By Vince Meehan
On Feb. 5, Cheryl Wilson will leave her office as the president and CEO of St. Paul’s Senior Services for the final time after 32 years in the role.
Wilson leaves behind a huge legacy as the leader of one of the most prestigious and respected senior services foundations in San Diego.
“It’s been 32 wonderful years. I have enjoyed every day – absolutely the greatest place to work – and the most wonderful people to work with and to serve here at St. Paul’s,” Wilson said. “I’ve spent over half my life here and I think we’ve done some good work.”
Born and raised in Australia, Wilson trained as a nurse in her home country and then traveled around the world as part of her service. It was at this point in her life that she met her husband who was in the military and he convinced her to come to the United States.
“That was the best decision I ever made!” said Wilson as she reflected on the choice that led her to San Diego where she and her husband have resided for over 50 years.
St. Paul’s Senior Services is based in Bankers Hill and is a faith-based nonprofit founded in 1960. It has provided care to San Diego seniors for more than 60 years. The original mission was to provide affordable housing and care for elderly residents who needed daily assistance. Over the years, the foundation has grown to now include three senior living communities, a nursing facility, a senior day program as well as a child care center. In addition, the foundation operates four St. Paul’s PACE (Program of all-inclusive Care for the Elderly) medical centers across San Diego.
St. Paul’s has an earned reputation of being one of the premiere senior services care facilities in San Diego. It is also renowned for it’s commitment to the dignity and service of it’s clients. Wilson credits her staff and board at upholding that standard of excellence.
“I really give a lot of credit to the board of directors who are visionary – who are really willing to step out there and do some things that haven’t been tried and haven’t been tested. But they are willing to do innovative things in order to serve more people. At St. Paul’s, we always focus on quality. Sometimes people in the community aren’t able to see what’s going on behind the scenes, but we do. And if you take care of things behind the scenes, then the product that is seen by the general population is always going to be good, So we always focus on that— we hire the very best people and we train them and give them ongoing training through education.”
Wilson is referring to a program where St Paul’s pays for college training for staff members who would like to grow their skill sets. Time is also afforded to complete the courses, which Wilson attributes to an employee loyalty and retention at St. Paul’s that is far above par.
“We are very invested in our employees by helping them to grow and be whatever they want to be in their lives. And because of that, I think we have very committed employees. We have employees who have been here for decades – like myself,” she said. “I think that’s the bottom line: people are here because they love what they do, they love serving the people we serve, and they are really committed and passionate about that service. And its not just a job, its not just a paycheck. So I think that’s part of the difference at St. Paul’s.”
Over the years, St. Paul’s has created a distinct blueprint for success, which they share with other organizations across the country. They also partner with local home health agencies and hospices in order to ensure that proper care is provided if the patients leave their facility. They also partner with other nonprofits such as Meals on Wheels who can assist in transitioning patients back to their homes.
Wilson plans to return to Australia for a 50th nursing reunion later this year after she retires. After that, she and her husband plan on traveling about and seeing the country. There will also be a lot relaxing in order after over 30 years at St. Paul’s.
“My immediate plans for retirement are, I’m going to sleep for a week and catch up! Because I haven’t slept much during Covid!” Wilson said. “But after that, we plan to travel and just really enjoy each other. Because he has worked so hard all his life, and I have worked so hard, that now we think it’s time for us.”
— Vince Meehan can be reached at email@example.com.