How did I get into this position?

By Ken Neher
Senior Moments

We all have a story, and here’s mine:

I worked in a brand new Marie Callendar’s Restaurant when I was in high school. For some of that time, I bussed tables and was often paired up with a waitress named Barbie just so that everyone could say that Barbie and Ken were working in section C. I almost swore then and there that I would never get another job that deals so intimately with people.

So, I built train sets in our garage. I had a fleet of Estes model rockets. My few close friends and I went backpacking — a lot. In fact, we wrote a satirical book about hiking called, “The ABC’s of the Wide World of Backpacking.” We also wrote a melodrama that has been preformed as a fundraiser a couple of times that we titled, “How the Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave Clean, and Reverent Citizens of the Yukon Territory Adopted the Brussel sprout as Their Provincial Vegetable.”

Did I mention the two Super 8 movies we wrote and starred in as school projects — “Clepsydra,” and “The Penny?” Another movie was never finished after we tied Jeri to the railroad tracks and then a train actually came. It’s OK, she was so short she could fit between the rails so it wasn’t that dangerous.

Now fast forward a few years to a college graduation with a double major in Environmental Biology and Outdoor Education. While pursuing that, I met and married my wife (Yea, Marsha!) and moved to Wenatchee. I branded baby salmon with liquid nitrogen for a PUD study, helped remodel homes, and finally found a steady job as manager of Wenatchee’s Burger King Restaurant two weeks before it opened for business.

Fast forward five years. I bought the BK with a couple of financial partners then built and opened a second one in Omak. After 12 years, and birth of three awesome daughters, I sold my share to my wonderful business partner. Then, I packed cherries, worked in produce at the new Fair Market, was hired by Private Industry Council to do basic skills training, and was part-time district executive for the OR-WA District of the Church of the Brethren. Oh, and I was working three or four of those jobs at once, and managing our five acre orchard while my wife was in school becoming an RN.

That’s when a full-time position became available with our national church offices in Elgin, Ill. The new position turned out to be director of funding, and over the next 18 years morphed into director of stewardship and donor development. I worked out of my home in Wenatchee and the Elgin office, with a staff of five people scattered from Virginia to Illinois, Missouri to Washington state.

Strategic plan implementation led to elimination of my position and my staff. Sterling Insurance taught me how to sell Medicare supplements, and I did for three years until the company was sold and field agents eliminated. Lowe’s Garden Center took me in and put me to work. Thank you, Lowes. It was great!

That’s when I found Garden Terrace not-for-profit low-income senior apartments — or they found me! Now I’m executive director of a place that I really love, and it serves an amazing mission in this community. And guess what? Everyone in this building, just like me, has their own remarkable story about their journey here. One of those stories is 100 years long! And it’s with pride I report that our unique stories woven together here in this place create fascinating Senior Moments for us every day. I plan to keep sharing those stories with you for years to come.

 

Kenneth E. Neher is executive director of the senior living community of Garden Terrace in Wenatchee.