JACKSON, La. – At the heart of any organization is its people, and the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs (LDVA) recognizes and values the talents, heart and dedication of the men and women charged with helping us to care for Louisiana veterans and their families.
Sharon Mullen-Williams is one such team member, is LDVA’s most experienced activity director, and has served at our Louisiana Veterans Home (LVH) for the past 24 years.
“I live by what the Bible says,” explains Sharon of why this position was a natural fit for her. “We are our brother’s keeper. And, we must do unto others as we would have them do onto us.”
Her main job involves coordinating the daily activities for the veterans. But, as an activity director, she oversees the therapeutic and recreational activities for geriatric groups, coordinates staff schedules, manages and creates activities and events, and maintains equipment and rooms for their activities.
Sharon chose this path after years of working as a certified nursing assistant in several units and interacting with the veterans. “I found the activities to be very therapeutic,” she says of her transition to the activities department.
Her inspiration for working towards a career where she could be a service to senior citizens came from her own family experiences. “My father was a veteran so vets have a special place in my heart,” she says. “Having to assist in taking care of my aging grandmother was and inspiration as well. I found it to be very rewarding experience for them, as well as for me because I was able to make them feel youthful again.”
For the past 15 years, she has been dedicated to making the lives of our LVH veterans and residents fun and full of activities that help keep their minds sharp and their hearts young.
Sharon is honest about the path that led her to the LVH, saying, “at the time I needed a job and they had a position available.” However, after working at the Jackson, La. home, she says she grew a heart for this population and a level of compassion for the veterans.
“Listening to the veterans share their life experiences while serving in various military fields has impacted me deeply,” she shares. She’s also devoted her time to helping to make vets feel appreciated for their service to our country and acknowledged for the personal time they gave up in order to defend our freedoms.
Sharon says she loves many aspects of this line of work. But, it’s the day-to-day interactions that she treasures most. “Being able to come to work daily and be able to make a difference in their lives, even if it means just making them smile, that’s a blessing.”
Her advice for aspiring activities coordinators is to really know your strengths and weaknesses. “You must have a compassionate heart for others,” she says. “You can never look at it as coming to work just to earn a paycheck. Always remember, every day you come here, you can make a difference!”
For Sharon, caring for our former service men and women feels wonderful. “I know I can never really repay them for the sacrifices they made, but I feel honored to be able to show them how much I appreciate all that they’ve done for us.”
Even gratifying jobs have their challenges, and Sharon admits that having to tell a veteran ‘no’ is always tough, but you have to when it’s what is best for the patient. “I always think about what’s in their best interest first because that is by far the most important thing.”
Sharon is highly respected by her peers, loved by the veterans she is charged with caring, and has devoted over two decades to Louisiana’s veterans as the LVH activities director.
“You know, people always say things like, this could be me or it could be someone from my family,” she says. Sharon, however, feels that shouldn’t matter. “I believe in serving others and doing what’s right, every single time.”