Newcomer Says Job Was Right Fit



Wanda Garcia may describe herself as crazy, but she's not foolish.

So when her employer gave her the choice of transferring to Payson or Yuma, she didn't have to think about it very long.


Wanda Garcia

"I really didn't want to move to Yuma," she said.

The new administrator at Powell House Assisted Living (she's only been here three weeks) has lived in some extreme climates, from the searing desert of the Valley where she grew up, to 11,000 feet above sea level in Colorado, where she watched the Fourth of July fireworks one year through a snowstorm.

Throw in the fact that she came to Phoenix from West Virginia on a bus when she was just six weeks old, and you can see why she might consider herself a little crazy. She was the youngest of eight children who made the cross-country bus trip.

"My father had already come to Arizona because he had black lung disease," she said. "My mother was a brave woman to get on a bus with eight kids."

Being a coal miner's daughter, Garcia says it's unfortunate she can't carry a tune.

"It's such a shame I couldn't make anything off that," she said laughing.

The move from Phoenix to Colorado was almost as radical, but one that Garcia was ready to make.

"I'm not a big city person, so we decided it was time to move away from the city," she said. "My husband asked where I would really like to go and I said Colorado. I always wanted to move to Colorado and live in the mountains. So we sold our house and quit our jobs."

It was eight years later when it snowed in July.

"It's beautiful there," she said, " but July in the snow is just a little too much winter for me."

So the Garcias, who by now really don't mind moving, packed up and headed for Oregon.

"We figure the hardest part about moving is packing the U-Haul," she said. "Once you get it packed, it's just a matter of where you stop."

The Garcia's stayed in Oregon for 15 years, where she began her career with Assisted Living Concepts, the company that owns Powell House and other assisted living residences throughout the U.S. Powell House has 39 private apartments, and provides meals, housekeeping, laundry and assistance with medications.

"We can provide just about anything the state allows us to do, but people need different levels of care so we have an assessment tool we use to determine that," she said.

Garcia believes a job has to be fun, and she says her employees agree.

"It's a fun building," she said. "It's really important to me as an administrator that my staff can come in and play while they're at work. You can't make life so serious. You've got to stop and relax. When I get frustrated, I just laugh and that makes it easier."

The staff she inherited also has helped make Garcia's first few weeks in Payson easier.

"When I walked into this building, they had never met me," she said. "They had no clue who I was, and they made me feel so comfortable. It was like I'd been here forever. It's just like this real comfortable, close family feeling, and that's important."

It's a feeling the residents of Powell House share.

"The residents have fun too," Garcia said. "We're very one-on-one."

Garcia said she has a special affection for seniors.

"My mother managed a nursing home for years, so I grew up around seniors," she said. "I'm familiar and comfortable with them."

Unlike many other cultures around the world, Garcia believes Americans devalue seniors and what they have to offer.

"They have tons of stories and experiences," she said. "They teach us patience and courage. Just imagine some of the stuff these guys have gone through."

And at the end of the day, Garcia knows she is exactly where she wants to be.

"You have to find a job that feels right to you, and this just feels right," she said.


Name: Wanda Garcia

Occupation: Administrator for Powell House Assisted Living

Employer: Assisted Living Concepts

Age: 46

Birthplace: Montgomery, W.Va., but grew up in the Valley from six weeks old.

Family: Husband, one daughter (19) in college, one son (25) in the army, two granddaughters (6 months and 3 years).

Personal motto: Growing old is mandatory, growing up is optional.

Inspiration: My family.

Greatest feat: To survive this crazy world and not take it all too seriously.

Favorite hobby or leisure activity: Riding to different places. I prefer my feet on the ground.

Three words that describe you best: Crazy, warped, lovable, but always caring.

I don't want to brag, but ... I'm the best mom and grandma in the world.

Luxury defined: A bubble bath and candles. That's about as luxurious as my life gets.

Dream vacation spot: Any tropical island.

Person in history you'd most like to meet: The Dalai Lama

Why Payson? It was a better choice than Yuma.

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