In this time of commonality, as we do our best to get through the Coronavirus pandemic, we think about all we are grateful for. I heard the term the other day, “Mentally tough and leadership-focused.” My friend since grade school, Gaile Weisbly-Waldinger, is just that and “a bag of chips!”
Gaile’s passion for excelling and inspiring people to be their best goes way back to those early days. When we were kids growing up, during what seemed to be carefree and playful times, Gaile’s leadership skills, and her love for learning, were in budding form. She takes on projects and doesn’t stop until they are successful. Gaile is at the top of her game; and she has consistently been an advocate for the less fortunate.
As the Development Director at Kavod Senior Life, she shines and excels even more. With the arrival of Covid-19, Gaile has utilized her fundraising skills to help the low income seniors of Kavod. As a result of her efforts and the generosity of the community, Kavod continues to receive monetary donations, as well as food and essential goods such as disinfectants, paper products and personal protective equipment for the residents.
(Kavod Senior Life was recognized with a 2019 Top Workplaces by the Denver Post, This annual contest measures employee satisfaction and results in a list of 100 of the state’s top workplaces for the calendar year.)
Gaile has navigated through some personally challenging times with grace and good humor. She is the mother of twin boys and the perfect grandmother to her 4 grandsons. Loaded with boys I would say? Gaile’s life revolves around her family and her work at Kavod; and her 15 year old (boy) dog Izzie (he had a "Bark Mitzvah" when he was 13) who Gaile says is quite the handful (but she adores him anyway).
Because she is so multi-talented, she has varied interests such as international travel, reading, seeing movies, lectures, documentaries, concerts, playing golf…. but most of all spending time with her sons, their wives & her grandsons.
With her bigger than life personality, Gaile has made a huge impact with her many landmark projects – both at Kavod and Mile High United Way. She has shown her community dedication and has been involved in making positive changes by serving on the boards of the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fame, Hillel of Colorado, and HIPPY USA (Home Instruction for parents of Preschool Youth). She’s a graduate of “Leadership Aurora” and she is an Adjunct Professor at Regis University’s Nonprofit Management Program.
GWW is easy to admire for all she has done for Denver; and Kavod is lucky to have such an exceptional person. We know for sure, Kavod Senior Life is thankful for all she has done for their senior residents.
My dear friend, Gaile, is relentless when it comes to any of her missions. Impressive lady? Yes…. Read all about her in the Q & A. My guess is she will continue to maximize on her potential & continue to give what she can to her community – and with a lot of heart!
What’s the best charitable event you have ever been to? I have attended a variety of wonderful events every year. The most memorable are the ones that minimize the speeches and provide their guests/supporters with an experience that is educational, heartwarming or just plain fun. I don’t like to be “talked at.”
What can you tell us about how many elderly are abused in certain nursing care facilities? I really cannot respond to issues in nursing care facilities. Kavod Senior Life provides independent housing for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. We have about 400 individuals on our non-sectarian Cherry Creek campus including 27 in Assisted Living Apartments. We also have an outreach program, Kavod on the Road, for seniors of any economic status in the broader community.
Our mission is to provide life-enriching experiences to older adults through a broad range of housing and support services that reflect the spiritual, social, and cultural values of Jewish tradition.
How is Kavod responding to the Coronavirus – Covid 19? We are dedicated to keeping our residents safe and as protected as possible. During this crisis the campus is closed to all visitors. Only essential personnel are allowed in the buildings. We are following all of the procedures and recommendations from the Governor, Mayor, CDC and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
We have closed our dining room and are delivering meals to the residents’ apartments. We have also cancelled all activities and are strongly encouraging the residents to remain in their apartments.
Many of our staff members are working from home, while our frontline staff is onsite serving our residents. Our dining staff, social workers, Health and Wellness staff, Assisted Living Staff, facility staff and others are working tirelessly to keep the residents safe as they shelter in place. Our Life Enrichment Team has provided all the residents with games, activity books, Sudoku, etc. to help keep their minds active and eliminate some of the boredom.
Lastly, the financial burden of this crisis has taken a toll on our low income residents. They need help with essential goods and the citizens of our community have stepped up to help them. The metro area’s generosity has been remarkable. In addition to monetary contributions, individuals and groups continue to drop off desperately needed items such as toilet tissue, Kleenex, hand sanitizers, non-perishable food, toiletries, etc.
I have always worked in the nonprofit community. I have never experienced acts of kindness like I have witness these last few weeks. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the community in which I live. Denver has taken to heart the Dali Lama’s words “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
Some great changes have been made at KAVOD since you have been working there. Please share some of them with us? Kavod Senior Life will celebrate its 50 th Anniversary in 2021. For the first 40 years, it existed as an apartment building for older adults. Services existed, but they were limited. Since the arrival of Michael Klein, President /CEO 10 years ago, the organization has changed drastically. Not only have there been enormous changes to the physical appearance of our buildings but we have also:
- Expanded our programming for our residents to over 100 activities, outings and classes every month.
- Created the Kavod Academy of Lifelong Learning. KALL is a special program where both residents and non-residents can earn participation credits by attending a number of Life Enrichment classes. An annual graduation ceremony acknowledges each participants achievement.
- Employed a Jewish Chaplain that provides worship services and counseling to all residents, regardless of their religious tradition and a non-denominational Christian Minister who leads Christian worship services.
- Created our outreach program, Kavod on the Road, which affords seniors living independently in the community the opportunity to attend cultural and educational programming at low costs with transportation.
- Built the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Health & Wellness Center which offers physical therapy, exercise and healthy living classes, and medical clinics.
Is there a need for volunteers to help your seniors out at KAVOD? If there is a group of volunteers that could provide a program, music performance, or special event for the residents it would be greatly appreciated. However, individual volunteers are not needed on campus.
How can family members of seniors who live at KAVOD be assured that your organization is looking out for their best interests & they are getting the best care? In addition to being chosen by The Denver Post as a 2019 Top Workplaces Award winner, Kavod was designated as one of the top 25 ‘BEST IN WELLNESS’ communities in North America, one of the 2019 Winners of the- LeadingAge- Robert Wood Johnson Health Equity Award and received the 2019 Jewish Programming Award from the Association of Jewish Aging Services (AJAS). We are hopeful that our local and national recognition helps assure residents and family members that they are receiving the best possible service.
What do you do to make your residents still feel a sense of purpose and worth? As previously mentioned, we have the Kavod Academy of Lifelong Learning, volunteer opportunities, over 100 programs per month, a Resident Council available to our residents.
What has personally helped you become so successful in your career? I am passionate about my work at both Kavod Senior Life and Mile High United Way. They both have provided me with opportunities for personal and professional growth. I have been very fortunate in my career. I don’t think you can be successful without passion for your work.
What ability or talent do you wish you had more of? As a result of sheltering in place – I have decided that I need to use the time to learn something new. I am waiting for an upright piano keyboard to be delivered. I have no musical talent and this is my shot!
What is your definition of a good friend? Someone who continues to enjoy my company regardless of my imperfections.
What is your most glorious childhood memory? My childhood friends whom I continue to see regularly. We knew each other’s parents, grandparents and histories. They continue to be extended family.
What would be your dream get-a-way? I travel a lot and my children laugh that my last trip is always “the best trip ever.” Last year, I travelled to India, and it was “the best trip ever.”
I like every trip to be different and am always looking for a new adventure.
What item could you never have enough of? Family and friends
What can Americans do to improve our image in the world? I have very strong political views that are probably not appropriate for this interview.
What do you love most about the City of Denver? The weather, the culture, the mountain, my family and friends.
How did you get involved in the non-profit industry? I have never had much of a profit motive. I like nice things and to go nice places but my desire to make the world a little better has always motivated me.
What or who do you have the highest reverence for? Michelle Obama
Who would you choose to jump out of your next Birthday Cake? Ruth Bader Ginsburg
What so far has been your greatest achievement? In 1998 the State of Colorado designed Child Health Plan Plus (CHP+) to provide medical and dental coverage for uninsured Colorado children through age 18 whose families earned too much to qualify for Medicaid but could not afford private insurance.
While working at Mile High United Way I was assigned by the former President and CEO, Michael Durkin, to help the six county area to enroll children in the program. There was an enormous lack of trust in minority communities about the insurance. I had the good fortune to create an outreach program with a variety of leaders in city and county governments, the faith community, county health departments and others to organize enrollment efforts. As a result, of this effort – thousands of children received coverage for their health care needs. Ensuring the health of children is my proudest accomplishment.
What can instantly make you laugh? I find humor in just about everything.
Gayle, how do you want to be remembered? I want to be remembered as a person who loved life, loved my family, loved my friends, made people laugh and made the world a little better as a result of my time on this earth.