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FVC Activities Director Earns VOYCE Lifetime Award!

FVC Activities Director Earns VOYCE Lifetime Award!

For release at 8 a.m., Monday, Feb. 20, 2017--Some would say Jenifer Russell, Friendship Village Chesterfield’s (FVC) community life services director, skated to the prestigious lifetime achievement award from VOYCE.


VOYCE—an organization founded here in 1979 that honors exceptional work in caregiving and recognizes excellence in person- centered care—gave Russell their lifetime achievement award for her 22 years serving residents at the Chesterfield retirement community.

In dynamic fashion, Russell holds meetings in motion, walking as fast as possible. She often has two cell phones in mid conversation while she also hangs decorations or answers staff questions person to person.

Often, FVC residents and staff tell her that she needs roller skates. So, after her award, Russell invested in a new pair of roller skates.

For years Russell boasted a reputation among FVC residents for being the chairwoman of fun by spreading cheer, decorating for all events and holidays, managing a diverse range of FVC community activities including wellness/fitness challenges, horseshoe tournaments, kayak races on the FVC lake, talent shows, an annual juried spring flower show and a 1,000 person Grandparents’ Day carnival along with classes, outings, plays.

Russell also develops new programs, such as a special one marrying resident veterans with local high school students who interviewed and photographed them and, then, published their stories in recognition of the veterans’ service. The interviews evolved into a wall of honor for veterans on the FVC campus.

“Jen can multitask like nobody’s business. And it’s a good thing, because she does the job of about 13 people,” Carmen Worley, Friendship Village community outreach director and Russell colleague, said.

“Whether a resident is energetic and active, or less involved and quiet, Jenifer gives them options. She nurtures a family of more than 150 resident volunteers, who exhibit purpose and joy in serving our 400 plus FVC residents.

“Jen knows people want to feel useful and have purpose. . . she makes it happen. She knows what’s important, and she has the distinctive ability to maximize the gifts of each resident and make them realize their value. That’s no small feat,” Worley concludes.

Born in Clare, IA, a town where her great-grandfather was the town doctor, pharmacist and editor of the Clare Gazette, Russell came to St. Louis for an internship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “I fell in love with St. Louis while interning here. The excitement of the city and the rich culture attracted me to the area. Warmer temperatures were also an incentive to move,” Russell said.

After her internship and 1992 graduation from Iowa State University with a B.S. in leisure studies and an emphasis on therapeutic recreation, Russell relocated from Iowa to Maplewood. Much of her family eventually followed, she said.

Before her 22-year career at FVC, Russell worked fulltime at a children’s shelter as a therapeutic recreation specialist with kids, aged 8 to 18, at risk of detention or placement in foster care.

Slim and lithe, Russell, Worley said, “Though she be but little, she is fierce. No one has more energy or drive or compassion or determination than Jenifer.”

Every year, VOYCE, formerly the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, selects and recognizes individuals nominated by their peers and supervisors who daily excel in caring for and respecting the rights of residents in long-term care communities.

Day to day, the non-profit organization works to educate and empower long-term care residents and their families. To assure quality living across the long term care continuum, VOYCE provides free assistance to families and individuals looking for long-term care and advocacy for those currently in long term care.


Award recipients for 2016 were chosen from more than 300 long-term care communities as well as home care providers, hospice agencies and adult day programs in a 21 county service area.

All award recipients represent service in areas such as nursing, certified nursing assistants, social services, certified medical technicians, therapy, activities, housekeeping, food service and volunteers.


According to VOYCE, 22,000 individuals reside in long-term care communities in

the Greater St. Louis and Northeast Missouri areas. One staggering fact is that more than 50 percent of these individuals never receive a visitor and have no one to advocate on their behalf, according to Mary Lynn Faunda Donovan, VOYCE executive director.

For more than 35 years VOYCE has strived for a high quality of life for those living in the long term care continuum by providing advocacy and support, Donovan said.

“We estimate that 70 percent of those 65 and older will need long care, and 43 percent will spend some time in a long-term care community. Honorees impact lives and have their lives deeply impacted by the individuals they serve.”

VOYCE services the city of St. Louis and its surrounding Missouri counties of St. Louis, Jefferson, Franklin and St. Charles as well as 16 counties in northeast Missouri including Adair, Clark, Knox, Lewis, Lincoln, Macon, Marion, Monroe, Montgomery, Pike, Schuyler, Scotland, Shelby, Ralls, Randolph and Warren.