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‘It’s about keeping people happy’

Jovial nursing home volunteer to receive state award in Chicago

Published: Friday, Dec. 14, 2012 1:15 a.m. CST
Caption
(Kali Blackburn / Special to Sauk Valley Media)
Jim Blanton, 72, of Amboy, is maintenance man, driver and head cut-up at Amboy Healthcare and Rehabilitation. For his unfailing devotion to the nursing home's residents, Blanton is receiving the Outstanding Caregiver Award at the 2012 Governor's Conference on Aging in Chicago today.

AMBOY – Each weekday at 7:10 a.m., the nursing home residents are greeted with a rooster’s crow.

Not a real rooster, but a sound clip played on public address system, followed by the playful fake Southern accent of maintenance man and transporter Jim Blanton as he reminds residents: “The victuals are ready; come ’n’ git ’em.”

That is the morning routine at Amboy Healthcare and Rehabilitation, designed by Blanton to begin each resident’s day with a smile.

He doesn’t punch the clock until 8 a.m., but he is there each morning to conclude with the message, “Jesus loves you, and we do, too.”

That’s only the beginning of the impact Blanton has at the nursing home, administrator Lynn McCoy said, but it’s a prime example of why he’s being honored today.

Blanton is receiving the Outstanding Caregiver Award at the 2012 Governor’s Conference on Aging in Chicago. He is the lone recipient in the long-term care facilities category.

The white-haired 72-year-old is modest when he speaks about the impact he is making, saying the “good Lord gave me the strength for those who need it.”

“It’s about keeping people happy and giving them something to laugh about,” said Blanton, who stopped mid-sentence to tease a co-worker. “They all get a kick out of it, and if I’m not able to do it, they let me know they missed it.”

As the facility’s transporter, Blanton is instrumental in taking residents to medical appointments and outings. He stays with them from start to finish, and has given many late night, off-the-clock trips to the emergency room, McCoy said.

He also keeps the building in good shape as the facility’s maintenance man.

He does both jobs well, but it’s his character and his ability to give those around him a laugh that makes him a special person in the minds and hearts of residents.

Between tasks, Blanton stopped in Bonnie Trouth’s room recently to help throw away her breakfast plate.

“He has an awesome sense of humor, and he’s willing to help residents with anything,” said Trouth, who has lived at the nursing home for more than a year. “Oh, and he’s a good hugger.”

Residents Regina Morrissey and Martha Hillison say they never have seen Blanton upset or mad.

“He’s so generous with his time, to everyone,” Morrissey said. “He gives so much, and never gets upset. He just makes us all laugh.”

Blanton, who worked for Total Logistics Center in Rochelle, never imagined himself working at a nursing home, but after 1 whole day of retirement nearly 8 years ago, he grew restless.

“I couldn’t stand it,” Blanton said. “I saw a job opening for a part-time van driver, so I thought to myself, that would be perfect. Then, they needed a maintenance man, and it went from there.”

He has a hard time keeping away from the home, often visiting on weekends and evenings, or helping with activities.

“I just miss it when I’m away,” he said. “I enjoy taking care of them.”

He’s thankful to co-workers and residents for nominating him for the award, and they were quick to let him know how much he is appreciated.

“Jim Blanton is the greatest friend any person could have, the best employee a employer could want, and the finest example of what compassion, love and kindness really are,” McCoy said.

“Our residents and staff have truly been blessed to have had the opportunity to know and spend time with Jim Blanton.”

And, Trouth added, “He makes us smile.”

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