At Concordia Lutheran Ministries, we are blessed with a dedicated team of compassionate employees who help us carry out our mission of caring each and every day.
Through our series of employee testimonials, “The Journey Here,” we’ll introduce you to team members, profiling their Concordia journey. The piece will be supplemented with a Q&A featured in our Faith in Caring magazine, offering further perspective on how our employees work as the hands and hearts of our mission.
We’re excited for you to meet Concordia at Ridgewood Place’s Administrator Ben Skillen”
Picture a path sprawling through the woods. They seldom run straight, often meandering around obstacles. In the end, they all arrive where they’re meant to be. For some, like Ben Skillen, these paths lead to unexpected career journeys.
Ben Skillen currently serves as administrator for Concordia at Ridgewood Place, a personal care community in Plum Borough. A 2010 Pine-Richland High School graduate, his current role provides the perfect contrast to what he wanted to do leaving Grove City College with a bachelor’s degree in biology.
“My plan was to apply to medical or physician’s assistant schools,” he said. “The goal was to go into pediatrics of some kind. I always had an interest in helping people, and I’ve always enjoyed working with church camps. That was the age group that I thought I was best suited to interact with.”
While awaiting a response from graduate programs, Ben continued to work at Concordia of Fox Chapel, where he started as a nurse’s aide in 2011 during his sophomore year. With the job, Ben helped pay his way through school, and he valued the experience the position offered. Concordia of Fox Chapel specializes in memory care, so Ben worked a great deal with residents diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“Every day was different and brought something new,” Ben said. “I found it interesting working with patients on the opposite end of the age spectrum. I discovered how rewarding this field can be.”
As Ben’s passion gravitated toward the patients in front of him, people took notice. Concordia of Fox Chapel Administrator Bonnie Jo Stapchuck saw potential, and she passed along her opinions to Executive Director of Personal Care Hope Rouda.
“He’s impressed the heck out of us ever since,” said Hope. “First and foremost, he’s so good with the residents. He’s in tune with Concordia’s standards for our quality of care, and he continues promoting those standards and our mission.”
Suddenly Ben found himself not walking one specific path, but a network of trails heading in the same direction.
Early in his training, leadership sent Ben to different locations, and he experienced the daily lives of different departments, from housekeeping to skilled nursing to administration. In order to lead, he had to know who he was leading and how they achieved their goals every day. He needed to see their strengths, weaknesses and spirit. At some point, inspiration struck, and Ben discovered the importance of each and every position.
“One day, I was with one of the cooks in Cabot. He started at 5:30 in the morning to turn everything on. Everything depended on him,” Ben said. “I realized this guy is one of the most important people here, and then I realized I could see the same in everyone in this operation.”
Seeing all he needed, Ben returned to his larger path, finding footing on a new stretch that led him to Concordia of Wexford in 2019. Ben served as administrator and proved he could handle the job.
“I get a lot of compliments about him from residents and families because he’s so approachable and accessible to them,” Hope said. “He’s out there on the floor, shoulder-to-shoulder with the staff, and that’s what the residents and staff respect about him.”
Earlier this year, Ben saw his path’s trajectory change once more, this time leading him to Concordia at Ridgewood Place, again as an administrator.
“I’m looking forward to the new relationships I started to build, but I also miss the folks back at Concordia of Wexford,” Ben said. “They were my employees, but they also were my friends. I care a lot about them. But they gave me their blessing, and they wanted what was best for me. I appreciated that.”
Ben has also taken on various roles with several special projects. He has been a member of the Stephen W. Johnson Mission Award Committee since its inception in 2022 and was recognized as a distinguished finalist for Concordia’s highest employee honor in 2023. Additionally, he helped lead an initiative to change the electronic medical record system across all of Concordia’s facility-based services.
At Concordia at Ridgewood Place, Ben wants to maintain the stability that before his arrival. He also wants to keep the focus on the residents and Concordia’s mission.
“There’s not a job that’s too small that you can do for them,” Ben said.
Looking back at the path behind him, it’s hard to see all the minute curves and bends that led him here; just a faint remembrance that at one time, he wanted to work with children.
“I think anyone who has worked in long-term care finds we work with residents on many of the same things we work on with younger folks,” Hope said. “But, if you have a love for this population and a heart for that, then that’s a calling. Those folks are in the right place then.”
For Ben, the path forward disappears in the distance, but the 100 yards in front of him are clear. He feels secure heading down a path with all of Concordia by his side.
“Concordia’s ministry has given me my career. It’s given me a place to learn and grow and figure out what I’m truly passionate about,” Ben said. “I want to take care of people. It’s just in a different role than I thought I’d be.”
And, to learn more about Nemorio’s perspective on his Concordia career, check out the June issue of Concordia’s Faith in Caring magazine. Subscribe today by emailing email@example.com.
There is always a LOT happening at Concordia! Would you like to stay up-to-date with our news and events? Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.