By Mike Wade
NRVCS Community Relations Specialist

Kristy McMahan’s name badge probably wouldn’t stand out to the casual observer. It has her picture on it, along with her name and position, and like so many other employees at NRVCS, McMahan’s badge hangs from a lanyard draped around her neck.

So, what makes her badge so special? That would be her staff identification number – #0133. As part of an agency that currently employs close to 800 and one that has seen literally hundreds of workers come and go over the years, Kristy McMahan is somewhat of an anomaly. She came to work at NRVCS in October of 1993 and never left.

“To me, our agency has always cared about our clients, our staff, and our community,” says McMahan. “I’ve always been proud to say that I work here and to tell people what I do. It’s a good place to be.”

A native of Dublin, one could say that McMahan’s career hasn’t taken her very far – at least where geography is concerned. She currently serves as Administrator at Fairview Home, an Assisted Living Facility located “just over the hill” from where she grew up. She first began that role in 2007, when the local governments who own Fairview asked NRVCS to take over management of the facility.

“It was an extraordinarily overwhelming situation,” recalls McMahan. “I was coming from having run a successful program to one that was potentially going to be shut down because there were so many problems…Fairview had lost its credibility and the trust of the community.”

Fairview’s current home, which first opened in the 1970’s, is a 64-bed facility. Residents there have a diagnosis of either a mental illness and/or varying levels of developmental disabilities. Years of inadequate staffing and management led to deterioration of both the residents’ care and the structure itself.

“I think it’s fair to say that we definitely stepped into this at a place where we had to start below the bottom,” McMahan notes. “That’s not saying anything against those who were here before – they just didn’t have the resources they needed. Fortunately, we have the advantage of having the infrastructure in place at NRVCS to manage the operations of this type of facility and to do it well.”

McMahan says turning things around at Fairview proved to be an enormous challenge – both for the facility and for herself.

“We had to earn the trust of the residents, as well as their families and the community in general and it can be really hard to regain that trust once it’s been lost,” she adds. “In fact, I think we still struggle with that on some level in the community.”

“I probably shouldn’t have, but I took it personally sometimes,” acknowledges McMahan. “I felt I had to prove myself and at times it felt like I was starting all over in my career. Even though I’m from Dublin, I hadn’t really worked in the community that much with my previous positions. So, nobody knew me here.”

A graduate of Virginia Tech, McMahan’s first role at NRVCS was as a case manager for adults with mental health disorders. She was eventually named supervisor of Elmtree, a group home in Pearisburg, before coming to Fairview, but credits her first job with establishing a solid understanding of what it means to advocate for those in need.

“As a case manager, I had to work with every part of the agency,” she says. “I had to know about all of the services and resources that were out there and how to access them for my clients. So, I have a great appreciation for the case management component of our system.”

“I’ve always been proud to say that I work here and to tell people what I do. It’s a good place to be.”

A decade after taking the reins of Fairview, McMahan says conditions are noticeably better there.

“I’m proud of a lot of things that we’ve done in that time, but I’m most proud of the fact that our residents are happy,” she declares. “Their needs are being met and their quality of life has improved. They’re happier, they’re healthier and they know there is always someone there for them.”

That’s not to say that Fairview doesn’t still have its share of challenges. McMahan points out that she occasionally struggles to find qualified candidates for open positions – which only puts pressure on existing staff.

“It’s really about making sure our employees have what they need to do their jobs well, but to also make sure they can balance their work and home life and that can be a struggle at times,” she explains. “I want them to come to work without feeling stressed because they’ll have a better impact on our residents – and each other – if they aren’t.”

Another concern for McMahan is being able to meet the needs of Fairview’s aging census of residents.

“It’s very difficult for all of us when we see residents declining to a point where we know they’re going to need a higher level of care,” she adds. “They see it, we see it, the other residents see it, and they know it’s coming but there comes a point where we can no longer give them the care they need.”

So, why stick with the same job for so long? McMahan says the residents are what keep her coming back day after day. “You know, they’re a lot of fun, they really are,” she notes. “We laugh every day…We see their ups, their downs, the good times and the bad times – and we have a part in both sometimes – but they’re real people. They’re happy to see us when we come to work, and we’re happy to see them. It’s just a very good feeling.”

If McMahan had a magic wand, she says she would build a brand new facility for Fairview where that higher level of care could be provided and where “everything is fresh, clean and incredibly accessible.” She goes on to say that her dream facility would also provide her staff with the resources they need to do their work. But, since magic wands are hard to come by, McMahan’s wish list is a bit more conservative at this point.

“We really need to start replacing some of the furniture in the residents’ rooms,” McMahan notes. “Some of it goes back to the 70’s and it’s beginning to fall apart. It’s really our most urgent need at this time.” (Scroll down to the end of this story to learn how you can contribute toward the purchase of new furniture for Fairview residents.)

McMahan lives in Dublin with her husband, Matt, (a driver for NRVCS’ Community Transit program), and their two teenage daughters. While she admits the swirl of ever-changing rules and regulations make it difficult to predict the future of Fairview Home, McMahan is hopeful that she’ll continue to have a role in whatever that future might be.

“Going to Fairview is like going home for me, it really is,” concludes McMahan.

If you are interested in helping fund Fairview’s efforts to replace furniture for its residents, please make checks payable to “Fairview Home” and mail those to the following address: Kristy McMahan, c/o Fairview Home, P.O. Box 1105, Dublin, VA 24084. Contributions are considered tax-deductible.