On June 1, 1975, Cindy Prokash started working at the St. Croix Health Center. Forty-three years later, Prokash — the health center activities director — will retire Sept. 11.
"There was a wonderful lady next door from where I grew up whose name was Carol Schmitt. She was working at the St. Croix Health Center and I would occasionally go to work with her and volunteer. She was one of my biggest influences along with my parents who were always volunteering and helping others in our Somerset community," Prokash said.
While Prokash went to college for occupational therapy, she was also working Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays during the school year — and full time during the summer — at the nursing home. She worked as an activity aide, volunteer coordinator, chemical dependency gym supervisor, a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant and then her current position as activity director.
"Over the years I have learned so much from the residents. Some might say I took care of them and loved them but I believe they took care of me and loved me," Prokash said. "My husband often says that I do not have a 'job' and I do not have a 'career' but that I have had a life's calling. I would not have been able to accomplish all my calling unless I did not have the support of my entire family."
When Prokash asked a coworker what it was that her job entailed, the coworker said "everything!" Prokash's job as activity director includes planning groups, working with residents, family and volunteers, as well as setting goals for each resident, the department and the facility.
Although Prokash loves her job, a recent death in the family pushed her to think about her life and possibly retiring.
"I just lost a sister in May and I realized that I need to spend time with my immediate family. I have grandchild number eight due at the end of September and it is now time I step up to the plate to assist my mother and mother-in-law with their needs," Prokash said. "My sisters have been doing so much for our mother and I truly appreciate all they do but I feel it is time for me to assist as well."
Prokash is looking forward to several things about her retirement, including doing more for her church and spending time with her children and grandchildren.
"I am going to definitely miss the many people that I have worked with including residents, family members, volunteers and the staff," Prokash said. "At the St. Croix Health Center many of the staff including myself consider everyone as family."