Stories Of Impact

Jeff Mellin


“It’s the people who work here who make a difference, not the sparkly things that make a place beautiful.”

Bobbie Harper grew up near Callaway Gardens – one of 10 children in the family. They raised hogs, grew vegetables, and attended the Baptist church. They didn’t have a lot of money.

After she married and came to Atlanta, Bobbie worked as a secretary for Eastman Kodak before moving to a secretarial position with the same hotel company where I worked. Bobbie later became my secretary and we worked together for about 20 years and became close friends.

Bobbie was living in an apartment in Atlanta when she developed dementia. She was divorced and didn’t have any children. And she wasn’t close to her siblings or their families, so I became her caregiver.

When she could no longer live in her Atlanta apartment, Bobbie moved to a new assisted living facility in Peachtree City to be closer to our home in Tyrone. My wife and I decorated the room. It was on the 2nd floor, but the doors on the hallway didn’t lock and there was an elevator. She began wandering and the facility advised that she needed to be in a more secure environment for her own safety. So I looked at all of the facilities in Peachtree City, Fayetteville and Newnan before a friend of my wife suggested Christian City.

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When I visited Christian City, it was not the prettiest place, but it was fresh and clean. After I met with Debra Stegall, the manager of the Assisted Living memory care floor, and Hashmia Fields, the nurse manager on the Skilled Nursing 5th floor, the decision was quickly made to move Bobbie to Christian City.

It’s not the place itself that’s most important, it’s the people who take care of the residents. It’s not the painted walls, shiny floors, and places to eat. All the places have that stuff. It’s the people who work here who make a difference, not the sparkly things that make a place beautiful.

Christian City has a lot of staff members who have been here 15-20 years, and some much longer. As Bobbie’s caregiver, I felt an obligation to meet all three shifts of staff taking care of her. More importantly, they needed to know me. I wanted to make sure she was getting the same treatment at night that I saw during the day. And she was!

I get up at 5am every day, so I was able to visit Bobbie at 5:30am. No matter when I visited, she was always in good hands and well taken care of. She always looked good – her hair was always done and her clothes were clean.

I’ll say it again. The staff members are the ones who make a difference. If you want the prettiest place, don’t go to Christian City. If you want people who will take as good care, if not better than you did, go to Christian City.

There are a lot of terrible stories out there about assisted living and nursing homes. I tell people to go meet the people who are doing the job to know what you’re getting. Christian City is better than home, because there are people here taking care of your loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I made it very clear – as long as Hash is here, she’s not moving off the 5th floor. Bobbie was happy and the nurses knew her. That’s what was important. If anything happened, the nurse called me right away.

Bobbie was happy living at Christian City. She wanted to donate money to help the children who live at Christian City, and that’s what we talked about doing after her death. Now that she is gone, I’m honoring her wishes to help provide for the needs of the children.