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McNutt enjoys serving the elderly, those with special needs

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By Panzi Blackwell

Many words could describe Eleanore McNutt – upbeat, optimistic, energetic, creative, fun-loving, caring, modest, cooperative and willing to work. The list of good qualities could go on.

Among her most notable qualities are her compassion and compatibility for elderly adults and for those special people who need a special person to understand them.

She urges the caregivers on the staff of Vandalia Rehabilitation and Health Care Center to “think of these people (residents) as if they were their own parents and grandparents, how you would want them treated…and something else is important – a smile.”

These qualities are especially valuable assets for an activity director in a nursing home and care facility, which is exactly the position McNutt holds at the facility.

While she has a naturally upbeat personality, McNutt has also been through sad, heart-breaking times in her life, which have honed her sensitivity to the feelings of others.

McNutt is modest and unassuming, and is was hesitant about being recognized for the works she does. However, Elenore was recently presented an award for being a “Long-Term Hero.”

On the Job

McNutt said that she has worked at what seems to be her perfect position, activity director, for actually only 4 1/2 years.

“I worked for 13 years at the Fayette County Hospital, as a seamstress, then in the laundry, so I was there for a long time before I took the position (as activity director) in LTC.

McNutt worked in that position for 2 1/2 years, then, “I got a new grandbaby, my daughter’s first baby, and she was a little nervous about putting her in daycare.”

“I told my husband, ‘I’ve got to retire, I’ve got to take care of this baby.’ I love babies. Babies and old people are my passions,” she said.

“I took care of her, and now she is in the third grade,” she said. “Then, I was enjoying my reading life. I read a book every other day, in between my chores.”

Then the McNutt family suffered a terrible loss. “We lost my son, Dean,” she said.  “About three months later, someone told me they had this position open here (Vandalia Rehab Center).

“I thought, ‘They’re not going to hire an old lady,’ but they did, and here I am,” she said, grinning. She and her husband, Jim, were observing their 54th anniversary that day.

The full calendar of interesting and fun activities scheduled for the residents indicate the thought, preparation and energy that McNutt puts into her goal of helping them enjoy their lives.

However, she maintains, the residents have also helped her.

“They have brought a lot of joy to me, and they have helped me a lot,” she said.

“When I started this job, I was in pretty rough shape. When you lose a child, it’s tough. That void will always be there, but you have to move on and you’ve got to do something.  For a while, I was just going stop everything, stop bowling and just quit everything.”

She shared her feelings with her daughter, and her daughter told her Dean would not have wanted her to feel that way, that he would have come and give her a kick in the seat.   “It made me laugh, and I said, ‘You know, you're right,'” McNutt said.

So she applied for this job, and got it.

“I love it,” she said. “I’m very happy here, and it keeps me busy. We do a lot of things. My little sidekick, Megan, helps me lot.”

The schedule for the residents includes such things as cooking class, sewing class, story hour, butter-making, “talking topics,” games exercise, outing, a 9:30 am coffee or hot chocolate hour twice a week, karaoke and manicures. They also have a Country Store, which McNutt works to keep stocked with books and many  other items at a minimal cost.

Play money is used for games, such as bingo, and the residents save up their bingo dollars and go shopping.

They have movies and popcorn every Wednesday. They especially like animal movies, and a visit from “Princess,” McNutt’s granddog, is a regular on the monthly schedule. 

Residents make crib quilts to be raffled off for the County Store supplies. McNutt cuts out the blocks and sews them, and the residents turn them right side out.

“I have a couple of wonderful volunteers, Debbie Lovall and Lora Lyn Valencia that help so much,” she said.  “For the people who don’t get out, we do one-on-one activity sessions with them, two 15-minute sessions a week when we read to them or massage their hands, and sometimes we bring music into their rooms.,” she said.

They also have resident-staff dinners, small groups at a time, so they can get to know each other. They try to find out each resident’s interests and go by those interests to do what the resident enjoys.

“We have a lot of music. Randy Schukar and Judy Varga come play and sing once a month. We have a lot of games they can play, such as “Wii” and ping pong poker, pitching the balls into a basket, a pig dice game, an LCR dice game and a Butterfly game,” she said. 

In Person

Originally a “city girl”, from Chicago, she moved here when she married Jim.

She loves to read, in spite of her busy schedule. “I usually take a book with me in my purse, beause I want to read these books.

Jim has had bird dogs for years and he is now raising pigeons. They are the parents of six children, four boys and two girls: Dale, Jamie, Judy, Lenore, Joe, and Dean, who is deceased.