July 28, 2010- At River’s Edge

Kate Murr

After saying goodbye to the Ulmers, we ran into the Ulmers at the grocery store seven miles down the road. There are some people in life, I’m convinced, that you’re just meant to run in to.

After saying goodbye to the Ulmers, we booked it down Highway 12 beneath hulking clouds along the Clearwater River. We biked quickly on the edge of the storm and water for 23 miles to Orofino, and managed only to get sprinkled on. There was a huge wind as we arrived at Orofino’s city park, then it dissipated, and that was the end of all that anticipation.

We met Roberta, who kindly invited us to stay at her home, and we also met Paul and Lee at the park who invited us to stay in town at their hotel. I made an awkward call to Roberta’s voicemail, and we ended up staying at the Helgeson Place Hotel in a spacious and spotless two-bedroom apartment suite.  But there’s more story to the hotel than that, and here it is:

Karen likes to go to work more than she enjoys her days off. She loves her job because she works in a luxurious place, everyone at her job is good at what they do, she works as part of a team where everyone helps one another, and she genuinely cares about the people she works with because they’re her community. Karen is a housekeeper at the award winning Best Western Lodge at River’s Edge.  She read her card from Lee and Paul aloud and loudly: “Thank you for all your hard work and your contribution to our success.” Beaming, she exclaimed proudly, “You’re welcome!”.

For the past four years, the River’s Edge Lodge (owned by Lee and Paul in addition to the hotel where we stayed—the Lodge was full) has been in the top 5% of 2,400 Best Western hotels nation wide. This year they’re in the top 1%, and the housekeeping manager earned the title of Housekeeper of the Year. The Lodge has been recognized for outstanding customer care, quality assurance, and design, and is managed by Tana, who says she is passionate about customer service. When I asked her how she built a team that is so enthusiastic about their work, she said simply, “We’re a team. I’m not in an office, I’m on the front line with them.”

Karen and others commented that when one person is finished with their rooms, they’ll help another person out with theirs until all the jobs are finished, and that this momentum is what motivates them to take such pride in their work. The accolades as a result of their excellence, according to Tana, are just icing on the cake. Tana, who worked in the Las Vegas hospitality world before taking on management of her father’s lodge, also says that because the team genuinely cares for one another, because they pay attention to the details of each other’s personal life, they are all extremely interested in helping each other out.

Paul made several calls to ensure our total comfort last night. The employees I learned so much from shared their food and celebration with us. Lee recognized that Brady ran across the playground with “total joy in his whole person”.  For their hospitality, teaching, and warmth we are incredibly grateful to the Orofino River’s Edge Lodge and Helgeson Place Hotel teams. Thank you.

p.s. Bernice, our room was outstandingly clean! GREAT work!

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