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Pepper Shares Concordia Memories At 50th Anniversary

Concordia of Bella Vista observed its 50th Anniversary with a gala celebration Friday, Nov. 18. by Rachel Dickerson | November 24, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
Rachel Dickerson/The Weekly Vista Pam Pepper, of Anderson, Mo., is a former executive director of Concordia. She recently shared some memories of time spent working at the retirement community.

Pam Pepper of Anderson, a former executive director of Concordia, recently shared some memories just in time for the organization's 50th anniversary.

She worked at Concordia from 1986 to 2003. She started as a driver. In 1986 the role was called "escort."

"They changed the name after a while," she said, laughing.

She drove the residents to doctor appointments, the grocery store, to beauty shop appointments, etc. It was included in their monthly fee, she said.

After that, she was promoted to insurance billing, then to business office manager, then to assistant executive director, and finally to executive director.

"I loved it," she said. "It was the hardest thing I ever did when I left."

She continued, "The residents were fun. It was challenging. Something new every day."

At the time she was there, Concordia had 35 townhouses, 126 apartments (116 that were used), two assisted living buildings and the nursing care center. She said as a continuing care retirement community, the goal was that residents did not have to leave the campus but could stay as they aged.

The retirement community had activities such as bridge, exercise and happy hour. There was a party every month, she said, such as a party for every holiday, a Hawaiian luau or a Kentucky derby party. At that time, Benton County was a dry county, and Concordia did not have a liquor license, so the residents contributed to the happy hour fund, she said.

"We tried to keep the residents active, moving," she said.

At Easter, the residents would dye Easter eggs and the Easter bunny would come, and there would be an egg hunt for children.

There were challenges that went along with the job, such as snow and ice or equipment breaking down, she said. When it snowed, if a housekeeper did not show up, she had to be a housekeeper. If a cook didn't show up, she had to cook for 150 people, she said.

"If I can't do it, I don't expect my staff to do it. I can drive a bus," she said.

She would also go pick up staff members at their homes at times when it snowed, she said.

She shared stories about her time at Concordia.

When the 911 system came online in the state, she said, residents at Concordia did not know whether they were supposed to dial 501 (which was the prefix for the whole state at the time) before 911.

"When you're over the age of 70, you don't like change very much. Now I'm 62, so I'm getting that way," she said.

The first time the staff decided to have a luau for the residents, they bought a big pig, she said.

"When we went to dig it up, it was gone," she said. "We cremated the pig."

In 1999, the staff had to deal with the Y2K scare, she said. The corporation that owned Concordia had them be there at midnight on Dec. 31. They set off fireworks, and nothing happened with Y2K, she said.

She is now a partner in an accounting business in Caverna, Mo.

"I do (miss it)," she said, "but when it snows, I think, 'I don't have to get out and go to work.'"

Pepper said she is glad the current staff invited her to the anniversary celebration, and she is excited to see the changes happening at Concordia.

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