Freedom Village Provides Resident-Funded Scholarship to Staff Members

The Giving Coast

Pictured: Freedom Village of Bradenton resident, Betty Yackels. Photo courtesy of Freedom Village of Bradenton.

Residents at a local senior living community are giving back in a big way to the caring staff members who help them every day.

Freedom Village of Bradenton residents have been raising scholarship funds for eligible staff members to attend college classes, seek advanced degrees or certificates, and pursue other professional development opportunities–something they have been proudly doing for over 25 years. Recently, in order to encourage more staff members to take advantage of the scholarship program, Freedom Village increased the maximum amount a student may receive up to $5,000 per semester, or $15,000 per year. Currently, there are currently 17 staff members leveraging this opportunity.

“This scholarship has enabled me to continue my education financially and pursue my registered nurse (RN) license faster than I would have been able to without it,” said Shelleatha Smith, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) unit manager. “I love working here; we have a great team, and I hope to move up in the company. I’m grateful to be a part of this community that cares so much for its residents and staff members, too.” Other health center staff members who have benefitted from the opportunity include Liz Mackey, RN Wound Nurse, Laura Eisch, RN Assistant Director of Clinical Services, Jacob Rossi, LPN, Sylvia Garcia, LPN, Hailey Valverde, LPN, and Jacob Castellanos, C.N.A. While many are utilizing the scholarship to pursue careers in the medical field, some, like Adrianna Sanchez, have plans to pursue an MBA, while others, like Lee Dilts will begin work on a bachelor's degree in the fall. Cecelia Cortez, who was an attorney in her country before coming to the United States, is currently a C.N.A. using the scholarship fund to complete her education as a paralegal.

Resident Betty Yackels has been managing the boutique at Freedom Village for about seven years. She started selling some of her clothes and jewelry from her own apartment and enjoyed it so much that she inspired others to do the same and donate the proceeds to the scholarship fund.

“I try to encourage the staff to continue their education because it gives me great pleasure to see young people succeed,” she said. “Our residents really enjoy shopping and buying new things, and we all want to help the kids who otherwise may not be able to pursue their education. I always wanted to own my own shop and never had the opportunity. Now I do, and it’s for a great cause.”

Beginning next month, the Boutique will be open for members of the general public to shop once per month. Prior to COVID, residents would invite friends and family to come "thrifting" each month. They will have the opportunity to do so once again on June 4. For more info about this contact Betty Yackels at 941-755-8187. In addition to shopping at the boutique, those interested in contributing can also make financial donations directly to the Associate Scholarship Fund.

Aside from the scholarship fund, Freedom Village residents show their philanthropic spirit by participating in several fundraising activities to support the Alzheimer's Association, Southwest Florida chapter. In the last year or so, they have held a casino night, a carnival and bake sales. As one of the 2023 corporate sponsors of last year's Walk to End Alzheimer's at Benderson Park, Freedom Village was recognized as one of the top fundraisers, donating more than $8,500 to the organization.

Pictured: Freedom Village of Bradenton resident, Betty Yackels. Photo courtesy of Freedom Village of Bradenton.

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