Please welcome Hank, our new Operations Associate, to the team! Hank brings varied experiences as a Hollywood talent agent, a retail manager, and care worker to his new role at Caring Across. Read on to find out why he’s so excited to be joining the team now, how working in a care facility shaped his life path, and what his very musical hobby is!
What drew you to Caring Across, and what does our work mean to you?
I was lucky enough to be working with another company that was assisting Caring Across with some operational work. I was able to get in on the ground floor of building out the organization’s operations department. So when I was asked by the Management Team if I would like to apply for a full time position, I was very happy to!
The work that is being done here means a lot to me personally, for my family and for myself. My first job was in an elder care facility. Until a couple years ago, my parents ran a large elder care facility in North Dakota. Even though I never thought I had a care story, working with Caring Across, I realized that I do, and that I did for many decades.
What is your new role, and what are you most excited to dig in to?
I am the new Operations Associate. Since we’ve never really had a full Operations department, I am very excited to dig into so much new work. I am building out the role and I get to grow the role and grow the team. I know Operations isn’t exciting for a lot of people, but for me, it is! If I get to document work that is being done and put that down in a process that makes sense to people, that makes me super happy. And I have the great benefit of getting to know every single person that we work with.
Because we are a small team in general, and a small team in the Operations department, it’s allowed the three of us – Ajax, Leah, and myself – to bond, and to get excited together about growth. It’s great to have that kind of partnership with people, and get to work with them closely and have fun together.
What kind of work have you done in the past?
I have been very lucky to have many careers over the course of my life. The most significant was that, for about 15 years, I worked as an agent and Vice President of a talent agency in Los Angeles. I’m actually finding that I’m able to use my knowledge from the entertainment industry here, with what we’re concentrating on in the Culture Change Department. I have a couple contacts in Hollywood who we can connect with.
I left that to go into retail – I worked in a bookstore for many years. That job allowed me to be social, which I loved, but at the same time, I was able to learn so much from people. Especially being around books and people who love books, like the employees and the customers too. You’re not going into a bookstore to buy things – you’re going in to find an adventure or knowledge or anything that motivates you. I do miss that – I miss being around people who are passionate about reading and books. I just found myself after a few months of not reading, and I was feeling kind of laggy and then I started reading a book, and realized it was because I used to read two or three books a week! I’m currently reading a book called Tacky, about the history of tacky things and what does tackiness mean in the American vernacular, even in relation to economics and the environment. And I just started Death in Her Hands, by Otessa Moshfegh. I’m just in the first chapter, but it’s so good so far!
I’m very lucky to have been in three very different careers, along with many other different jobs. It’s interesting how an organizational job, as opposed to a company, can really change the way that you work and the words that you use, and it invites a completely new vocabulary. The other day, I was on a call with Sadé and she said to me, “We haven’t had a chance to hold space together yet,” and I thought, “Oh my god, that’s brilliant! Hold space!” People don’t say that at other companies, where it often feels like they don’t have time for you. It really is kind of mind blowing how Caring Across has opened up a whole new way of being in the workplace for me. Another example: I went on vacation recently, and never thought about work, and in previous jobs I would always be thinking about work. That’s the thing about life: you have to be open to learning new things and admitting when you don’t know something. I do that every day.
What is your experience with care, and how did it bring you to do this work?
My experience with care started when I was a teenager, when I worked at an elder care facility in Fargo, North Dakota. I just wanted a job, and I applied everywhere and that’s where I got one. I would drive 35 miles from my tiny little five street town to the facility. It helped me grow up, it taught me compassion, and it made me happy and sad all at once.
At age 17, I was working in the skilled nursing unit, and learning lessons that were awakening, and harsh, and wonderful. I might bond with someone, and come back at the weekend after a week in school and find out they passed away. I was with people, in their rooms with them, when they passed away, which was a huge part of me and really stuck with me. I’m a deeply feeling person – I love a good cry, I love to laugh – and I know now that this work allowed me to do that but also to learn how to handle it, and to still do the work through it.
I remember listening to elders who were telling me about how they left home when they were young and had all of these adventures. One day, when I left work, I was in my car driving back home in a blizzard at nighttime in the middle of winter, and I said to myself, “As soon as you can, you have to leave and find an adventure.” And I left a couple days after I graduated from high school and came to California, and I’ve had adventures ever since.
I think about those people at the facility all the time, and I think of their names. There’s a man named Ivan who always said to me, “You’ve got to get out of here, kid. You’ve got to get out of here. This isn’t the place for you.” And now when I think about it, I know in my mind that Ivan was a queer man, who saw that in me too, and told me to get out. That was 34 years ago, but I know I’ll never ever forget him.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I am a record collector. I started about four years ago, when I was going through my divorce. My best friend in the world is a record collector and a vintage guy. He wears a suit from the 1940’s every single day and has a little pencil mustache. We’re the same age, just a month apart, and both had sisters, so our bond is really strong – he’s the straight guy and I’m the gay guy, and we’re best friends. So after going over to his house, which is just across the street, to spin records, I decided I was going to get one of those little Crosley record players. And I made a deal with myself: if I listened to records twice a week for a year, I would upgrade. And we’ve certainly upgraded! Now I have two turntables and a mixer. We just did a count, and we have over 600 records now.
It’s something that really grounds me, and especially during the start of the lockdown, it really kept me busy. I could really concentrate on my records because they’re so tactile. I could sort them alphabetically, categorize them, and just touch them and take them out. There’s certainly a nostalgia piece: I can hold a record that I held when I was 15, and it means something to me to have it in my hands again. But it’s also opened me up to new music by new artists, because everything is on vinyl. I might not seek these artists out on a streaming service, but because it’s on vinyl, I’m excited to discover it. I’m a huge Billie Eilish fan, I’m a huge Orville Peck fan.
My records are very calming – they’re like a medication to me. Around noon or so, I always go to my record room and work from there and throw on records all day. It’s also great for getting me out of the house, because I want to go dig through records for six hours. That’s really fun for me.