As the Residential & Guest Services Manager at the Benevolent Association for the past 4 years, Karen McCoy has a heart for hospitality. With plans to retire on the horizon, we sat down with her to learn more about the essential role this job plays in helping the BA run smoothly.
Karen McCoy: This is truly a hospitality job. And it involves demonstrating a deeper sense of the concept of hospitality. People always remark on the feeling they get when they walk through the doors [of the BA]. And that comes about because everyone living here is contributing metaphysically to the mission of the organization.
This job requires responsibility, wisdom and judgement. You’re leasing rooms, making spaces ready for guests and meeting and greeting people from all over the world. But it really requires some expertise in the hospitality field.
There are approximately 90 rooms that we lease in one form or another. And it’s broken down almost evenly between the three different sections: Rest & Study, Staff Housing and The Residences at 910. And then totally separate is the Christian Science Nursing Building.
Through the spring and fall there are about 11 Associations that come to the BA and the Rest & Study rooms will be totally filled and the Dining Room will be full. Then throughout the year we have a steady stream of guests who visit the BA.
I would say about two-thirds of my time is focused on the community of active seniors who live here at The Residences at 910. There are two additional staff members who help support the program—an Assistant Manager and an Activities Coordinator/Van Driver.
Growing up, my family ran a Bed & Breakfast with a restaurant and a diner. So, hospitality has been in my background. I helped with everything from going to the grocery store and the dump to peeling potatoes. I remember when I was little my father would say, “Come on Karen, we’re going pearl diving!” and that meant we were going to wash dishes down at the diner.
Just before coming to the BA I was thinking about opening my own B&B—I had a couple of properties in mind that I had been investigating. I was finishing up a 3-year commitment at The Mother Church supporting the readership and I was looking at the BA for temporary housing and came across this job description and I said, “Oh my gosh, this is the B&B without the investment!” And then of course it was all about supporting the Christian Science movement—how could you go wrong with that?!! I know that the devotion of thought to those church services, which has to be totally backed by metaphysics, that was what helped prepare me for this job [at the BA].
Yes, as part of this job you have the option to stay on campus in a little apartment. You can also eat in the Dining Room. You’re there making sure all is harmonious—jumping in if something comes up. It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle.
One day in the summer it was a hot afternoon and spontaneously a group of us decided to take the van out and we went for ice cream in Wellesley, which is a town just down the road. And we sat outside and ate ice cream–it was a perfect summer day.
Another highlight are the people that come for the tours of Mary Baker Eddy’s homes with Longyear Museum. Most of them will stay at the BA at the beginning of the trip and at the end of the trip. During the tour, Longyear gives information and history about Mrs. Eddy and what was happening in her life when she lived at these locations.
So, it’s an absolute delight to see the transformation of the people on that trip when they return and how they are in awe of what they have learned. The conversation in the Dining Room is just so exciting to see how much they have been blessed by that trip and to experience it with them.
There is no typical day! You have to love variety because no two days are the same. I do a fair amount of administrative office work and have a number of regular meetings, but this is really an active job. I’m walking from one building to another multiple times a day. There’s a Carriage House that you manage with seven apartments, and you might need to take the truck down there to move something or pick something up, so it requires quite a bit of activity.
We do have a Facilities Department and they are on deck to handle issues throughout the day, but if there’s a rare something that comes up at night—you might be fixing it! I have my own little screwdriver that I keep handy and I’ve fixed running toilets, flipped breaker switches—of course there are people to help you, but you are on the front lines of running a business.
Interacting with the people. There’s someone new coming through the door all the time and they all have different needs and different expectations. It’s a joy to listen to them and help meet those needs.