RUMFORD – Tony Clements has boundless energy for his work, and Rumford Community Home residents are reaping the benefits. Since he became the home’s food service director in July, Clements has been serving up what he calls “real mashed potatoes and gravy,” homemade dinner rolls and apple crisp on plates garnished with an orange or a sprig of parsley.

“This is their home,” he said of the residents. “They pay good money to live here, and they deserve the best we can give them.”

Clements’ innovations don’t stop at making meals “from scratch.” Residents are now served “family-style” in the light-filled dining room. At first, Clements tried bringing a steam table right into the dining room, but space was too tight. Now meals are delivered on trays. Staff members serve the food and remove the trays. And there are no more little packets of syrup or jam; these, too, are served family-style.

To enable the food service department to operate with fewer staff, Clements has cross-trained the staff. People who used to only wash dishes can now cook. “When someone calls in sick, it’s easier to shift roles and get the job done,” he said.

Another new aid for staff is a large communication board posted in the kitchen. The board lists all the residents and their special diets – diabetic, soft, regular – in plain view of the staff members who are spooning up servings and arranging trays.

“I’m a hands-on food service director,” Clements said. He is often found kneading dough or at the steam table serving – even on weekends. And he’s a full-time dietetic student, taking courses via the Internet and sometimes traveling to Portland.

As he introduces his staff, he notes their years of service. There’s Debbie Farnum, who’s been at Rumford Community Home for four years. She’s one of the regular bakers turning out bread, biscuits and pumpkin pies. Mary Anne Todd has been at RCH for 10 years; Barbara Richardson, 16; and Regine Murphy, 18.

“We work here,” Clements said, “but we never forgot who lives here. They are the reason we are here.”

Residents’ families and visitors are getting a taste of the home’s “home style,” too. Clements makes sure that, when families come in for meetings with the social worker and nursing staff, they are served coffee and muffins or another treat from the kitchen. “If this were your home, wouldn’t you want to offer your family and friends who visit a beverage and something to eat?” Clements asks.

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