With an impressive passion for forming rich connections with others and making significant impact on the communities in which she interacts, DeShunn Bray has always been a catalyst in her field. From working as the former site manager at Willa Rawls Manor to various security and programming roles, her extensive experience and radiating energy made her the perfect candidate to lead our Vibrant Learning Program at Chicago Commons. We couldn’t be more thrilled to announce DeShunn as the newest addition to the Sage Collective team. Get to know DeShunn in her introduction below:
Can you talk a little bit about your professional background and how it has made you an expert in your field?
I have over 20 years of experience working with seniors and managing senior properties. I’m also a certified manager of senior housing, so with that has come other responsibilities of managing and securing properties. Not only was I managing one-on-one meetings with clients, but I also had a chance to discover their needs. One of my key responsibilities was making sure that everyone has a healthy, clean environment that helps them live more independently. So as a result, I was also responsible for helping provide services that would enhance their living space and every aspect of their quality of life.
What is your role with Sage Collective and our pilot program at Chicago Commons?
My title is Manager of Programming and Community Engagement. So when I walk into an assisted living program, or any program that deals with housing or providing a service with senior citizens, I make sure I come in with my “arsenal” — some excellent references and connections to vibrant living. I ensure that Sage Collective has the resources to carry out the different programs that we provide, including putting together an outline to touch on themes such as health, wellness, culture and arts.
By tapping into that good vibe that we possess at Sage Collective, I also help our participants believe that life hasn’t ended and that every day is a great day. So when our participants’ family and friends see them thriving, it’s a way for them to say, “This is what I still like to do. I’m just a little older, but I am still the same person.’’ Through the programing, participants gain the ability to say with assurance what they need and I’m elated to provide them with that type of confidence and language they need to be able to communicate better with everyone.
You’re also doing grassroots outreach throughout the community. How meaningful is this type of outreach for organizations like Sage Collective?
Well, you can talk about it, but our thing is to be about it. We have to go out in the field and connect with people on their level, sit down, have a conversation with them, have a conversation with the community, and say, “This is what we need in our community.” So connecting with the public, the Aldermen, builders, and even larger corporations allows Sage Collective to advance our service to others that may be in real need of tackling isolation and depression. If we come in and show them the type of programming we’re doing, we could get funding. And so connecting with different organizations and bringing those resources to the community, where there are underserved seniors or disabled communities is key to what we should and will be doing.
It’s very fulfilling work to walk out of the door and have a purpose. And that’s one of the things that we at Sage Collective make sure people understand — that they do have a purpose in life — and it should extend beyond what the nation is saying or thinking.
Speaking of purpose and along the lines of Sage Collectives beliefs and values, what unique values held by Sage Collective drew you to work for them?
The fact that Sage Collective has implemented a new way of thinking. Humans have to constantly think differently to allow themselves to change. I can go to YouTube now, and I can download two-minute workouts, 15-minute workouts, and 20-minute workouts and Sage Collective helps put those resources out there so that seniors can know that they don’t always have to tap into their budget and do something expensive to improve their health. Why wouldn’t someone want to be a part of an organization that’s not trying to buy them, not trying to make them spend a whole lot of money to improve their lifestyle, to improve their health, to help connect them with others?
What are you most looking forward to most as a new member of Sage Collective’s team? What do you hope to accomplish in your time ahead?
Making change leaves a legacy. So it’s a great feeling coming on board with a team that shares the same beliefs that I have and takes them to the next level. Even though I am living with the purpose of securing myself and others, I’m also changing the way people look at their futures. And there’s not a lot of people preaching that or teaching that. And I love the concept of being that person that can walk through the door and make you smile and laugh.
One woman in the Vibrant Living Program made me smile last week when she told me that I had brought out a feeling she had been missing because she was listening to blues music and remembering their younger years. So I think knowing that somebody cares, and then incorporating their feelings into the next lesson, into the next program, into the next adventure, who doesn’t want to be a part of that? So I see myself being that person, taking the time to understand my clients, and then being right there on the level with them. And as far as Sage Collective, as long as they’re in business, I want to be there.