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Longtime PMC Long Term Care activities coordinator retires

 

Jess Field / Petersburg Pilot

Janna Machalek is the new PMC Long Term Care activities coordinator after Patty Bigger retired from the position after 11 years of service.

Patty Biggers moved to Petersburg in 1989, and went right to work at the Children's Center. For 12 years, she worked as a cook, a teacher and office helper, basically filling whatever need the Children's Center had. The best part of the job was playing with kids, but it was no cake walk, she says.

Biggers left that job after finding out that Petersburg Medical Center's (PMC) Long Term Care facility had a position called, activities coordinator, and she immediately started hounding PMC to get the job. After landing the job, she knew it was the perfect fit, because of the residents.

Halloween was the last day on the job for Biggers, and it was, as she put it "kind of a sad day," because two residents had passed away during the night. Part of her job is to break that news to the other residents.

"It's a family here, this is their home and their peers are like family members," she says. "I truly, truly love these people."

Biggers also had to be strong for her co-workers, and be a shoulder to cry on for a couple of them, but that's also just part of her job.

"I am not the least bit fragile, I am sturdy," Biggers says with a hearty laugh, but some sadness in her eyes. "It's like home away from home, and I know that I'll be back."

Biggers says being supportive of co-workers can be as simple as just listening, and that she has spent many hours at work listening to co-workers and residents, but she admits the majority of the time is reserved for co-workers.

"It's a high stress job, it's really high stress, and people can get on each others' nerves," she says. "There has to be a place to vent, and I try to be the safe place to vent. You don't have to do anything about it, you just have to listen."

She might be giving up her title, but she won't be gone for long. Biggers plans on volunteering a couple times a months, but she suspects it will end up being more, because Long Term Care is lacking van drivers to take the residents on outings twice a week. So she'll probably be called in to help out until her replacement learns how to drive the community van. There are also some uncompleted projects she needs to come back and finish, like completing photo albums and writing an activities manual.

Other than that, Biggers will be taking on four part-time jobs, including babysitting her grandchildren at least one day a week. She also has her son, Dan, helping her create an Ewok village in her back yard. The village, paying homage to the fuzzy and lovable Star Wars characters, already has a tree house completed. Biggers is also planning a sitting room or a big green house for the back yard, so that she can be outside in the rain and tend to her flowers.

"I guess I never got over playing in the dirt," she says. "I love flowers, I like to get my hands dirty and work with them."

Biggers will be replaced by Janna (pronounced "Yanna") Machalek, who was born and raised in Petersburg. Machalek spent time volunteering at Long Term Care while she was in high school, and always knew she really liked the social aspects of the facility. She left town after graduating from Petersburg High School to pursue higher education.

Janna Machalek / Submitted photo

Patty Biggers wearing lady bug wings and holding her lady bug wand during her retirement party. The event was held at Long Term Care on Oct. 23, and the theme was "Garden Party."

Machalek moved to Oregon where she earned a bachelor's degree in sociology, psychology and French, from the University of Portland. Machalek then received her master's degree in counseling psychology from Pacific University. She soon found herself working in Juneau as a behavioral health clinician before recently moving back to Petersburg, soon after the job as activities coordinator opened up.

Machalek says Biggers was a staple in the community and well-loved at PMC. Biggers helped train Machalek for three weeks prior to her leaving, and Machalek knows she has big shoes to fill.

"With my background in counseling, I have helped people through loss and grief, and I think I am certainly prepared to take that on," she says.

If you would like to volunteer or have a suggestions for fun events that Long Term Care can host, call Machalek at 772-4291 ext. 219 or email her at jmachalek@pmc-health.org.

 

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