Autumn Ambs, Dining Services: Serving Meals and Smiles

UMRC Dietary Aide, Autumn Ambs has worked in Dining Services at Chelsea Retirement Community since she was a high school student. Seventeen years later, she has built some wonderful relationships with the independent living residents at Dancey House. Her name badge is covered in POM (Promoting Our Mission) awards, a testament to the love and admiration the residents feel for her.

That’s why the COVID-19 quarantine has been so hard for team members and residents. “It’s kind of awful because we miss that interaction,” says Autumn whose favorite part of her job is seeing the residents each day. “They are so appreciative, and they become like family.”

That doesn’t mean that the Dining Services team isn’t keeping just as busy serving meals and taking care of our residents. While they are quarantined in their apartments and cottages, the Dining team is bringing delicious, healthy meals to directly to their doors. “We deliver all three meals at once to each independent living resident each day,” says Autumn.

Truly a team effort, the Dining and Housekeeping team members call residents every Wednesday to get their meal orders for the week. Residents receive a new menu each week from which to choose their meals, with two hot meal options each day, everything from spaghetti and meatballs to pork loin.  Dining Services even helped residents celebrate Mother’s Day with a prime rib meal. Lunches are generally a boxed meal with a sandwich, chips, cookie and water. Breakfast may consist of juice, a Danish or muffin, fruit, and yogurt.

Autumn’s day begins at 6:00 a.m., working in the Fireside Grille kitchen with cook Rose Roy, socially distanced and wearing masks, to prepare breakfasts and box up meals. Around 11:00 a.m., the Dining Services team members start delivering to residents. “We each get a different “zone” to deliver meals to,” says Autumn. “I primarily deliver to the Prairie Cottages.”

Residents are delighted for this opportunity to see their friends from Dining. “When I come to their door and ring the bell to let them know their meals are being delivered, they often say ‘hi’ and ‘how are you’ from their door,” Autumn says. “They get used to having the same person deliver to them.”

“The ‘face’ of our friends, right now, are those who deliver meals,” says Prairie Cottages resident, Marion Griffiths.

Dining Services also provides meals for direct care team members who continue to be on the frontlines caring for our residents who live at Kresge Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center on UMRC’s Chelsea campus. “Dining boxes up meals that team members can get off the Kresge cart or from the breakroom,” says Autumn.

Snacks and beverages are also provided for team members to enjoy in the new Comfort Room located in the Benson Building on campus, where they can experience a few moments of quiet amidst their busy days.

In addition to delivering meals with a smile, Autumn says their team is providing a few added touches to brighten residents’ days, such as “putting cards in their breakfasts to say we miss them and hope they’re doing well, and writing messages with chalk on the sidewalks for residents to see. A few residents have written cards and notes back to us.”

Because of Autumn’s tenure with UMRC, she is a preceptor, training new Dining team members and helping them learn the ropes of their new position in Dining Services. “We’ve hired several new people since COVID-19,” shares Autumn.

Autumn is most looking forward to seeing the residents again when it is safe to do so. “It’s not as much fun to not see everyone.”