The Haven’s executive director works to make residents smile |

The Haven’s executive director works to make residents smile

Noelle Leavitt Riley
Residents and employees at The Haven assisted living facility share a happy moment together. The Haven works to make elderly residents happy and comfortable.
Noelle Leavitt Riley

Karen Burley spent her career serving others — a role she’s enjoyed in many capacities.

She’s currently the executive director of The Haven assisted living in Hayden and works hard each day to make residents smile.

The Haven has 17 residents — with a capacity to house 20 — and currently has 18 employees, all who help the elderly in every way possible, Burley said.

“It’s nothing to take an extra five minutes here or 10 minutes there to make them happy,” she said. “I am so lucky because everyone knows that. It’s the coolest place ever.”

Residents’ rooms are cleaned, their meals are prepared for them and they never have to do their own laundry, Burley noted.

But such luxuries don’t always make it easy to be a senior citizen in an assisted living situation, Burley said.

Many of the residents deal with a great sense of loss when they move into The Haven, as they feel a loss of independence, they lose the ability to make their own choices and lose the comfort of their lifelong homes.

“But we try to make it the next best place away from home,” Burley said.

Prior to becoming the director of The Haven 12 years ago, Burley made a difference in people’s lives through her 26 years of working as an Emergency Medical Technician.

She also ran the Maybell ambulance for many years, she said.

Burley has been a resident in Moffat County since 1979, and said there’s no other line of work she’d rather do aside from serving others.

She worked for Moffat County Social Services for several years prior to taking on the executive director role at The Haven.

At social services, she worked with adults and elderly, helping them with a variety of needs.

“That kind of prepped me to walk into this,” she said. “I was the one who listened to records with them… wrote letters for them.”

Her most important role now, she said, is to make The Haven residents smile.

“It’s different when you’re connected with the elderly, when you’re trying to make their days brighter,” Burley said. “I’m always helping them in a fun and happy way. The job was never depressing. For me, it was a fun thing.”

What she’s noticed is the most difficult thing for residents is generation gaps.

“This generation wasn’t as vocal as the Baby Boomers,” Burley said. “It’s a whole different culture. They don’t stick up for themselves like the Baby Boomers do. Many of these folks rode horses to school. You look at going from that to this tech world now. They’re experts in going with the flow.”

Burley’s understanding of the generation gaps allows her and staff to better serve The Haven’s residents, she said.

“The staff here makes a difference. Everybody who walks through the door knows that you can make somebody’s day special or not,” Burley said.

Her staff agrees, and they all walk around with open arms and big smiles.

“She’s caring, she’s considerate and she has the best interest of residents in mind,” Diane Girty, assistant director at The Haven, said about Burley.

Reach Noelle Leavitt Riley at 970-875-1790 or Follow her on Twitter @noelleleavitt.