Casa de Mañana residents help employees and their children by donating scholarships

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To assist and thank the employees of La Jolla retirement community Casa de Mañana, residents there fund three scholarship programs.“We get to support our employees and our employees’ children in a wonderful way,” said resident Susan McLeod, chairwoman of the Casa de Mañana scholarship committee.The longest-running scholarship program is for employees, started in 2005 by the foundation of Casa de Mañana’s parent company, Front Porch Communities.Scholarships began at $500 but have since grown to up to $5,000.The program “supports our employees to do whatever kind of self-improvement in education they want to do,” McLeod said, including traditional college degrees, certificate programs and more.Sometimes the education is meant to improve the employee’s job skills. One worker in the marketing department took a series of courses on gerontology, McLeod said.Other scholarships are given for courses to improve English skills. Another person is working on a construction management license.Employees declined to be interviewed.To be selected for the program, workers must apply, and if accepted, submit their expenses for reimbursement up to the $5,000 limit, McLeod said.The money is provided by residents’ donations, given to and distributed from the Front Porch Communities Foundation’s account.“It’s not an insignificant scholarship, and we’ve really managed to help several of our employees improve their education,” McLeod said. “This is something that lets team members know they are appreciated, not just by the company they work for but by the residents they serve.” — Kurt Norden, Casa de Mañana executive director Casa de Mañana residents fund dozens of scholarships every year to benefit the retirement community’s employees and their children.(Elisabeth Frausto) Casa de Mañana residents “understand the value of education but are also really concerned … that so many young people these days graduate with a burden of debt,” McLeod said. “We want to make sure that doesn’t happen to people if we can help it. … We want to invest in our employees and their future.”Casa de Mañana awards more than 10 employee scholarships per year and has shifted from an annual application period to a rolling one.“We will fund the scholarships as long as they keep applying,” McLeod said. An employee may apply again and again.Keith Church, philanthropy officer for the Front Porch Communities Foundation, said the program is “a natural outgrowth [of residents’] appreciation and affection for the folks who serve them.”Another Casa de Mañana scholarship program is the Casa de Futuro fund for college-age children of community employees.The program, also funded by Casa de Mañana residents, is handled through the San Diego Foundation. It was established three years ago to help employees’ families with college expenses.McLeod said “the beauty” of applying through the San Diego Foundation is that “once they’ve applied, if they’re eligible for other scholarships that the San Diego Foundation has charge of, they are automatically put in that pool.”Casa de Mañana awards one to six Futuro scholarships per year for up to $6,000 each, decided by the San Diego Foundation based on academic qualifications and financial need.The third Casa de Mañana scholarship program is the schoolchildren fund, which began in 2022 and offers $100 gift cards to hourly employees’ children and dependent grandchildren in kindergarten through 12th grade for school supplies every fall.Casa de Mañana gave out 17 such gift cards last year, McLeod said.Kurt Norden, Casa de Mañana’s executive director, said the generosity of the community’s residents “just blows me away. I’ve been in the senior-living industry for 13 years now [and] I’ve never seen anything like it.”“In these times when it’s hard to hire people, this is something that lets team members know they are appreciated, not just by the company they work for but by the residents they serve,” Norden said. “The whole point of what our residents want to achieve, and what I want to achieve as a leader, is to see what our team members need. How do they want to move forward in life? How can we give them a step up?“And it’s just beautiful.” ◆

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