After working in MOKA’s residential homes for 31 years, Constance Woodfork has learned a lot about patience, positivity, and not taking things personally. She walks through the door with a smile on her face.
Constance also loves to shop, so she found the perfect fit as a Residential Support Staff Shopper. But she fills in where needed, helping to supervise, cook meals, and assist with personal care and social activities.
While in college studying accounting, Constance got pregnant with twins and life led her down a different path. She applied at MOKA in 1991 and says she didn’t intend to make it a career.
“I started working and I enjoyed it,” she says. “I love helping. I used to help my grandma, my mom. I love that. It touched my heart.”
Employees like Constance are integral to MOKA’s mission and highlight the resilience and longevity of staff and most importantly their connections with the people they serve.
MOKA’s residential homes serve adults 18 years and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities in small residential settings throughout West Michigan.
Constance, who lives in Muskegon, has worked in several MOKA homes throughout the years, including Sternberg, Wickham, Crystal Lake, and Benston. She moved to the Crescent home when it opened in 2018.
MOKA’s skilled and caring employees provide 24-7 support and services that are person-centered, culturally competent, and compassionate. Residential support staff members assist with meals, medication management, training in self-help skills, household management, budgeting, personal hygiene, behavior management, recreation and leisure planning, and safety skills.
Constance has served in a variety of roles and says every day can be different. She helps out when people go on vacation or a home is short-staffed and previously worked as an assistant home supervisor. She often works 12- to 16-hour shifts but likes getting in her hours in a few days.
“It actually goes fast to me because we’re not sitting in the house all the time,” she says. “We’re getting out, or if we can’t get out, we’re baking cookies. We’re doing something, playing games, so it makes the day go fast for me.”
She also enjoys getting out into the community with the people who live at the home. They walk at the mall, go out to eat, and attend social activities. The Singing Christmas Tree is an annual tradition. “We have three people here who love to shop – love it,” she says. “Anyone could tell you that we aren’t in the home. We’re out in the community being involved.”
Constance learned a long time ago to leave her personal life at the door because the people she supports pick up on her mood. Patience, a positive attitude, and laughter help her get through the tough days.
“I know their likes and dislikes and that’s very important too,” she says. “Like music and singing, I can be silly with them. They love that. And we just dance or we exercise with the music.”
Over the years, Constance thought about applying for a management position, but she prefers shopping over paperwork and likes being able to get out and go. “We can jump up and go out there in the community, so that’s why I love my job,” she says.
And the most rewarding part of her work day? “To see a smile on their face and know I did right,” Constance says. “At the end of the day, when we have a good day, that makes me feel good.”
When she is not working, Constance stays busy with her five grandchildren and husband. She is not ready to retire quite yet, saying, “I can’t just see myself sitting at home doing nothing.”
And shopping. She doesn’t plan to give up shopping.
Story by Marla Miller. Photo by Lara Parent.