About Dana Chapman
Length of time in Gainesville: 30 years
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in speech and in social work from LaGrange College
Occupation: Executive director of The Guest House Adult Day Health Center
Most interesting job: Selling Electrolux vacuum cleaners in high school
Family information: Married to Allen Schweriner; son, John Chapman, 19
Each Monday, “5 Questions” asks someone in our community to answer five questions about their lives. If you know someone who would be a good subject for this feature, send their name and contact information to email@example.com.
Dana Chapman is the new executive director of The Guest House, but she’s hardly new to nonprofit work. She’s spent three decades working with organizations that help people. Today, The Times asks Chapman
five questions about The Guest House and about her passion for serving.
1. What made you interested in serving as interim director of The Guest House and then accepting the permanent position?
I had been serving on the board of directors for three years when the director’s position became available. I had so much love for The Guest House mission and enjoyed the clients and staff so much that I was happy to be able to fill the interim spot quickly.
At the time, I was working for my husband’s business and he was very kindly not firing me.
He is a manufacturer’s rep for electromechanical components and metal stampings, so my social work background wasn’t exactly the best fit for his company.
I became very invested in The Guest House during the interim months, so making the decision to accept the permanent position was very easy.
2. What do you think makes The Guest House so special?
To be a health care program that serves such frail people, you would think it would be a challenging and possibly depressing environment, but it is exactly the opposite. The house is filled with love, music, laughter, activity, volunteers and such a dedicated staff. Going to the office every day is like going home!
Our mission of keeping families together longer is fulfilled every day. Even guests who have lost most of their memory know that they are in a safe and positive place.
The staff are all such special people. They are the spirit of optimism and enjoy what they are doing so much that the entire place takes on that happiness and warmth.
3. What goals have you set for yourself and The Guest House during your tenure as executive director?
Our goal remains to provide needed services for the elderly and their caregivers at an affordable cost — which has been the mission of The Guest House since it opened 27 years ago.
We will continue to seek new sources of revenue to allow for expanded services. Our goal for 2013 is to move to a building that is a bit larger so that we can add to the numbers we serve every day. I am very happy to be in the position to help move The Guest House to a new life for at least the next 27 years!
4. What are the biggest challenges families face when a member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease?
There are many tough challenges with dementia, but I think the hardest is the emotional burden of knowing that your loved one will never regain the memories lost, and that the whole family faces a long, hard road to a very sad ending.
Families are so sad for such an extended period of time. Their frustration with the disease process is on their minds 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Family members — especially spouses — are feeling guilty all the time, wondering if they are doing their best.
Children can have a lot of resentment toward a parent that they are now parenting and feel guilty for even having those thoughts. Slowly losing the person who knew you as a child is devastating.
5. You’ve spent more than 30 years of your life working for nonprofits. What about this type of work appeals to you?
My parents always volunteered and reached out to many people while we were growing up. They truly served from their hearts and dedicated their lives to helping.
Throughout my career, I have been very fortunate to be able to work for great people, work next to great people and meet thousands of great people along the way. I’ve made the living my father wanted me to make and had fun getting to know so many parts of the world we live in.
Profit is a very nice thing, but the bills can get paid working in a nonprofit career.