Meet Drew Kowalski, Executive Director of Tamarisk NorthShore
After spending even a few moments with Drew, it is easy to see why residents at his previous communities continue to stay in touch with him. This is a man who truly loves his work which is laser-focused on enhancing the lives of older adults, especially those who decide to move into a senior living community, either by choice or necessity. The well-being of his residents is his #1 priority; he is committed to building meaningful relationships with them as well as with his hand-picked staff members who are mission-driven to make “bricks and sticks” feel like a vibrant, bustling and warm community where seniors can flourish.
Drew did not start his career twenty-five years ago with a plan to be at the helm of a “retirement” community like Tamarisk NorthShore. Until the early 2000s, he was actually working in the financial arena until he was recruited in 2007 to help the Executive Director of another local senior living community with all facets of running its operations—from financial planning and analysis to resident satisfaction to staff development. Though he still considers himself a “numbers guy,” it was there that he realized he had a passion and a gift for working directly with seniors.
By 2011, he was working at The Mather in Wilmette as its Director of Operations. After his promotion to Executive Director, he increased resident satisfaction and employee engagement scores and led the community through a major renovation and expansion. In 2016, he was recruited to open a new building for Senior Lifestyle, The Sheridan of Green Oaks in Lake Bluff. In three years, he hired and trained more than 135 employees, helped The Sheridan exceed its financial goals and increased occupancy to almost 100%.
During this same three-year time frame, CJE SeniorLife was finalizing financial and architectural plans with several partners on a joint venture which would advance CJE’s long-time vision of operating an independent living building for active older adults on the north shore. CJE, an affiliate of Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, has nearly 50 years of experience in providing seniors with supportive resources, healthcare and life enrichment.
In November 2018, CJE’s dream looked like it would finally come true: ground was broken for the new building on land adjacent to the Weinberg Community for Senior Living in Deerfield, with an estimated opening date of June 2020.
Six months later, the rapid construction of the 240-unit rental apartment building, tentatively called Deerfield Senior Residences, started to gain attention from motorists on Lake Cook Road for its handsome looks, location and connection to CJE SeniorLife. News started to travel fast throughout the Jewish community and CJE received many inquiries about the project, not only from seniors but from adult children who thought this would be a great option for their aging parents.
It was time to hire an Executive Director who could build a team and oversee the project from a sales and operational perspective. After an extensive executive search, Drew was selected in the summer of 2019 to join the CJE team because of his reputation for successfully opening other communities and natural ability to build a staff that truly understands the importance of delivering excellent customer service.
By late summer, a new name for the building was selected—Tamarisk NorthShore—and Drew rolled up his sleeves to start hiring world-class staff, including Paisley Valentincic, the Director of Sales and Marketing. He and Paisley are currently putting together a comprehensive plan that will “wow” future residents with a flexible dining program, an impressive amenity package, and a robust array of life enrichment opportunities.
Meet Paisley Valentincic, Director of Sales and Marketing at Tamarisk NorthShore
Right from the start, Drew had his eye on Paisley Valentincic to be his top choice for the new building’s Sales Director. Professionals who work in senior living are a fairly tight group and many people know each other. Over the past 25 years, Paisley has garnered an amazing reputation as a dynamic, highly successful sales and marketing director at Lake Forest Place, a retirement community of Presbyterian Homes. Her career includes many awards for her sales performance because of her unique blend of knowledge, insight, and thoughtful consideration for finding solutions to an older person’s quest for “the next best chapter.”
Even as a teenager, Paisley knew that her passion was working with older adults. She would bike to a local senior living community, East Castle Place, to volunteer in the Activities Department. She fondly remembers developing special relationships with residents as they tried new dance moves or learned how to paint. A decade later after earning a BA in Gerontology from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, she was hired as a project manager in this same community. It’s clear that Paisley’s love for working with seniors is an integral part of her DNA.
Calm and supportive during what can sometimes be a tough life-changing transition, Paisley is an open-minded listener with a deep understanding of why an older person may have reservations about moving to a senior living community. Everyone has their own reasons. Some future residents, even those in their early nineties, may feel they are too young to be surrounded by “old” people. Others may be nervous about leaving their family home where they’ve lived for more than fifty years.
Paisley takes the time to hear what motivates a person to take the first step and inquire about all the possibilities that a Tamarisk lifestyle can offer. No question goes unanswered as she explores the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of becoming a resident at an independent living community. She says with a gentle smile, ”I am just so honored to be part of CJE, working on this new endeavor for older adults. I know from experience that Tamarisk will be defined by its reputation for providing an outstanding breadth and depth of services, just like CJE is renowned for being an eldercare provider of choice for nearly 50 years.”
Drew and Paisley make an incredible team and are adding new staff monthly as the building gets closer to opening in June 2020. Together they bring over 50 years of business experience, with the majority of it in senior living and a major focus on hospitality. Personally, they also have a lot in common.
Drew lives in Arlington Heights with his wife Sue. Their three children—two boys and a girl—are grown, with two still in college. Paisley is from Lake Bluff where she lives with her husband Chuck and her two youngest sons who are in 7th and 11th grade. Her daughter is in college in Connecticut. Drew is a dedicated “soccer dad,” while Paisley relaxes by taking their family’s black Labrador, Coach, for long walks on the beach. Unlike Paisley who is all about the Cubs, Drew is all about the White Sox. But that isn’t stopping them from developing a warm, easy-going rapport with each other. There’s no doubt that this positive energy will be infused into the Tamarisk NorthShore community.
When Drew and Paisley are not immersed in developing the best and brightest services and programming for Tamarisk or talking to future residents who are joining the Priority List, they are focused on building a caring, compassionate and service-oriented staff of over 100 people who will soon feel like extended family as well. When the doors open in June, Tamarisk will be a sought-after destination where residents feel welcomed, are excited to be part of a new venture, and who will have a significant voice in shaping the Tamarisk lifestyle that will bring many opportunities for pursuing meaning and purpose in the next chapter of their lives.
More About TAMARISK NORTHSHORE, a CJE SeniorLife Managed Community
The name Tamarisk was chosen as a nod to the tamarisk tree that is indigenous to Israel and the Middle East. These flowering evergreen trees are considered resilient, tenacious, and live for hundreds of years providing broad shade from the hot sun.
Tamarisk NorthShore will create a beautiful environment where older adults can be active, productive and community-minded by participating in an array of unparalleled health and life enrichment activities.
By mid-June 2020, Tamarisk NorthShore—a rental independent living community—will open its doors to residents who started to call as soon as the first sign went up on the construction site. By joining the Priority List, these residents have the opportunity to choose their desired apartment, on a specific floor with a preferred view.
The key reasons residents are choosing to live at Tamarisk NorthShore include our wide variety of stunning apartment homes from studios to apartments with two bedrooms plus a den; flexibility and choice of dining venues; life enrichment opportunities to make meaningful connections with new friends; special places to create artwork, play cards or mahjong, or watch movies; an indoor pool overlooking a lushly landscaped terrace; spa services and fitness studio; and a warm, inviting main floor living room where people will gather to meet their friends around a crackling fireplace.
While all the special benefits and features of living at Tamarisk NorthShore become evident as soon as someone enters the Welcome Center, Drew Kowalski’s primary focus is on “building a caring and compassionate team to enhance the quality of life for older adults.”
As his team grows, we will introduce them to you on the evolving Tamarisk NorthShore website at TamariskNorthShore.com. However, if you are looking for your next move, and thinking about joining the Priority List, it’s the perfect time to visit the Welcome Center and learn more about the Tamarisk NorthShore lifestyle from Paisley Valentincic, Director of Sales and Marketing, who joined the team in November.
The Welcome Center is open Monday–Friday, 9 am to 5:30 pm or by appointment. Call 847.597.8772 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.