Al Kuzio of Longs was selected from among thousands of caregivers as a 2016 Agentum Hero and received his award in Denver, Colo., in May.
Argentum is the Assisted Living Federation of America, and Kuzio is the transportation and community outreach director at Summit Place in North Myrtle Beach.
Kuzio said he is thankful that his co-workers and people in the community nominated him for the award. Without them, it would not have happened, he said.
Kuzio and his wife, Christine, flew to Denver for him to receive the award. Journalist and philanthropist Soledad O’Brien was the mistress of ceremonies. Kuzio said it was a very emotional program. “I cried a couple of times,” he said.
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Other speakers were Jeb Bush and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. “Everybody around said I got a bigger hand than they did,” Kuzio said.
Kuzio worked 42 years in New York State in the commercial printing business before retiring in 2004 and moving to Longs in 2005.
He soon got bored with retirement, he said, “You can only go to the beach so much.”
Boredom and the desire to help others led him to apply for a part-time job at Summit Place, and before long he was working full time. He drives “his” residents to restaurants, theatres and other attractions, and many other places. He schedules their doctor appointments and takes them to doctors’ offices from the Grand Strand to Shallotte, N.C.
“I just love doing things with my residents,” said Kuzio. Even the Alzheimer’s and dementia patients smile when they see him and his bus, he said, and they love to ride around. Every week, he takes them out to a restaurant. At one restaurant, a customer noticed how kind and loving Kuzio was to the residents and paid their entire bill because it touched his heart.
Sometimes family members will meet the bus to be with their loved ones for meals and other things. Kuzio said some of the residents have a lot of family and people to visit them, some have a few and some have none.
“They all love him,” said Holly Mitchell, Summit Place marketing director. “He turns it into a big adventure. He even takes them on the pier. He just goes out of the way.”
“They don’t catch anything usually, but they enjoy it,” Kuzio said.
“When he first walks in, he goes from table to table and says ‘good morning.’ He’s always professional, always polite. What makes a really good community is the way your people work with your residents. Everybody knows he makes such a difference,” Mitchell said.
Al and Christine have been married 50 years, have two grown children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They lost their grandson, Sgt. Corey Kuzio to the Iraq War.
Christine said she is very proud of her husband and happy that they can help make a difference in the community. She frequently goes with the groups, especially when they are interacting with the people at the American Legions or other military/veteran groups, which they often do.
Kuzio does orientation for new employees. His talk is titled Putting People First. It is a subject he knows a lot about. And if you’re a family member and going to see your loved one at Summit Place, you’d better check the calendar because they might be on the bus going somewhere, Kuzio said.
For more from residents and others about AL Kuzio, watch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEOgs5RZAHA
Peggy Mishoe, firstname.lastname@example.org, 365-3885.