Whether you’ve “never not known” Chelsea Kalal, or gotten to know her over a span of 10 years, her caring, compassionate personality is just one of the many qualities that stand out to those who have become acquainted with the Kenyon native.
After nearly 10 years working at Kenyon Senior Living, Kalal, who filled the roles as campus administrator and director of development, will officially end her tenure at KSL on Sept. 23. She will move onto a position that will not only bring her closer to her home and family, but also will allow her to continue to grow in her long-term care career.
Emily Quam, KSL’s Campus Admissions Director, Licensed Social Worker, will be the interim “designated person in charge” following Kalal’s exit. The Kenyon Senior Living Board of Directors has contracted with Tom Nielsen, a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator from Northfield Retirement Community. Kalal said Nielsen has worked with the facility in the past, most recently covering her maternity leave in 2018-19.
Although Quam, one of Kalal’s coworkers, is saddened by the news of Kalal’s departure, she is excited for her and the next steps in her career.
“I am very honored to have worked with Chelsea for nearly 10 years,” said Quam. “The compassion and care that she brings is beyond compare.”
Quam says Kalal has always been there for not only her, but also other staff, when they have an issue, even if it isn’t work-related. In her opinion, Kalal has never treated KSL as simply a job, it has been part of her home and her family. Even on her wedding day, Quam says she was busy checking her work emails and checking on the residents.
“She doesn’t like being called a boss, but I have always told her that the title fits her as it stands for Best Office Support System,” added Quam.
Kalal’s extensive knowledge about senior living health care is also something Quam noted, especially how she has always kept up-to-date on the continuous changes in the regulations, which she says is an entire job in itself.
The last six months, Kalal admits have been super challenging, especially in an industry that’s always changing. One thing she’s learned throughout the process is to be patient, and take it day after day, because there’s no definite answer on what’s coming the next day.
“The biggest thing is, I’m obviously going to miss my coworkers, as I’ve been with most of them my entire career there,” said Kalal. “I’ll also miss the residents, not only their stories, but also their input on life. Since I’ve been there, I’ve moved, I got engaged, was married and had two kids. I’ve had a lot of major experiences with them there. It will be weird not seeing them on a day-today basis and not having those experiences.”
Developing a passion for healthcare
Since she began her career at KSL in October 2010, Kalal says she has truly enjoyed and appreciated her time working in her hometown and caring for the area’s seniors. Although healthcare wasn’t something she had envisioned for herself, it is something she now has a passion for.
“I have been honored to care for my residents, some I have even known my entire life,” said Kalal in an email to members of the Kenyon Area Business Association. “These people will forever hold a special place in my heart — truly. This position has allowed me to grow and learn more than I thought imaginable. I have developed and acquired great skills which will be invaluable in my future.”
After KSL’s campus administrator stepped down, the KSL Board began searching for new admin and Judy Pavek, KSL Board of Directors Secretary suggested board members talk to Kalal, who was the director of development at the time.
“I have never not known her,” said Pavek of her relationship with Kalal. “She’s a very compassionate, caring person and she’s very organized.”
Kalal, who is best friends with Pavek’s granddaughter, was always the organizer of the events in her friend group. Pavek says she noted her strength with organization back then, years before she was employed at KSL. Kalal also played a big role in creating fundraising opportunities with the KSL Gala and the Golf Tournament to acquire needed funds for remodels and additions of the facility.
“It was a win-win-win situation for all, it really was. It’s been a really good experience,” added Pavek.
Kalal stepped into the acting role as campus admin in October 2013 and took the necessary classes to become a licensed administrator in March 2014.
The campus admin position involves handling the overall day-day-day operations, making sure management staff is doing what they need to do and managing their staff so everybody is doing the job the best they can with an overall goal to provide quality care.
Through her time in the admin role and director of development at KSL, Pavek said she believes that the people are very appreciative Kalal interacts with the residents.
“They all know who she is, instead of staying in her office, something that was important,” said Pavek. “She wears many hats in a small facility.”
Connecting with the community
Throughout the community, Kalal has also made various connections through serving as a member of KABA, where she acted as secretary and most recently as vice president.
Peggy Ryland, owner of Write-On with Don Ryland, and member of KABA, said when they relocated their business to Kenyon about 10 years ago, they did not know much about the community. As customers would come in, Ryland says they would try to get to know them a little bit and one of those customers was Kalal.
“She was so welcoming, very personable and the fact she knew the community so well made a huge difference,” said Ryland of getting to know Kalal through planning the KSL Gala and in KABA.
When KABA first started, Ryland said they were approached and asked if they’d be interested in being involved in the business organization. As KABA sponsors many events in the area, Ryland says Kalal has taken on chairman of the committee for the Easter Egg Hunt each year, despite how busy she already was.
“That’s just another thing she has committed to,” said Ryland of her time planning the hunt. “Even after she got married and had kids, she still found time. A person that steps up and commits and says yes, she just always had a connection to the community.”
That connection to the community is something Ryland found vital, as it made planning events easier. Given how much she helped, not only at her job, but also with the community for KABA, Ryland says she will be dearly missed.
“It’s going to leave a void, she’s been an important part in a lot of places in the community,” said Ryland. “She’s going to be missed and I wish her all the best. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know her.”
When it comes to scams and fraud, there are a number of them — from coronavirus scams, rumors and price gouging, to telephone and banking scams, investment scams, charity scams, and the list goes on and on. And they can happen to anyone.
Since they present challenges to all communities, no matter the size, the Kenyon Area Business Association and Kenyon Police Department partnered to host a fraud presentation before the monthly Sept. 9 KABA meeting.
Police Chief Lee Sjolander shared various stories and information about active investigations of fraud happening to those in the local area as examples of the types of things to be on the lookout for.
“I don’t think people realize how prevalent this is,” said Sjolander at the meeting. “It’s like everyday at some level. Linda (the department’s administrative assistant) can tell you as much as I can with the phone ringing frequently with reports of scams via phone call, email or in the mail.”
Sjolander said oftentimes, people don’t think scams will happen to them, but if they do, they are hard to solve.
In one of KPD’s active investigations, the victim was scammed out of $100,000. Sjolander says he doesn’t think they will be able to get any of that money back due to the fast pace of these types of scams. In this situation, the individual met someone online and after corresponding for a couple months, the person said they have to move out of the country. Although they never met in person, the individual was duped with a type of grooming behavior. Sjolander says it’s difficult tracking certain items down as it’s now overseas and emails and bank accounts can change so quickly.
Several other examples include receiving false calls from the Internal Revenue Service, getting stolen checks in the mail, selling items on the internet and receiving bad checks for payment and getting emails from online retailers or a big box company, saying the individual’s account needs to be verified because they think it’s been hacked. Although it may look legitimate, Sjolander says it is not.
“I can’t stress this enough, the IRS will not call you … law enforcement will also not call you saying we have a warrant out for you in this state or county and you have to go buy iTunes gift cards online,” added Sjolander. “If there’s a way out there to get a dollar off of somebody, this happens a great deal. Scams happen all the time.”
The nice thing about living in a small town, Sjolander says, is that someone usually hears about a scam going around sooner than later. One scam common among older residents, Sjolander says, involves a call from someone purporting to be a grandchild. In one instance, the grandchild said they were in an Uber in California and drugs were found in the car and they were being held responsible so they needed bail money, and included instructions not to tell their parents.
Sjolander says it’s a “very” easy thing to do to obtain anyone’s name, date of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security number.
“It’s gotten so sophisticated, you’ll see this stuff in the mail, and you’ll think, wow this is really something,” said Sjolander.
As a “wake up” call, Sjolander encourages everyone to search themselves on the internet to see what information is available. Oftentimes, Sjolander says the internet is where scammers can get family information, which they use for the grandparent-grandchild call. On the other hand, there are also services anyone can use — like DeleteMe — who “scrub” some information off of the internet. Although it doesn’t take anyone “completely” off the grid, Sjolander says it takes personal information off many sites.
Sjolander encourages everyone to take the time to research some of the different scams and how to be on the lookout for them, as well as to go through bank statements with a “fine-tooth comb” to keep track of debit/credit/HSA card purchases. He also urges everyone to be aware of “spoofed” phone calls, where scammers use computer programs to spoof a certain phone number, meaning it could appear as if KPD is calling, but it really isn’t.
If a scammer calls someone’s phone and they answer, Sjolander says then they know that number is active and share that with others and soon that individual’s phone will be “blown up” with calls from scammers. On his personal phone, Sjolander says if he doesn’t recognize the number, he doesn’t answer it, following the thinking that if it’s legitimate, they will leave a message.
”We all get calls about some award you won or that the vehicle service is up on your car or the grandparent phone call,” said Sjolander.
With $134,000 in federal CARES Act funding, Kenyon city leaders talked last week about how best to spend the money, intended to help it cover unexpected expenses related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Their discussion, a followup from its Sept. 2 meeting, covered upgrading radio systems for the Police and Fire departments, purchasing upgraded equipment for the city cable access channel and improvements to building ventilation systems.
The funds can be used to reimburse the city for expenses related to COVID, such as PPE supplies, equipment, as well as other eligible related costs. In some cases, cities can also reimburse themselves for personnel related costs from COVID. To date, the city has spent $1,989 on basic supplies and related items to COVID-19.
City Administrator Mark Vahlsing added the city is still looking for other items that might be eligible.
The United States Treasury Department states the CARES Act requires payments from the Coronavirus Relief Fund only be used to cover expenses that are necessary expenditures due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19, were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 for the state or government and were incurred from March 1 to Dec. 30, 2020.
Besides reimbursement of direct costs related to COVID, some other expenditures of CARES Funds that have been discussed by the council include:
• Purchase of upgraded equipment for the city cable access channel and broadcast of council meetings
• Upgrades to Police and Fire department radio systems
• Additional Police Department security cameras
• Toward a portion of the cost of a replacement of the fire department first responder and police vehicle
• Purchases of an iPad or computers for use by council and department heads (where applicable)
• Improvements to building ventilation systems
• Improvements to front payment window area (larger window opening and add counter area)
• Liquor license fee partial reimbursement (credit toward 2021 license)
Vahlsing, in a memo to the council, said it can authorize purchases of some items, and the list is not meant to be all inclusive.
Keeping it local
At the Sept. 8 City Council meeting, Vahlsing asked the council what they would prefer for a iPad/laptop, as a way to make all packets electronic. After some discussion, the council opted to let Vahlsing gather quotes on what could be available, and go from there.
For the security cameras in the Police Department, Kenyon Police Chief Lee Sjolander said with the added cameras, there won’t be a spot in the newly renovated building that won’t be on camera, except in private areas such as the bathroom and interview room that doubles as the on-call room.
“These will add to what we already have, and nowadays, it’s better to have more than less,” said Sjolander.
Vahlsing also asked the council for its opinions on reducing the 2021 liquor license fee and crediting the VFW, Kenyon Bar and Grill and Kenyon Country Club for the time they were closed.
Councilman John Mortensen said other cities are doing something similar as a way to reimburse costs through some of the COVID dollars. Since the city can’t reimburse them since it wasn’t in the budget, they can credit toward next year’s license moving forward.
Mayor Doug Henke recommended cutting the cost up to 50% for next year, depending on the amount of time they want to give them credit for.
City Attorney Scott Riggs said other cities have been in that same range and is basically a creative way to say to the licensee,”We have your back and we’ll figure this out.”
As he put the motion forth, Councilman Dan Rechtzigel said they’ve all been impacted quite a bit and thought it was fair to credit 50% of the liquor license fee, up to $600 per each facility using Federal CARES Act funds. Through his inside view as a staff member at Kenyon-Wanamingo schools, Rechtzigel recommended the city add making portable display board-type structures out of Plexiglas — approved through the Minnesota Department of Health — to set up in the council chambers so masks can be removed, similar to those K-W’s Paul Clausen set up in the school.
During the citizen comment portion of the meeting, Keith Allen, of Kenyon — running for Goodhue County Commissioner in District 3 — addressed an issue that the council could look at if any Federal CARES act funds were available after the city takes care of its needs. After speaking with Kenyon-Wanamingo Superintendent Bryan Boysen, Allen said Boysen expressed a need for potentially getting funds from either townships or cities to help with costs the district is seeing with additional nursing staff, having to set up isolation rooms for students if they happen to get sick and needing more Chromebooks and wireless hotspots.
In his township, Allen said that’s something they are currently considering and after some thought, he decided to pass the suggestion on to the council as a way for an “outside the box kind of thinking.”
Prior to the adjournment of the meeting during the time for staff and council to provide comments, Rechtzigel said it would be interesting to look at keeping any leftover Federal CARES act funds local.
“…I like that idea…if we can find a legal way to give it someone in need, like an organization or the school district, I think that would be great,” added Rechtzigel.