Extraordinary Woman Award Winner: Ruth Sunil
Ruth Sunil is Director of Community Life Services at Westminster, where she has worked for 13 years, and oversees resident programming for the senior community’s Independent Living side. Sunil earns accolades for her keen understanding of each resident’s personal needs, interests, viewpoints, and tastes, and meets monthly with the Activities Committee to get feedback and suggestions for future events. Sunil, who moved to Texas in 2009 after living in Michigan, New Zealand and India, described how a host of factors led her to her role at Westminster. “I sincerely believe that the Lord ordained my steps and brought me to Westminster with a purpose,” Sunil said. “I got here by chance through a temp agency and it was my first experience working for a retirement community. Once I got here, I was so inspired by the interesting and friendly residents who live here and the supportive work atmosphere at Westminster, there was no looking back!”
With the goal at Westminster to provide an active, inspirational, and engaging lifestyle for all residents. Sunil ahs been able to build a robust activity program that encompasses all dimensions of wellness, including emotional, physical, intellectual, social, spiritual, vocational, environmental and nutritional. “I also bring a global awareness to the programming at Westminster to ensure that we provide diverse activities, celebrations and cultures that reflect the diversity of our well-traveled and highly educated residents who have been exposed to the larger world,” Sunil said. “Life is full of discovery and that exploration is most salient during the golden age of retirement when people actually have time and interest – which is why we strive so hard at Westminster to give residents access to new experiences. They aren’t slowing down; in many cases they are speeding up.”
Sunil believes in empowering residents, and a great many of the activities are selected and inspired by them. “I work closely with a committee of residents who generate wonderful ideas and perspectives. They bring their own experiences and education to the programs,” Sunil said. “You’d be amazed at the variety. It’s been estimated we host as much as 17,000 events a year campus-wide, both on-and-off site. Our residents expect a high level of service and that extends to activities; they are not sedentary or boring. They expect to be entertained and stimulated. And I love learning with them.”
Interacting and building relationships with the residents keeps Sunil inspired on a daily basis. “They have such inspiring stories to share and I love listening to them and I am in awe of their accomplishments in family and career,” Sunil said. “I believe that I am here to make a difference in their lives. I love seeing their smiles. I find that fulfilling and gratifying. We learn from our elders and the residents at Westminster make retirement look fun!” While the Covid pandemic presented a learning curve, it was an opportunity to be all the more creative, Sunil said. “Despite the circumstances, we wanted our residents to continue to remain engaged and active. We used all of our outdoor spaces for entertainment – with social distancing of course! Our resident committee was especially helpful during the pandemic, when we could not invite into our community guest entertainment and so leaned on our residents to present and entertain. We have such amazing talent in house – physicians, educators, attorneys, writers, musicians, business leaders, athletes – you get the drift,” Sunil said. “So residents had opportunities to share their knowledge with each other. We also used our in-house TV channel and among residents who aren’t scared of technology, we also promoted the use of Zoom for programming. We reopened in phases, and it is now so good to see happy faces again – just being able to do the things they love and enjoy in person. I think we all appreciate more now the things we all took for granted before the pandemic hit us.” When the community was under quarantine, one resident even wrote a poem about Sunil’s efforts to keep spirits lifted, which concluded:
So to Ruth we give thanks, and on her we heap praise;
To regale us she daily finds multiple ways.
Resourceful is she as resourceful can be;
She brightens our lives in these harsh and bleak days.
Sunil said she was thoroughly surprised and honored to be named an Extraordinary Woman.
“I am humbled and grateful to God for His grace and favor. I don’t love talking about myself because my work here is a team effort,” Sunil said. “I feel honored and I am grateful to Westminster for giving me the privilege of working here and for all the encouragement and support I receive. “The novelty of this job has not worn off. Each day is an adventure. Being married to a Pastor keeps me busy off work as well. My husband and I raised two daughters, our greatest joys and biggest accomplishments. We gained two sons through marriage and have two adorable grandchildren and one on the way. I’m so blessed to have my personal and Westminster families.”