Hazel Welliver, the executive director of Harbor Tower Village in Oak Harbor, is proud of the retirement community, with good reason.

Harbor Tower Village was recently awarded the bronze Commitment to Quality Award from the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living. This award is given to communities that exemplify a commitment to the goal of making lives for their residents better.

The bronze award is the first applicants can receive; after that, they can then apply for the silver award and then the gold.

But Harbor Tower Village, while planning on applying for the silver award in the fall, won’t be changing anything about how they run their facility to sway their chances.

“We’ll always just do what we’ve got to do and try to make (life) better for them,” said nurse Shannon DelCiello, who runs the Wellness Department for Harbor Tower Village.

Welliver credits DelCiello as being instrumental in earning the national recognition.

As part of their application for the award, the community had to provide a measurable example of how they improved the life of a resident, so DelCiello suggested the story of how two residents with uncontrolled diabetes were saved from having to go on insulin. She said when she arrived at the community, the two residents had very high blood sugar and were quickly approaching a point of needing insulin.

“I thought, you know what, we’re going to see if we can stop that,” DelCiello said.

Her plan involved working with the two residents to get them to make healthier choices in regard to food and exercise, and to educate them on how to continue making those choices without constant supervision.

“So the staff, the entire staff, the kitchen, myself, the doctor and families all worked together in unison to try to get these people to make healthier choices for themselves without having to be watched all the time,” DelCiello said.

Eventually, one of the residents no longer needed to regularly check their blood sugar at all, and the other resident went from having to check four or more times a day to only checking twice a week.

So when she was asked to provide a measurable example for the award application, this was first on her mind.

“I think that if you can take something like that and be able to make their lives better so that they, one, felt so much better about themselves and, for two, they accomplished something that was great in their lives,” DelCiello said. “I think that was fantastic.”

According to her, the all-inclusive, hands-on approach to helping improve the lives of their residents is their normal strategy.

“You have to be involved with all of your residents on a personal level,” DelCiello said. “They’re not just diagnoses, they’re not just ‘folks in a home,’ they are actually people, and we need to be able to take what they’ve got and make it better.”

DelCiello has been a geriatrics nurse for 32 years and started when she was 17 years old. She said geriatrics is her passion.

“They do an outstanding job of quality for their seniors in their community, and they are working toward making sure everybody has good, great experiences at their building,” said Stuart Brown, chief operating officer of Village Concepts, the assisted living management company Harbor Tower Village is a part of.

Eight Village Concepts communities received the bronze award for commitment to quality this year. Brown said that so many communities receiving the award this year helps the company recognize that they are “consistently, throughout all of our communities” committed to quality care.

“It’s a privilege to come into work,” Welliver said. “That’s how all of us feel. We’ve got a tremendous staff.

“You can’t teach somebody to have that compassion gene. They either have it or they don’t. You can teach them to do a job, but you can’t teach them to care. And this staff cares.”

Pictured: Lou Biddle looks through a selection of books brought by the Sno-Isle Library Bookmobile. Program Director Arielle Corrin arranged for it to start coming once a month so the residents could check out books to read that aren’t offered in the Harbor Tower Village library. Image Credit: Photo By Michelle Beahm/Whidbey News-Times