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Saying Goodbye to Long-Term Employee

After 38 years, our beloved Director of Staff Development Pat Callinan retired from Phoenix in December! Learn more about her experience here at Phoenix.

Pat Callinan can best be described as funny, quirky, knowledgeable, but most of all, sincere. After 38 years, our infamous Director of Staff Development Pat Callinan retired from Phoenix in December!  While she’ll be hard to replace, we all have so many memories to take with us as we forge ahead.

Pat started off at Phoenix as a Resident Assistant (similar to today’s Direct Support Professional) in 1983. The Phoenix Residence was fairly new at the time – only 6 years since we had opened our doors at the 51-bed facility on Colorado Street. 

Pat came from a long line of caregivers—her grandmother, mother, and several siblings, have all been nurses. After working for a few years as a nurse’s aide then moving away for a while, Pat always had this feeling in the back of her mind that she was destined for something more! After moving back to Minnesota and enrolling in the Jobs Corps, she had the option to work as an assistant filing papers or come work at The Phoenix Residence. She chose Phoenix and the rest they say is history! “Finding Phoenix Residence as a young woman was her calling,” said Director of Nursing Kim Human.

“I’m so happy to have found Phoenix,” said Pat. “I’ve always been a caregiver by nature. My biggest joy has been the people… After 18+ years, they still light when I see them,” shared Pat when discussing one of the individuals she worked with early on. "I love them so much.”

Over the years, Pat moved up the ladder, holding numerous positions within Phoenix: supervisor, program manager, and director of various units. Eventually, Pat became our Director of Staff Development in 2003. As the welcoming face of Phoenix, she made training fun! Whether that be through her impersonations of the training videos, her side jokes, or welcoming new staff with a cup of coffee (a trademark of hers!)

“You’re the person we’ve all met when we came in; you set the tone for us,” said Alan Berner, Pat’s supervisor, at a small retirement party we held for Pat. “You talked about what it meant to be here and what went into it. You taught us more than just the acronyms. You taught us...that this is a family. It’s the thing that keeps us all here.”

Cherishing a Lifetime of Memories

Because Pat has been here since nearly the beginning, she has been the gatekeeper to all things Phoenix. She is the mother of our stories and our history. She can tell you so many stories about the good old days—the staff and individuals we’ve supported over the years, what it was like to work in the “Big House” as she calls it, and her early days of working under now President & CEO Darlene Scott.

“If you listen to NEO (new employee orientation), she’s telling the same stories she told 16 years ago,” Alan joked. But in all seriousness, Pat has grown up with so many of us over the years. She’s seen staff come and go, and she’s seen us grow through marriages, divorces, and growing families. She’s been here through it all.

Assistant Program Director Shawna Zechmeister, for example, built such a strong bond with Pat over the years that seeing her leave was quite emotional. Shawna met Pat in high school when she hired her to work with her in the Green Unit.

“You were my second mom,” said Shawna, fighting through the tears. “Pat saw me and knew I had a passion [for this field]. Pat took me under her wing and mentored me...You believed in me and encouraged me to take on bigger responsibilities. Thank you for being my teacher Pat, and for believing in me.”

But what Pat was most known for was her caring, person-centered attitude for everyone she met. She was passionate about providing the individuals we support with the best care possible and training our staff to provide this care.

“I enjoy giving people the desire and tools to do the job,” said Pat. “I tell every single person in orientation they have one job, and that is to make sure those that we serve have the best lives they wish they had and to help them get there.”

As President & CEO Darlene Scott summed up Pat well. “We may not always remember what you said, but we always remember how you made us feel.”

“Thank you to Phoenix,” Pat concluded. “I don’t know if I would have made it as far as I have if it had been any other provider. You helped me learn and grow over the years. You’ve pushed me. I will always  be a part of the Phoenix family and they’ll always be a part of me.”


The Impact Pat Made Around Phoenix

“When I think about what you’ve meant to this organization and to me, you’ve really raised us all. It’s one of the things I’ll appreciate the most—that context from someone who has done all the things. Someone who has another vantage point.”  - Alan Berner, Vice President of Community Services

“Pat has numerous employees, past, present and new, who come to visit just to visit, because she often develops such a kinship with people.”  - Kim Human, Director of Nursing

“You’ve been an inspiration to work with...Everybody in the room loves you. It’s been a pleasure.” 
- Dean Blomgren, Appointment Coordinator

“Pat was one of the drivers of human beings, not residents, not clients, not patients, human beings...I owe the way I took a path from Pat....You couldn’t get any finer. Pat was my mentor and inspiration.”
- Diana Oleskow Lubich, Former Colleague of Pat’s in the 80s & early 90s

"Pat exemplifies professionalism on a level that everyone can understand and makes it fun. She taught me the importance of following the policies and valuing the Mission statement of The Phoenix Residence. Her work ethic is extraordinary. We have been very fortunate for knowing Pat over the years, and she has managed to leave a part of herself with us.”
- Jon Colby, Direct Support Professional