September 2, 2014
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Unwavering dedication
Lifelong resident receives prestigious elderly services award
Alex Kowalski
EXCEPTIONAL SERVICE: Kimberly Morris receives the prestigious John Hedderson Award. Pictured from left: Dottie Santagata, Cornerstone administrator; award winner Kimberly Morris, Cornerstone case manager; Steven Horowitz, St. Elizabeth Community president; Roberta Merkle, St. Elizabeth Community executive vice president; James Nyberg, Leading Age RI director.

When Kimberly Morris joined Cornerstone Adult Services 25 years ago, it was called Warwick Central Geriatric Center and fit into one room at the Warwick Central Baptist Church.

From studies at Rhode Island College and ultimately to her career, the field of aging has been an unwavering, undoubting dedication – a loyalty to service that earned her the John Hedderson Award for exceptional service in her field.

Morris committed a quarter-century of care to families and individuals at the Cornerstone Alzheimer’s Care Center – a dedication that has aided hundreds of sufferers of the disease.

This year Morris received the prestigious John Hedderson Award for going “above and beyond the call of duty in caring for the elderly,” said James Nyberg, director of Leading Age RI.

In the nomination letter, Cornerstone administrator Dottie Santagata wrote, “Kim has lived and breathed our mission for more than 25 years – to optimize the quality of life of our participants and to help them remain in their homes for as long as possible.”

As a lifelong Warwick resident, Morris graduated from Pilgrim High School, later studying elderly care services at Rhode Island College. Her interest in the topic galvanized a passion. “[Aging and the elderly] was a field I always wanted to work in. It’s never been a question in my mind,” Morris said in an interview. She currently works as a case manager and social worker in the Cornerstone Alzheimer’s Care Center.

Even as Cornerstone continued to grow, joining the St. Elizabeth Community of elderly caretakers in 2009, Morris adapted to every task assigned to her.

The company’s growth presented an expanding universe of complex challenges, from increasing her range of care-giving to the needs of the impaired, to keeping tabs on changing federal and state regulations.

Despite these obstacles, Morris does more than overcome them. She shines. “Kim remains true to her calling – giving others the best she has to offer. From first contact to final discharge, Kim stays in close touch with ‘her families,’” said the nomination letter.

Expansion never caused Morris to compromise her efforts to provide nothing less than whatever she could do to help – only her best.

“I hold Cornerstone very dear to my heart and I strongly believe in our care, our participants and their families, and I strongly believe in what we do. That’s why I’ve been here so long, because I believe in what I do,” said Morris.

Nominees chosen from across the elderly and aging services community are submitted to a committee at Leading Age RI for the John Hedderson consideration. At this year’s annual recognition event, the Quality of Life luncheon, the committee chose Morris to be the ninth recipient of all time.

Ever humble, the announcement came as more than a shock to Morris.

“It’s overwhelming, to be thought of that highly by your employer. It’s a great honor to be recognized by my administrators. When they announced my name, I was shocked; I really was. It was a great surprise.”

The Hedderson honor is a namesake of administrator John Hedderson, “a dynamic, caring individual, dedicated to his residents and to his employees, strongly committed to improving the Quality of Life for both residents and staff at The Villa at St. Antoine,” read the nomination distributed by Leading Age RI.

Morris, ever humble, pays it forward to her boss Dottie Santagata.

“The support and leadership of our administrator Dottie and past administrator Roberta Merkle has been exceptional and supportive. They’re great leaders,” she said.


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