2019 SCHA Awards
Outstanding Executive Director

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Sadie Harness Sadie Harness

Sadie Harness

Position: Executive Director

Organization: Belmont Village Senior Living Aliso Viejo


List your nominee's experience in Senior Care.
Sadie is from the mid-west – Naperville, Illinois to be exact. She received her BS in Rehabilitation Psychology at the University of Wisconsin in 1998. She knew when she took her first job after college that she wanted to be an Executive Director. She said, “I saw 4 different ED’s in 4 years at that skilled nursing facility and thought, ‘I can do better than them!’ and I did!”

Even before Sadie took that first job, she knew she wanted to work in the senior field. Her passion for seniors started at age 14 when she was walking home from school in the snow and saw an elderly woman trying to chip ice off her little mid-west porch. “I was in a mini-skirt, but I cleared her porch,” she said. “It was the first time I remember feeling like I made a significant difference in someone’s life – I was hooked.” Then, in high school, she was an activity assistant in a memory care wing of a local nursing home. She said the regulations were a lot different back then, but you could still give love – the residents always felt that.

Describe how your Nominee has exceeded his or her Job Description, becoming a hero to you or others. Provide an example or as much detail as possible of the things that they do that go above and beyond their job description.
Although Sadie is an Executive Director and doesn’t have as much direct contact with the residents because of administrative duties, she still makes a point to interact with them as much as possible. One day last year one of her residents passed away – we’ll call him “Harry.” As we all know, it is very traumatic for the other residents who may have been close to someone when that person dies. They not only see their circle of friends growing smaller, they see their own mortality. So, when Harry passed, his dining companion, a man who sat with him every day at every meal, became so distraught no one could comfort him. Sadie heard about what was happening and went to speak with this man and found out he really wanted to go to the funeral but had no way of getting there. Sadie immediately offered to come on her day off (Saturday) so she could drive this friend to Harry’s funeral. Knowing he would be able to say good-bye gave the friend peace, and he was so thankful.

In regards to her staff, if there is an emergency or a call off, Sadie comes and works the floor. She did this one weekend for half of the night shift in memory care. The regular caregiver was in a car accident the night before and his family was almost an hour away so she drove to go pick him up and took him to the ER. Then the next night she worked 1/2 of his shift in memory care until another staff member could cover - he was understandably too exhausted and sore to work.

Sadie fosters this attitude in all her team, “We are all in this together! I got your back and you’ve got mine!” Her professional goal is to build teams with trust, emphasizing her own personal philosophy of “servant leadership.” She told us, “My goal now is as much about helping staff help the senior as it is about the seniors themselves. I love building teams, I enjoy teaching people and encouraging people to do better, to do more. I can make a bigger difference for more seniors by influencing the staff that care for the people we serve. But, of course, I’ll always love my residents.”