You could say that Kristie Stark grew up in senior living. Her mother managed the restaurant in a senior living community, and Kristie would walk there after school each day. She spent her childhood afternoons hanging out in the dining room, chatting with the residents. Her connections to the residents there led her to start working in a senior living community around the age of 16. Over the past 20 years, Kristie has had experience in just about every area of senior care. Her knowledge and love of the industry is evident. She was promoted to dining director at the age of 20. After that, she spent a few years working in sales and marketing. She continued in senior care, earning her assisted living manager’s license at 25, and moved into operations after finishing her education in healthcare administration. Kristie has served as the executive director of The Summit at Sunland Springs Assisted Living and Memory Care Community, in Mesa, AZ since 2015. Currently, Kristie serves as an Operations Specialist for Avista Senior Living supporting multiple senior living communities including The Summit.
She says her grandparents were a major influence in her life and a big part of the reason she has stayed in senior care. She talks about the lives her residents have lived and her love of hearing their stories. “When this generation passes, so does their knowledge and experience, and I always want to capture all of it,” she says.
One thing Kristie loves about working in senior living is that no two days are the same: “I can go from helping in the kitchen one day to sitting bedside with a resident the next.” She compares being an executive director at The Summit to running a little city. Kristie manages every aspect of the community with kindness and attention to detail. “We don’t get it right every day,” she says, “but we do try.”
Kristie’s efforts have helped create a strong community feel at The Summit at Sunland Springs. It’s a luxury senior living community built in the tradition of excellence established by the Farnsworth family. Kristie’s focused approach to excellence in senior living means she is constantly looking for ways to better care for the residents at The Summit, including cutting-edge systems like The Enhance Protocol or Safely You.
Kristie believes strongly in the importance of continuing education and training for her staff. “We are always reaching out to help each person progress and grow.” She says she’s really proud of the mentoring she’s done at The Summit. In fact, three of Avista Senior Living’s executive directors have come directly from Kristie’s training and mentorship. “We always need to be growing leaders,” she says. “We can’t be afraid to replace ourselves.” With Kristie leading the way – training and encouraging great leaders – the senior living industry is in good hands.
But it’s not just about training. It’s about truly caring for people. Kristie takes a deep interest in the well-being of her staff members. The result? Staff members are happy and excited to come to work each day. It’s one thing that really sets The Summit at Sunland Springs apart from other senior living communities. The staff are uplifting and positive, and that energy carries into the way they care for the residents. “I’m a firm believer that what we put out in the world is a reflection of me and the whole community,” says Kristie. Her hand can be seen in every aspect of excellence at the Summit.
Kristie’s straightforward, honest approach is refreshing. She has real conversations with families about what they can expect if their loved one enters assisted living or memory care. “I am not going to promise the moon,” she says. “I’m going to show them the interventions we have in place to get our residents the help they need.” When showing potential residents the community, Kristie emphasizes that things are unpredictable in senior living. She wants them to see how the staff responds. “Sometimes we are going to make mistakes, and I want families to know that when that happens, I will work really hard to fix it,” she says.
When she’s not at The Summit, you can find Kristie enjoying anything outdoors. She loves spending time camping and at her family cabin in Forest Lakes. She hopes those considering assisted living for their loved one understand that she and her staff are there for help and support. “We have the same goals; you want your loved one to be happy and in a safe place. That’s my same goal as an executive director. We’re on the same team.”