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On May 6, Patricia “Pat” Rice is stepping down as Givens Highland Farms Retirement Community’s popular marketing director, retiring after 21 years on the job. Amy Nasta, working there since Feb. 8, is taking her place. Stacy Hana is the marketing coordinator.

Friendly, chatty, warm and energetic, Rice was the first administrator many prospective residents met, as she showed them around Givens Highland Farms’ campus. Well-liked among the staff, she knows the residents and many of their visitors by name, stopping to chat with each one as she walks around. She’ll miss that, she said recently.

But working to get her mother ready for assisted living is filling her days so much that she hasn’t had much time to think about retirement, she said.

Previously, Rice was public relations coordinator for the Montreat Conference Center. Rice joined the Givens Highland Farms administrative team in 1995.

In December, Rice decided to retire while her health was still good enough to enjoy life.

“I am looking forward to spending more time with my grandchildren and doing some volunteer work,” she said. “The residents at Highland Farms taught me so much about successful retirement over the years, and now I want to apply what I saw in action. I want to learn and grow and give back to the community that has given me so much.

“I truly believe the Lord blessed me by allowing me to be in this position. It has changed my view about aging. My philosophy has become that it is a sign that you are aging well when you are adaptable. And I plan on staying adaptable.”

Rice has helped all but four residents transition from their homes to independent living at Givens Highland Farms. She never let herself forget that she was often the first image that a prospective resident had of Highland Farms. Nada Barnett, a resident, said Rice always represented Highland Farms with “class, compassion and genuine concern.”

“We met Pat in 1996 when my husband and I were visiting retirement communities,” Beverly Van Diver said. “As she showed us around the premises, including health care, she greeted every resident by name, smiling her beautiful smile and lifting everyone’s spirit. That has been her gift to us ever since. She is truly a blessing.”

Rice was familiar with Highland Farms before she became the marketing director. Her grandmother was in skilled nursing at Highland Farms.

“I visited her often,” Rice said. “I had no concept of what Highland Farms was really like. She passed away in her late 80s. When I came in 1995 I saw the possibilities of aging, and I learned that it is up to the person to allow those possibilities to grow.

“I already know that I am going to miss the daily contact with the residents and their optimism, encouragement, humor and open mindedness. They are so involved in life.”

Rice has seen the dynamics of who moves to a retirement community change during the two decades she has worked in the industry.

“More and more people are moving into retirement communities at younger ages,” she said. People who live in Highland Farms’ independent living residents rangein age from 61 to 100. “People retire earlier now and have already planned how to enjoy the rest of their lives. Also, here at Highland Farms more women predecease their husbands. I feel that it is a good move in life for widowed men to be in a retirement community where they have friends and services.”

Lamar Williamson received Rice’s personal help after his wife passed. After his wife’s death in January, he chose to move into one of the lodge apartments. “Pat facilitated the move every step of the way,” he said. I am now conveniently located and happily installed.”

Ken Kramer, executive director of Givens Highland Farms, has worked to make Rice’s transition to retirement as smooth as possible.

“Pat has been an integral part of the success of our community for the past 20 years,” he said. “She truly understands the value of relationships and has genuinely cared for residents before, during and after their move. These attributes, along with many others, is what has made our community home for so many. We will all miss Pat and wish her the best.”

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