjects. She noted the topics have changed over the years.
“I understand what they are going through. I understand the loss of a partner, how life treated them as they raised a family and now how life is treating them now as an older adult,” she explains.
Toppa has no immediate plans of giving up the human connections she feels at Blenheim-Newport. “I’m out with people, enjoying them. That’s special,” she adds.
A Familiar Face
When Miguel Amoros began working at Blenheim-Newport in 1994, residents would occasionally give him a double-take as they tried to place his face.
Miguel was a professional Jai Alai player for two decades in Newport. Many in the surrounding communities had embraced the fast-paced sport and the wagering that went with it.
“Some of the residents would tell me, ‘I used to win with you all the time,’” said Miguel. “Of course, I didn’t win all the time. They would say this to make me feel good. That’s one of the reasons I love the residents so much.”
For the last 27 years, Miguel has taken care of the community’s building and grounds, among other responsibilities. Miguel said he never considered leaving the community. It’s too much like home.
“You get attached to so many people. Plus, I’m doing something I like to do. Every day is different,” Miguel explains. He added that he is always delighted by the appreciation residents show when he fixes a problem for them.
“They say, ‘thank you, thank you so much’ and they’re so happy. The satisfaction I get from that is huge. I always say don’t worry. If you need something, we will be here to help you.”