Christopher Homes lauded as a ‘Top Workplace’

By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Photo | COURTESY CHRISTOPHER HOMES, INC.

Christopher Homes, Inc., has been named one of 55 local “Top Workplaces” in a survey commissioned by The Times-Picayune-New Orleans Advocate.

The achievement marks the third consecutive year the archdiocesan office – which develops and manages affordable housing for about 2,500 elderly and disabled individuals at 18 sites across the metro area – has earned the distinction.

“Christopher Homes places great value on its employees, our greatest asset,” said Deacon Dennis Adams, executive director of Christopher Homes, who oversees a staff of 135 full-time employees, some of whom have worked for the housing agency for more than 20 years.

“Ours is a ministry of service, a ministry of presence to our residents,” Deacon Adams added. “By valuing our staff, we empower them to serve our seniors, giving them purpose and meaning in their jobs. Also, we strive to let our staff know their value and give them the feeling of security in their job.”

Deacon Adams said staff members focus on helping residents live their best lives by providing deeply affordable rent and life-affirming services, which allows them to manage with very limited resources. He attributed employees’ on-the-job satisfaction to an observation made by Viktor Frankl, the late Austrian psychologist and Holocaust survivor: We find purpose in life through serving others.

“Our ministry allows our staff to enjoy a career of service to others while being valued for that service and earning a living for their family,” Deacon Adams said. “When I visit our sites, I find our staff pleased with their jobs and happy. That is not to say that issues don’t arise and there are times that we must make difficult decisions, but even that is done through much effort to work with the person or the issue at hand. We try to resolve all issues to everyone’s greatest benefit.”

Staff contentment high

Christopher Homes’ “people-first” orientation was visible after Hurricane Katrina, when the agency was determined to raise its minimum wage to $10 per hour at a time the ministry’s future was uncertain.

“God was good to us and blessed us with the staff and funding to continue to grow our staff wages and return to our full occupancy,” Deacon Adams said. “Our employees often cite that their satisfaction derives from working with a great team of people, great benefits, flexibility and ample time off.”

Deacon Adams said another source of staff satisfaction comes from working at a faith-based organization. Home office staff members have the opportunity to attend the monthly Masses celebrated in their workplace chapel and staff reflection days provided by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Those who work at Christopher Homes’ individual properties also have access to Mass and prayer at on-site chapels.

More than just a ‘job’

Babette Charbonnet, a Christopher Homes service coordinator who assists nearly 500 residents at Rouquette Lodge in Mandeville, St. Teresa’s Villa in Slidell and St. Bernard Manor in Meraux, said she feels honored to have a job that helps seniors live independently and with dignity. Although Charbonnet said she enjoys keeping residents up to date on their health-insurance options, assisting them with activities of daily living and linking them to recreational and educational opportunities, she regularly feels she receives more than she gives while on the job.

“I will see a 90-year-old helping a 70-year-old who’s having difficulty or has just returned from surgery. You do witness a lot of good works here,” Charbonnet said. “To be a part of it is a blessing. I love my job because I make a difference in someone’s life every day, through the grace of God.”

Christopher Homes was honored at an Aug. 27 ceremony at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

The Top Workplace recognition was based on employee feedback gathered through a third-party survey administered by research partner Energage, LLC, a provider of technology-based employee engagement tools. The survey measured several aspects of workplace culture, including alignment, execution and connection.

Beth Donze can be reached at bdonze@clarionherald.org.

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