St. Therese marketing director is strong advocate for seniors

| September 14, 2011 | 0 Comments
John LeBlanc

Leading With Faith winner John LeBlanc enjoys a laugh with Benedictine Sister Marie Fujan during a meeting at Saint Therese of New Hope. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

John LeBlanc is right at home at Saint Therese of New Hope and Saint Therese at Oxbow Lake in Brooklyn Park. He greets everyone by name and often stops to ask about the well-being of staff, residents and tenants.

Recently, LeBlanc visited Harry, a 97-year-old resident who was waiting in the therapy area for his appointment in hopes of getting strong enough to move back to his apartment at Oxbow Lake.

“Harry is a reminder of what is important and that you better stop and visit,” LeBlanc said later. “He would be a great example of someone who is upbeat. I saw him one day out of 12 years where he was down. Who’s to tell him he doesn’t have a right to Medicare dollars to do some therapy and give him some hope and to feel better?”

Amid all the discussion going on about the wise use of tax dollars, LeBlanc, 45, said he believes Harry and other members of the “Greatest Generation” deserve the right to feel better and to hope for a return to their independent living situation.

“It’s cool to see Harry happy, to be fired up and have a goal.” But when patients plateau, Medicare won’t pay for therapy any longer, LeBlanc said.

“They were our Little League coaches. They were the hubs of our families,” he said. “The reality is —  we are going to see that day and need advanced care.”

Enhancing seniors’ lives

So, LeBlanc has sought ways to improve the health and well-being of seniors through donations from organizations and individuals.

“When I can see that my effort actually helped someone make a decision to make a donation or a decision to come here, that’s huge,” he said. “Trying to make life better for these seniors and their families and seeing that donors are pleased with their donations” make his job fulfilling.

One project he is proud of is finding donors to purchase expensive balance equipment, which spawned the Balance Clinic at Saint Therese of New Hope and the funding of more balance equipment at Oxbow Lake.

“People aren’t doing the tango after balance therapy,” he quipped. “But we have people who were in wheelchairs . . . and are almost running down the halls. It’s a story about  giving people confidence to get better and go back to their apartment.”

LeBlanc said he has been on “an interesting journey” since learning that he would receive the Leading With Faith Award. His first thought was: “If you only really knew me.” Then, it prompted him to write down a list of all the people in his life who have been there for him. The list includes his parents, priests, his wife, Michelle, and those with whom he didn’t get along. “They say if there is someone you don’t like or something you don’t like in someone, a lot of times it’s because that’s in you as well. I don’t fully understand that, but I’m going in the direction of starting to get that.”

He cited the positive influence of  Sharing and Caring Hands’ Mary Jo Copeland, with whom he volunteered; Msgr. Jerry Boxleitner and Father Larry Snyder, with whom he worked at Catholic Charities; and Ron Krietemeyer, former archdiocesan social justice director.

“Ron Krietemeyer always talked about the widows, orphans and aliens and how society is judged by how it treats those people,” he said.

“It feels awkward to be called out” when he thinks of the pastoral staff, nurses and aides and what they are paid, LeBlanc said. “It’s also awkward because if you say faith is a gift, how can you get an award for it?”

Faith guides decisions

Although LeBlanc doesn’t discuss his relationship with Jesus or his faith in the workplace, “I have been reminded that faith has guided me in all my decisions or I have wanted it to guide me.”

A tenant once wanted to give Saint Therese a gift of $10,000. Although nursing home residents are legally “vulnerable adults,” tenants are not protected by the same rules. This tenant had previously given a gift and LeBlanc decided to check in with one of the children. He believed it was important to be honest with another family member. The adult child understood the dilemma and was grateful for the call. The donation was made and relationships maintained.

LeBlanc said he has worked for the Catholic Church all of his life, except for a stint with Children’s Home Society. He worked for St. Stephen in Min­neapolis, St. Edward in Bloomington, Catholic Charities, Twin Cities, and spent time at the archdiocesan mission in Venezuela.

After taking this job five years ago, he recalled that he had worked at a nursing home in high school and thought that he should become a nursing home administrator. Today, he is working on obtaining that licensure so he can continue to serve.

“I think of the courage here in the residents and the tenants day in and day out. You can do life and be negative and you can do life and have a positive outlook,” he said. “I hope I’m like Harry.”

Biography

Title: Development, marketing, communi-cation director of Saint Therese of New Hope and Oxbow Lake in Brooklyn Park

Parish: Christ the King, Minneapolis

Spouse: Michelle

Children: Dominic, Clara,  Sean and Michael

Activities: CaringBridge founding member and board member for six years; Catholic Network of Volunteer Service board member for three years.

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Category: Leading With Faith