FRONTENAC — As a young freshman in high school, Kim Coonrod rode her bike over to Sunset Manor in hopes of getting her first job.

On the very same day, May 21, 1998, they accepted her application.

“I was hired on the spot,” she said.

Last week she celebrated her 20th anniversary at the care home with cake. The facility is now called Medicalodges Incorporated.

Kim said she started because she and a friend felt ready for the grown-up responsibility of having a job.

She started washing dishes there for about three hours a day and later on became a cook helper on the weekends where she gained more experience.

Now she is the cook.

Kim arrives at work by 4:30 a.m. to have breakfast prepared by 6:30 a.m. She also works afternoon shifts for dinner too.

“Sometimes it’s overwhelming, but it is rewarding,” she said.

Tuesday, she prepared about 70 fiesta burgers, and that was just one part of lunch.

Her favorite dish to make is meatloaf. She mixes all the ingredients and places them into a huge baking pan which can hold up to eight meatloaves.

What keeps her coming in so early in the morning is the residents at the home and the staff in the kitchen, she said.

“The staff in kitchen is super great,” Kim said. “We all have a bond in the kitchen, most have worked with me for multiple years.”

When she’s in the kitchen, sometimes she thinks about the people who go without food.

“Even in this community, some do not get a hot breakfast,” she said.

Believe it or not, she said she learns something new every day, even after all these years.

The residents have menus which vary from time to time, and of course she also hears stories from the residents on occasion.

Speaking of residents, Kim knows just about — if not all — residents by name at the home.

This is from conversing with them during mealtime and celebrations.

Kim, who has since lost her own grandparents, said she treats the residents like her own family.

She said she likes to visit with them when she can and sometimes she and the staff sing “Happy Birthday.”

Kim said some people think working at a care home could be “scary,” but in reality it has helped her learn how to cope with a death of a loved one and the environment is much more chipper than perceived from the outside.

“Some people think nursing homes are scary,” she said. “It’s actually not, you want to make a it a fun-loving environment as if its a home — because this is their home.”

Outside of working for the Medicalodges, Kim likes to spend time with her family and go on family vacations. Trips in the past include Canada, France, Florida, Colorado and Arizona.

People could possibly expect another 20 years of dedication to the home since she said she doesn’t have any plans on leaving any time soon.

— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. To nominate someone for Patrick's People send an email to patrickspeople@morningsun.net