Posts Tagged Is there Life After Being a Food Service Director?

Is There Life After Being a Food Service Director? By Larry Kaplan

I must say “yes” after sitting on my deck on this gloomy day looking at the trees and flowers knowing that the sun will shine this afternoon and not in the form of a Press Ganey report, DOH Inspector, JCAHO Surveyor, Contractor salesperson or in the presence of a Hospital Administrator’s ominous glare.

My life as a Food Service professional started in 1969 and ended when I retired from St. Peter’s University Hospital in 2001 after 16 years of dedicated service where I was also one of the “founders” of GNJSHFSA and served as President and Director many times. Prior to my employment at St. Peter’s University Hospital I worked for ARA as Director of Food Service at St. Barnabas for 10 years.

In all of those years I could never imagine how good retirement could actually be. I thought of it often, but always considered it to be time that would be spent just relaxing after all of those stressful years on the “firing line”. Initially I just wanted to “unwind” although I found that to be difficult. The first month I considered myself to be on vacation but after that I missed the challenges, socialization and constant interactions with my fellow managers and friends. I found that people within our adult community did not have the same background and mindset that I had or the foggiest idea of what I was talking about. It became boring. We remained in that adult community in Lakewood for almost five years and then moved to Toms River where we live in a beautiful home in Holiday Heights which is an adult community of more than 1,400 homes.

At this point I decided it was time for me to become an active participant in the community. Initially I became chairman of the civic committee where I arranged for information about senior citizen activities to be disseminated throughout the community and then moved on to the chairmanship of the by-laws committee where I re-wrote the by-laws, some of which dated back to 1986. By this time I became comfortable with living here and started to enjoy myself.

All this while my wife Gloria continued to work part time as a teacher and not miss a beat with her trips to A.C. with her neighborhood friends. In fact Gloria became an EMT on the volunteer ambulance squad three years ago. I have to give her a lot of credit for doing that. She studied for about a year prior to going to state mandated classes and became certified after passing the state test. She is now an officer in the squad and also a certified CPR and AED instructor. After living with me and my diabetes which I’ve had for 43 years she had a lot of experience dealing with “sick people”.

My next challenge in the community was to become the President of the Social Club. We meet once a month and provide professional entertainment to the members. When I became president we had 150 members and built it up to 350 members. I did that along with Gloria for three years and then took a break for two years. I am now going to be President again starting this September. While doing this I also call bingo once a month in our community and at our Temple, work on the monthly newspaper, preparing it and delivering it, run the monthly movie which I select from Redbox or Blockbuster and participate in the walking club.

I now walk 2-3 miles per day. Gloria and I also are volunteers for “Caregivers of NJ” and do bi-weekly grocery shopping for seniors who are house the First Aid Squad members who is 90+ years old. While living in Lakewood I also volunteered at Kimball Medical Center.

During the last five years I also ran 3 senior bus trips to Myrtle Beach, Nashville and Cape Cod. Each trip had about 45 attendees and lasted from 7 to 9 days. We only had one death during one of the trips. Talk about learning the “laws” real fast. I also ran two Senior Health Fairs for the Ocean County population. Each fair had 60 exhibitors and were heavily advertised on radio, newspapers and road signs. I did this with no contributions from the community. I did charge a small fee to the “for profit” exhibitors and solicited contributions from the Funeral Directors who are naturally good sources of funds.

I had great support from Community Medical Center, Deborah Hospital and Ocean County Senior Services. We had about 1,000 seniors who participated in each fair. In fact I received calls from other communities seeking help with their promotions but I do not want to nor need to “work” at any set job. Of course being a senior also has many perks. There are the early bird dinners, free passes to Island Beach State Park, free concerts and special discounts along the way.

For our own personal entertainment Gloria and I have gone on more than ten cruises to the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Alaska. We have taken numerous trips to Las Vegas and Aruba and last year took the entire family to Disney World. Next year we are going to spend my 70th birthday in Arizona and New Mexico. In three more years we will have a real special trip for out 50th wedding anniversary.

We have two adult children and three grandchildren who can do nothing wrong. We are typical grandparents who spoil the children and then send them home with their parents. Our grandchildren are 8 (set of twin girls) and 10 (potential soccer pro). The grandchildren have taught us how to use the IPhone and IPod. My granddaughters communicate with me over Face Time. This is like watching Dick Tracey using his watch to communicate with when I was a kid.

There is only one last thing that I can say in order for any Food Service professional to be able to retire and enjoy life without having to worry about the future, you must start planning for your own retirement very early in life. Do not make the mistake of waiting and assuming that your employer “will take care of you” when you do decide to retire. Retirement benefits are being reduced across the country. Saint Peter’s is currently petitioning the IRS to completely change the current retirement plan which will affect all current and future retirees. It can happen to all of us, and if you do not plan properly you will be working until you are 100 years old. Do not let that happen.