For the past 20 years, Barbara Hooper has worked in the kitchen at Maine Veterans’ Homes - South Paris. And this year, she was honored with the designation of “Employee of the Year” by the Oxford Hills Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, the award is presented to an employee who “...displays outstanding work ethic, a cooperative nature among fellow employees, and contributes to the success of the company.”
A recognition event was scheduled for March 30, 2019, at the Chamber’s annual dinner.
Barbara Hooper at Maine Veterans’ Homes
Hooper said she originally started at MVH - South Paris as a cook.
“I’d always worked in restaurants,” Hooper said. “I just thought I wanted to do something different in my career.”
A few years into the job, she had the opportunity to step into the management position, and when the home needed a new dietetic technician, she returned to school to earn her degree.
Today, her job is comprised of a variety of responsibilities: Ensuring the kitchen is run properly, ordering food, planning healthy menus and administering the employee wellness program.
Hooper says an important part of the job is working closely with residents to provide the food they most enjoy.
“If there’s an item that they can’t have because of a diet restriction or chewing and swallowing restriction, we work with them to see what else we could do,” she said. “Or, we work together with our speech therapist to find the safest way for them to have the food they enjoy.”
Under Hooper’s direction, the home also serves a healthy diet that nearly any resident can enjoy.
“There’s really no diabetic diet or other restricted diet. It’s all healthy - for example, all the food I order is low-sodium,” she said.
She also chalked up her longevity at MVH to the staff members she works with every day.
“If I didn’t have the team I have, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Hooper said. “Everybody knows when to help each other out throughout the building. We’re more family than co-workers.”
Dining at Maine Veterans’ Homes - South Paris
Under Hooper’s direction, the dining program at MVH has achieved high marks from both residents and visitors.
“Our residents and their families are always complimenting the good food,” said South Paris administrator Brad Peck.
In 2017, the home completed renovations to the dining room. The restaurant-style dining space now includes an upgraded kitchen, skylights and floor-length windows for lots of natural light, a handicap-accessible heated outdoor patio and an American flag-themed ceiling.
Residents and their visitors can eat in the dining room from 5:30 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. Menu choices rotate frequently to provide a variety of healthy and delicious options.
More About Maine Veterans’ Homes
Our staff members are dedicated to serving our residents and to upholding our mission: Caring for those who served. As a nonprofit, independent institution with six locations throughout Maine, we offer the highest level of care for veterans, spouses and Gold Star parents.
To see if you or a loved one qualify for care at Maine Veterans’ Homes, download your free eligibility and benefits guide today.