Staff Stories - March 4, 2022
By Amanda Ranowsky
Supporting staff members on their journey toward citizenship is part of the fabric of life at Goodwin Living. Whether it’s sharing words of encouragement, donating to the Goodwin Living Foundation in support of the grants that cover the U.S. citizenship application fees or tutoring staff members for their citizenship exam, residents and staff frequently come together to uplift staff who choose to pursue this dream.
While our Citizenship Application Fee Grant Program has received a lot of well-deserved attention recently, we’d like to highlight a story that shows the other ways staff and residents offer support.
Sokphay Chann joined Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads (GHBC) in August 2021 as a dining services server and bartender. He quickly made friends among residents and fellow staff members—Sok is known for his open, caring nature and dedication to his role.
“He’s so outgoing. He makes friends with everybody,” said Fred Morhart, a GHBC resident and one of five residents currently tutoring Sok to improve his English language skills. “The other day, as I walked by the bar where he was working, I saw him showing pictures of his family to a resident. They were just chatting away and having a good time.”
Sok emigrated to the United States from Cambodia. When Sok joined Goodwin Living, he had recently completed the application process for U.S. citizenship and was awaiting his citizenship ceremony. As others among the Goodwin Living staff who have pursued and attained citizenship will tell you, the citizenship ceremony is a very special day and the culmination of months—often years—of hard work.
Dennis Peregrina and Maribel Carranceja know this all too well. Dennis is currently in the process of applying for U.S. citizenship, and Maribel received her citizenship in 2020. Both are supervisors in the dining services department and have worked closely with Sok. So, when they heard that Sok was about to attend his citizenship ceremony in November 2021, they were delighted for him. Then they learned something else.
Due to COVID restrictions, Sok was unable to have guests join him for his citizenship ceremony, and he could not have any photos taken at the site where he swore his oath.
Dennis thought of a way to make Sok’s day special and provide him with photos to commemorate his achievement. He and Maribel contacted Sok’s resident tutors and invited Sok to join them at GHBC following his ceremony. The group took photos in front of the American flag that stands just outside the GHBC chapel.
“We all teamed up and greeted him warmly,” said Fred. “There were a lot of happy tears.”
GHBC residents Randy Butler and Bob Mansker also knew of Sok’s pursuit of citizenship. While they have not been tutoring Sok, they had gotten to know him and wanted to do something to support him.
“My husband Bob and I often volunteer for Congressman Gerry Connolly,” said Randy, “so we knew about a practice where flags are flown over the Capitol building in honor of certain people.” With this knowledge, Bob and Randy reached out to the congressman’s office to ask if a flag could be flown in Sok’s honor.
The congressman took up the request, and a flag was flown above the U.S. House of Representatives in Sok’s honor on December 17, 2021, the date of Sok’s citizenship ceremony. On February 1, 2022, Bob and Randy presented Sok with that very flag in the office of Justin Carwile, executive director of GHBC.
“We knew that he’d been working toward his citizenship,” said Randy, “and wanted to do something to recognize his achievement.”
This story of how residents and staff came together to support Sok on his journey toward citizenship is one of many such stories at Goodwin Living. Through our Citizenship Application Fee Grant Program (which Sok did not participate in as he was already in the process when he joined Goodwin Living), we have many accounts of staff members who have been helped on their journey by the generosity of fellow staff and residents. And through our new Citizenship Playbook, we are offering other organizations the chance to do the same for their staff.
U.S. citizenship is not Sok’s only dream. “His goal is to pass the language proficiency exam and then start at George Mason University in the fall,” said Fred Morhart. “He plans to study economics and politics—his goal is to save the world, as soon as possible.”
We extend our gratitude to Fred, Dennis, Maribel, Randy and Bob—and all the residents and staff—who rallied around Sok to celebrate his special day and continue to support him as he works toward realizing even more of his dreams. And we share our warmest congratulations to Sok on achieving his goal of U.S. citizenship!
As Marketing & Communications Specialist, Amanda Ranowsky partners with colleagues throughout Goodwin Living Incorporated to tell our stories and raise brand awareness. From printed collateral to digital marketing, Amanda covers many bases. Before joining GHI, Amanda worked for a small, family-owned business where she gained experience in content marketing. Amanda’s creative expression extends beyond the office. She is an active member of community theater and chorus groups.