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Meet Shaketra "Shaq" Coward, Resident Experience Partner (REP) at Truewood by Merrill, New Bern in North Carolina. On any given day, Shaq is making an impact in the lives of her residents, and she is well-known for embracing every challenge and task with incredible joy, an infectious smile, and unmatched grace.

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Every year, Tana Gall, Merrill Gardens president, is tasked with the difficult choice of picking the winner of our "HERO of the year" award. This individual exemplifies everything the Merrill Family of Senior Living communities stands for:

H: Helpful — Acting with others in mind

E: Effective — Being part of the solution

R: Reliable — Happily going the extra mile

O: Optimistic — Being positive and inspiring those around me

This year, Shaq was selected as the winner!

We traveled to New Bern from Seattle, WA to surprise Shaq with a huge party complete with decorations, cake, and more. She was so surprised when Suzanne Wyse, Vice President of Operations, announced her as the winner!

In the words of Lara Williams, General Manager of Truewood by Merrill New Bern, "Shaq is a person who makes you feel good even when you don't. She exudes happiness." In March of 2022, Shaq joined the team and embraced this new role with a positive attitude, diving in to help whenever and wherever she could. Although Shaq had initially applied for a receptionist position, her personality really came through in her interview and Lara thought she would be perfect for the REP position! She does everything from greeting residents at the front desk, to making ice cream sundaes. She is the go-to person for all of our residents!

Click below to watch the video of us surprising Shaq with this prestigious award, and hear from residents and team members on what she means to them.



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