Miah Schirmers works at Fairway Pines Senior Living in Sauk Centre and has a unique connection with many of the tenants living there. She works in the kitchen, but takes care of more than just the meals when she’s on duty.

“My favorite part is when I have a conversation with tenants or share a good laugh, it brings me a lot of happiness,” Schirmers said. “At a time like this when they can’t see their family I can be there with them. They can’t go to the church or grocery store, but I can be there with them. They can feel really lonely or stuck in the building.”

Schirmers was hired as a dietary aid by Fairway’s Executive Director Maggie Paris. From their first interaction, Paris knew Schirmers would be a good fit for the job.

“Right away you know that you trust her and that she’s going to do a good job,” Paris said. “Our mission statement is to enrich the lives of those we serve, and she said that she’d treat the tenants well and like they were her family.”

Schirmers has been working at Fairway Pines since November 2020. She is a senior at Sauk Centre High School and works part-time at the assisted living facility. She has built many special relationships and knows that her passion lies in helping people.

“I just wanted to work with others and help others, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do post graduation,” Schirmers said. “I wanted a variety of job experiences. This was a job with healthcare and helping others. After working here for a few months, I could see that I liked working with the elderly. It was much more fulfilling than any other job I’ve had. I knew that I liked helping people before this, but it’s so great to see how they feel after you help them, how happy you can make them. I plan to keep working at Fairview for the immediate future and past graduation.”

Working at Fairway showed Schirmers that she wants to go into healthcare. After only three months on the job, she decided to begin training as a home health aid. She plans to get her bachelor’s in nursing, and ultimately earn her master’s to work as a nurse practitioner.

Schirmers has developed special connections with several tenants at Fairway. Paris described how Schirmers got to know a tenant whose room was across from the kitchen. When that tenant was moved into the memory care unit, Schirmers continued to visit her.

“She took time out of her day to head down to the memory care unit to visit this individual and walk her through the hallways,” said Paris. “A home health aid assigned to the patient had a hard time getting her pajamas on and Miah had a comforting hand, she was able to take over and help out.”

“On my first day, I ran into a tenant in the hallway and he asked who my grandparents were, and right away we had a connection talking about my family,” Schirmers said. “We got to know each other right away and he started telling me stories he had with my grandpa.”

Some of the patients don’t have anyone else to interact with. Miah remembered one patient she connected with whose husband had died over the summer.

“She would just like the company and the comfort,” Schirmers said. “We would spend time coloring and chatting. I think about the people who will be taking care of my parents. I want to give good care because I hope that my parents and myself will be given the same care one day. Everyone is as important as I am, and I hope that someone cares about them the same way I care about them.”

Schirmers also enjoys getting to know the tenants.

 “I like to get to know everybody and know their story,” Schirmers said. “They talk about their life and their high school sweethearts and where they’ve been. They’re always so thankful and appreciative of your time and energy.”

The pandemic has increased isolation and made personal relationships a challenge for many people.

“We’ve always been like family to the tenants, but it’s more crucial now to realize that we are their family,” Paris said. “Her positive attitude is a light within the building. I’d just like to thank her. It’s not easy coming into a building with all these restrictions, keeping a positive attitude and continuing to learn and adapt is much appreciated.”

Paris cannot say enough good things about Schirmers’ performance at work.

“I feel like I can trust her. I would hope that my daughter will be the same way as she grows up. That’s the most I could hope for,” Paris said.