Community Building

Mar 21, 2022

What does it mean to guide leaders and staff through major transitions? “A leader’s role is primarily to support the work of their teams. My role as a consultant and coach is to help them be successful,” says Debra Gumbardo.

Debra is the latest in a long line of Companis placements at Seattle’s Hilltop, a nonprofit senior living apartment complex. She is working with its leadership to help grow and deepen Hilltop’s sense of community. “How do we continue to strengthen mutual trust and support, and how can both staff and residents contribute to this community?” With the help of the Hilltop staff she is surveying residents to understand its current state and will build a plan from that baseline.

Debra is a retired healthcare professional who spent years as a nurse and moved into senior management at Seattle Children’s Hospital supporting Psychosocial Services, and Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine. She heard about Companis through a friend who has also recently retired and became a Companis Worker at another partner agency. Debra says she appreciated the process of exploring service opportunities with Companis Associate ED for Programs, Jennifer Wing. “Jennifer really listens to what people want and are able to do. They didn’t provide a long list of options to choose from. But rather Companis gets to know the person and with them finds a role that will use their strengths.”

Landing on this opportunity with Hilltop has worked well, Debra says. “This placement allows me to be a consultant who can help coach and launch something that hopefully can be sustained by the group.” As to what motivates her to give back and be of service she says, “It’s who I am. I’m a psychiatric nurse who transitioned to management. In all of my roles, some of the same things apply: You’re trying to figure out what it is people want, what drives their behavior, and then how best to get them to where they want to go. To me, that work is always fascinating. And to do it in this capacity, in retirement, where I can determine how much time I can give, that’s a gift.”