Love what you do, the old adage says, and you’ll never work a day in your life. By that standard, Tracy Berg, social services director at Marquis Hope Village in Canby, hasn’t worked in a very long time.
“I love it,” she says of her job. “I absolutely love it. Even on really hard days, I can see the difference I make in people’s lives in a tangible way. Not everybody gets to see exactly what their work is doing in someone’s life on a daily basis the way I get to see it.”
Berg has been with Marquis Companies for four years, most of it at Hope Village. Her job responsibilities include logistics — assisting residents and families with insurance and providers such as Medicare and Medicaid — and, well, “whatever comes up.”
“Pretty much anytime there’s no specific person to handle something it goes to social services,” she says with a laugh. “And that’s another thing I enjoy about my job: There’s never a boring day. It’s never dull here.”
Of course, working with vulnerable people can be emotionally trying — something Berg learned very early on.
“When I first started working with seniors, I had a hard time not taking stuff home with me because this is a 24/7 job,” she recalls. “Once I learned how to deal with that and it just became who I am, it’s gone really well. It can be really hard, but it just brings me so much joy, too.
“I work a lot with end-of-life care: stepping in during those last couple months, weeks, days, hours. The first time I held someone’s hands while they passed away, I realized I have the capacity to do this — I should probably do this.”
That capacity was tested like never before last June, when Marquis Hope Village experienced a devastating and deadly outbreak of Covid-19, a period Berg calls the “worst month of my entire life.”
She still remembers exactly where she was when she learned the virus has infiltrated the facility — infecting some people Berg views not as residents, but her own friends and loved ones.
“Someone had barely spiked a temperature, and we immediately tested everybody, and by then, it has already spread,” she says. “That’s when I realized that even with all of our planning, all of our training, everything that we had done in advance, all of our precautions, despite all of that, it had still gotten into the facility. And before it was even detectable, it spread. That hit me like a gut punch.”
Berg herself contracted the coronavirus and, like several of her colleagues, opted to continue working with Covid-positive residents due to a staffing shortage. Even when she became ill enough that the house physician ordered her to go home and rest, she “came back pretty quickly.”
“It was hard to be here, but it was even harder not to be here,” she says. “When this is your job, you don’t get to pull your heart out of it, so my heart was here the whole time. These were my loved ones and their families that were suffering.”
Marquis made it through that difficult period, and in December, its residents and staff — including Berg — became among the first in the state of Oregon to have access to the Covid vaccine.
There were many more emotional moments — in her words, “tears of joy” — when she was able to share the news with residents and loved ones that the vaccine would be available to them and that some semblance of normalcy would soon be returning.
She almost chokes up herself recalling the moment when a married couple — only one of whom lives in the facility — were able to hug one another for the first time in months after being fully vaccinated.
Marquis has since made its supply of vaccines available to residents’ family members, friends and the greater community at weekly vaccination clinics. Though there are still numerous safeguards and precautions in place, group dining and other activities have resumed and morale has greatly improved as a result.
“They have things they’re looking forward to again,” Berg says of the residents at Marquis Hope Village. “You know, there’s not a set date to the end of the pandemic, but they know we’re headed in the right direction. And they’re able to see more and more of what they love to do able to happen again.”
Including — and, for some, especially — Bingo.
“We have some very competitive bingo players,” Berg says with a chuckle. “They’ll trash talk you.”
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