After six months as Director of Activities at the Granite Falls Hospital and Manor, Kris Nelson can now say for certain what she was expecting all along: she loves her job.
As of April 1, Nelson has been performing her duties at the Manor with a rare combination of organizational skills, musical talent, patience, compassion and a radiantly sunny disposition. Her life has been one of service to others and it is overly evident that the Granite Falls Manor has been lucky to have such an individual on hand, particularly in the wake of the death of former Activities Director Terrie McCoss, who was killed in a car accident in February.
Each day of the week, Nelson pops an audio book into her car radio and drives to Granite Falls from her home in Willmar. Widowed, she has one son, Johnathan, who works in Adult Corporate Foster Care and who also is a musician.
Growing up on a farm in Kerkhoven with her parents, two older brothers and a younger sister, Nelson learned early on the importance of hard work toward the forging of a sound spirit by performing farm chores with her brothers. During her time in town she had the opportunity to learn of the value of teamwork and community involvement. "As I got older I was involved in sports which included cheerleading and other civic oriented organizations," she said.
From very early on, music has been an overlying theme in Nelson's life. Whether in church or school, she always jumped at the chance to break into song, and by the age of 15 had already joined a band that played at area clubs and for special functions.
"I sang and played bass featuring the hits of the 70s and 80s," she recalled. "In the late 80s, I played in a band called, "Cross Country," performing classic country mainly in West Central area clubs. In the mid 90s, I joined a band call "Prairie Rose Band," playing for Minnesota country music festivals, statewide conferences and opening for several national acts."
Most recently, Nelson formed the "Custom Made Band," while on hiatus from live performances so that she could record with area musician guitarist Steve Mahlum. "This music venture has been one of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences in my life," she said. "We play classic rock from the 50', 60s, and 70s, along with some classic country."
Nelson can be found providing her potent vocals for Custom Made Band at performances typically involving fairs, Relay for Life and American Cancer Society fundraisers, benefits and conferences for 'Second Chance at Life.' In addition, she also directs a guitar group at Willmar's Redeemer Lutheran Church and sings with a Praise and Worship group called Laudation each month.
In the early 1980s, Nelson attended Willmar Community College where she majored in psychology and continued to practice music. In addition, she also learned of her passion for spearheading civic oriented clubs, which planned events such as Homecoming, Snow Days, Government Week, and many fund raisers.
Page 2 of 2 - Between 1988 and 2002, Nelson served as Program Director for REM South Central Services establishing an Adult Corporate Foster Care home specializing in placement for individuals with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) amongst a number of other programs and initiatives.
Returning to school in 2004, Nelson gained instruction essential to her present position, taking classes specializing in recreation for the elderly in association with the Activity Director's course at Ridgewater College. As a certified Activity Director for skilled nursing facilities, Nelson said that she has worked for three other homes before coming to Granite Falls Manor.
Here, Nelson says an integral component of her job has been focusing on each resident's likes and dislikes so to formulate successful activities.
"I am a big fan of re-creating events residents enjoyed in their past," she said. "Our two favorite and best attended activities are Thursday outings and Friday Music and Happy Hour. Just as we did years ago, when we invited our neighbors over for an evening of visiting, laughing and lunch, we've begun to invite our neighbors from Granite Ridge to visit us each Friday and enjoy the afternoon of music and fun with us."
In the coming weeks, Nelson says she is looking forward to intergenerational activities when the Bert Raney Elementary fourth graders and Building Block students begin joining Manor residents for crafts two times per month.
“I figure the largest component of my job is to keep the residents happy and the more you can involve the members of the community the better.”