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Windy City Wanders


I love being in the city, any city, really. I love the constant buzz, the culture, diversity, and food. I just love it all! I recently spent the weekend with my husband in Chicago celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary, and it was terrific.


Any time we travel, we notice or seek out the things that we are passionate about. My husband seeks out authentic food from restaurants we don't have at home and high school sports facilities. He loves food and has dedicated his life to high school athletics, so it makes sense!


For me, it's outlet malls. Who doesn't need an impromptu shopping trip to the outlet mall on vacation! I am also drawn to community and healthcare organizations and the way the area meets the needs of its most vulnerable citizens. It always impresses me to see the access to transportation, housing, food, and healthcare in large metropolitan areas. I get excited when I see colossal healthcare facilities and community agencies. I find myself googling them to see what services are offered or what sets them apart from others. I get even more excited if the business provides integrated or case management services. I find myself contemplating asking for a tour of the facility. Weird, right? Maybe a little, but I am from a rural area that lacks access for all, which always resonated with me. When I see multiple options for transportation, food, and healthcare, I get a bit giddy! It cracks me up because my husband will be googling property in the area to buy when he retires while I am over here down a rabbit hole trying to find out where all the homeless people are. Does the lack of presence mean they don't have a large homeless population? Does it mean they have a plethora of resources for the homeless population, providing them with a place to simply get off the street for the day?


"Hey, Google, what resources does Chicago offer their homeless folks"?


I spent a long time working in the hospitality industry, giving me the intuition to notice breakdowns in process or communication while dining at restaurants or attending an event. It is common for me to count the steps a server takes to get from the server alley to their section or notice industrial equipment that improves cook and deliver time. I see and feel the staff's energy and ask questions about employee relations and the work environment. I ask because I can relate. I have worked in hospitality and know all too well what it feels like to work in a toxic environment where employees aren't valued or supported by training and consistent policy and procedure. I am constantly looking for areas of improvement when I am in business. I guess you can say it is a blessing and a curse!


Literally, I oversaw the Infection Control Committee during a pandemic, and I don't know about you guys, but this is my first pandemic, so it was a learning curve for sure. When I travel now, I notice businesses' policy and procedure changes to stay consistent with CDC regulations and keep their consumers safe. When the pandemic emerged, I was faced with managing the needs of 13 locations and literally had no idea what to do or where to start. My work ethic and ability to problem solve came in extremely handy. I designed training on infection control and proper use of PPE. I created infection control policies and ordered, delivered, and maintained all PPE supplies for the organization. I developed our Covid 19 screening tool and a questionnaire for staff to utilize during telehealth when our contact with clients became minimal. So obviously, it was hard for me to not assess the Covid 19 scene in Chicago. I noticed instantly that the streets in Chicago are blocked off to create outdoor dining space for multiple restaurants, something I saw a lot of this summer on our family vacation in Florida and on the travel basketball circuit. Each restaurant we entered had hand sanitizer, no-touch menus, and socially distanced seating. It made my Covid queen heart skip a beat!


It has been said that I am extremely straightforward, and I would have to agree with the assessment and share that I am ok with that! It allows me to gain insight and ask questions, even if I am a stranger in your city wondering about your food pantries and access to healthcare, or what services they provide in that building, are you a consumer, what are they doing right. I am downright nosey, y'all. My ability to simply ask the question is how I have learned to engage and connect with individuals while also assisting me in understanding what works and doesn't work for businesses.


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