Rene’ Hendrix, manager of Emerald Valley Apartments in Evergreen, was recently named Alabama Housing Finance Authority’s 2021 Manager of the Year (MOTY). Now in its 24th year, the MOTY award recognizes outstanding management staff at AHFA-funded developments.
Rene’ started as the manager at Emerald Valley, a 45-unit development targeted to the elderly, in February 2015. Of her win, she says, “It was an honor just to be nominated for this award, and I am shocked to win. I knew there were many nominees. I have always been the type of person to try to do and be my best, and at times, I think it is never enough. Winning this award makes me want to be even better at my job and a better person in general. I am very thankful and blessed.
During her time at Emerald Valley, Rene’ has received several awards, including the Bob Morrow Citizenship Award. This award is a recognition for service to others, including providing new services and community functions to improve the lives of residents and the community.
Service to others kicked into an even higher gear with the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rene’ says, “The biggest thing for me when COVID hit and we had to shut down the amenities, which included the Nutrition Center for Meals on Wheels, was to ensure the safety and well-being of my residents. Most importantly, I wanted them to know that we were all in this together and together we would work through any issues that may arise. For those unable to do so, we sanitized for them, provided them with masks, and provided them with as much information we could get regarding COVID-19. It was important to always keep them in the loop – many do not have cable and did not get the news.”
Most of the residents at Emerald Valley are recipients of the Meals on Wheels program. Rene’ says, “During the weekdays, the meal they served during lunch is the only meal some residents may eat that day.” Once the program was put on hold due to COVID-19, Rene’ says, “Making sure they were able to have a hot meal was most important. I enlisted the help of several residents and we cooked or made hot dogs and sandwiches to hand out to those that needed something to eat. Although we could not do this every day, we did it as often as we could.”
Residents are used to Rene’ taking care of them, and part of that includes big holiday celebrations. Celebrations include door decoration contests, socials and Easter egg hunts. Rene’ adds, “Football season is always a fun time for the residents. We have two televisions in the Community Room, and our company provided a popcorn machine so it could be used for movie or game nights. There is something going on every weekend. This was difficult during COVID-19 and it was upsetting to residents that we could not congregate and do our normal fun things, but we made it through.”
Christmas is of course a huge decorating season and social holiday. Rene’ says, “We have around 10 or so Christmas trees that average from 2 feet high to 16 feet, and we use every one of them. Decorations start going up the day after Halloween. It takes about a week, but the property is transformed. I have a handful of residents that join me in this tremendous task. I could not do it alone. Every year we increase the decorations and change them up. The residents love that time of year around here. Our little community of Evergreen knows that if they want Christmas pictures taken, Emerald Valley is the place to come, and they do.”
Rene’ is happy to be working in affordable housing as well. She says, “It keeps people off the streets or living in areas that are unsanitary and unsafe. Many elderly and low-income families cannot afford what your average market rent would be for a decent, clean, safe place to live.” Her nomination package was filled with compliments from her employer and letters from tenants supporting her nomination for Manager of the Year, all highlighting her strong work ethic and commitment to her residents. Rene’ says, “I just love what I do. I am not just a figure sitting behind a desk in the office. I treat my residents like family - because here, we are family.”