The Face of Cassia

Patty Crawford poses for a photo.

Patty Crawford: A 47-Year Legacy of Compassion at Cassia

Patty Crawford is a name you hear often at Cassia.

She’s recognized as a teacher, leader, mentor, trailblazer, helper, innovator, advocate, collaborator and friend to many.

Patty has dedicated her life to improving the lives of older adults. Over the years, she has shown that genuine care, compassion and connection can make a lasting difference.

After an incredible 47-year journey with Cassia, Patty is retiring.

“My career has been a 47-year education in becoming an elder,” Patty says. “Retirement has many seasons, just like other parts of life. My goal has always been to reattach aging to the life journey, in a positive and productive way. I am a writer and the stories shared are a rich resource for the work I have to do.”

A Pivotal Moment

In 1976, Patty began her journey at Cassia as a Certified Nursing Assistant at Augustana Health Care Center in Minneapolis. This marked the beginning of her commitment to serving and enriching the lives of older adults.

“I needed a summer job while attending Augsburg College. It was my first summer away from home. I took the number 8 bus from campus to the Augustana Nursing Home across from Elliot Park in Minneapolis,” Patty says.

Throughout her career at Cassia, Patty had various roles, including Director of Resident Services at Augustana Apartments of Minneapolis, Director of Adult Day at Open Circle of Apple Valley and I AM Cassia Director of Engagement.

A Champion Against Ageism

In these roles, Patty became a leading advocate in the fight against elder speak and ageism. She made it her mission to educate others on authentic relationships, effective communication and helping residents uncover and rediscover their identities. 

“It is my hope that as I age, when I need support, there are caregivers who dare to be friends. Professional boundaries are in place to protect people from harm not to fence out love. Yes, it hurts more when we love, but the alternative is bleak,” she says.

Patty has spoken to numerous community groups, shedding the light on the harmful effects of age-related biases. She also discussed the importance of preserving each person’s unique identity. 

Her message has always been clear: Every individual deserves to retain their identity and dignity, regardless of age.

Building Cassia’s Foundation

In 2018, Augustana Care and Elim Care joined together to become Cassia. This combined housing options, skilled nursing/health care and community-based services.

Patty played a vital role in shaping Cassia’s values and service standards during this transition. She later moved into her role at the Cassia Home Office as the I AM Cassia Director of Engagement.

“She spoke and lived these standards daily and was able to put them into daily action. This made moving Patty into the first I AM Cassia Director of Engagement position a no-brainer,” says Julianne Fries, who served as Patty’s boss. “From there, she has built on that foundational work during some of the most difficult times we’ve experienced as an industry during COVID and post-COVID eras.”

Creating Cassia’s Service Standards

Patty played a pivotal role in creating, defining and implementing all foundational aspects of the I AM Cassia Customer Excellence platform. She worked with a group of Cassia team members from various communities, departments and levels of the organization. Their work will endure for generations of Cassia leaders and team members.

Cassia’s service standards include compassion, collaboration, integrity, excellence, innovation, stewardship, unity and respect.

 “Cassia’s standards are portable and apply to every aspect of life,” Patty says. “The work you do at Cassia is far more than the tasks and procedures. The impact you have on people’s lives is profound and life affirming. It is your job to set the tone and spirit of the day. Besides your paycheck, you are taught wisdom and you are loved.”

Patty was instrumental in writing the daily StandUP scripts. Employees attend these meetings to connect with colleagues and prioritize the people they serve. The meetings take less than 10 minutes and revolve around the same value or service standard at all locations each week. These meetings provide the opportunity to live our values while celebrating employees, volunteers, residents and organizational accomplishments.

She helped departments and community teams come together as a unit to provide excellent care to residents. Patty also provided customer service training for many of our communities and partners. In addition, she helped roll out the Pin Recognition program at communities and the Home Office. And Patty even helped lead the Cassia General Orientation.

Patty’s Extraordinary Gifts

Patty’s ability to foster teamwork and collaboration is one of her greatest gifts. Julianne says Patty invested time in building trust to support team members, inspiring them to reach their full potential.

“Patty listens like no one I’ve ever met. She truly listens. This is why people so naturally trust and appreciate Patty. She’s authentic and rare. Her gift is with people,” says Julianne. “I hope current employees have been able to experience Patty’s gift of presence. I hope we all learn from Patty how to be truly present with someone. Patty’s presence makes you feel like you are the only person in the room, that you have a voice and that you matter. I hope we all learn from Patty how to be present with others. This is truly a key of excellent customer service.”

Julianne adds that Patty expects greatness for Cassia’s residents. Her goal focused on how Cassia could give great care, be great caregivers and impact the lives of those we serve.

“She is unwavering of these goals,” Julianne says. “When Patty works with people and listens to them, she then turns that back to how they can impact those they serve. It’s natural, empowering and supportive.”

Reflecting on Patty’s Journey

During her time at Cassia, Patty touched the hearts of those around her. Her impact will continue to shape Cassia’s culture and values for many generations to come.

Patty says she is proud of the friendships and connections she has made while helping others throughout the years.

“I became an adopted member of many families who have shared important parts of their lives with me. That has led to great adventures,” Patty says. “There are so many life stories shared, cups of coffee and talk, insights, tales of adventure, laughter and life.”

We express our heartfelt gratitude to Patty for her service and wish her a well-deserved retirement.

 “Whenever I wonder about the ‘roads not taken,’ I remind myself that I am exactly where I am supposed to be,” Patty says. “That has been proven to me many times when the Holy Spirit grabs me by the ears and changes my direction. Sister Irene was the first director of nursing at Augustana and a mentor to me. She told me I would understand how the Holy Spirit works when I was older. Well, I’m older and I now know what she meant.”