Coming full circle: Executive director of Batavia retirement community celebrates anniversary where it all began
You could say Julio Macias literally worked his way up to the top job at Covenant Living at the Holmstad in Batavia.
Macias, 40, the retirement community's executive director, began his career at the Holmstad years ago as a dishwasher, and last month he marked his first anniversary in his current role.
He started there when he was a 16-year-old student at Geneva High School. He said he wanted to buy a new car, and his parents told him he needed to get a job to pay for it.
"The whole mindset was to save enough money to get a car. I had no idea it would blossom into this," he said.
At the time, Macias' older sister was working in the dining area of the Holmstad, so she helped him land the job. Before long, Macias moved from washing dishes into dining services.
"One of the neat things was on the weekends back then we could have salad bars, so I got to be in charge of the salad bar," he said. "It was a quick way of learning about management."
Once he graduated from high school, Macias continued to work with dining services on the weekends while attending college.
Macias earned degrees from Waubonsee Community College, the University of Illinois at Chicago and then eventually his master's in health care administration from DeVry University's Keller Graduate School of Management.
Once he finished his education, he went back to the Holmstad, this time as a sales representative.
"When I graduated college, there was a position to be a sales rep at this community. I got to do the selling aspect of the company," he said.
In 2008, Macias left the company to seek other opportunities. But in April 2021, he returned to the Holmstad as executive director.
Renee Sanchez, the administrative services manager, started working at the Holmstad in 2000 as a part-time concierge. She worked with Macias when he was in the sales department, long before he became the executive director.
"He is just a fun, nice guy, and when I heard he was coming back to be our executive director last year, that was just a blessing," she said. "I love working with the residents. I love the staff. It's just a good place to work. He's just hardworking and not afraid to roll up his sleeves. He really just wants the team members to shine."
Macias also continues to work hard to keep opportunities open for local students, especially since he once was in a similar position.
"We have a great relationship with Batavia High School, Mooseheart and Geneva High School. [We employ] freshmen all the way through seniors, even [students in] college at Waubonsee," he said.
"It is totally mind-blowing because when I walk around, I see the dining kids, and I'm just like, 'Wow, that was me many years ago.' I tell them, 'Hey, I started where you were at,' and I always ask them what they are going to school for. I try to share with them the many aspects of health care," he said.
Macias said residents at the Holmstad treat the student workers like family.
"They see them at breakfast, see them at lunch and see them at dinner. They build a bond that is just unbelievable," he said. "When I walk into the dining room, it takes me back to when I was 16, 17 years of age, serving the residents and eating all the ice cream I could behind the scenes. And it just reminds me of how much I enjoy what I do and just the possibilities of what can be done."
The relationship between the employees and the residents is the best part of the job "by far," Macias said.
"I think probably the most important thing for my role is to be present for the residents and employees. They know when I am walking the halls, they can come up and ask me a question, and I can direct them," he said.
Another important aspect of Macias' job is knowing that he, and all of the employees, are making a difference in the residents' lives.
"Some residents see more of us than they actually see their families, and we instantly become their family," he said. "We become that support for them as well as support for us. We can share the good and the bad together. And that's what motivates me, knowing that when I'm going to work, it truly isn't work. I'm surprised, still to this day, that I get paid to do this."