It was a little after 8 am.a year ago today that I got a call to inform me that Jen had unexpectedly died. She was at her desk as she was early every day getting a start on the day.
Jen started working for REquipment, Inc. in February 2017 as the Program Coordinator, after having worked at the New England Assistive Technology Program Oak Hill, CT for 14 years. She came as our DME reuse program was in its infancy and with her experience, great organizational skills and passion for reuse she immediately was able to quickly establish processes and procedures to facilitate requests for equipment efficiently and provide the necessary reporting documentation for funders.
But Jen was not just about the paperwork. She was compassionate and cared a great deal about the people we serve. She worked with staff to expediate necessary documentation and personally picked up and delivered equipment when the individual’s need was great or immediate. She was also a great problem solver. Several years ago, when the online inventory host failed, she devised a way to handle requests with an offline spreadsheet method which enabled the program to continue for several months until the online solution was found. It was significantly more effort for her but meant people could still be served. During several months of the pandemic two of the four reuse sites were shut down. She worked closely with the remaining two to pick up the increased workload.
Jen was also a good listener. Her phone went on early, and she would take staff calls until the evening to problem solve or to lend an ear. I spoke to Jen almost every workday for 5 years. We provided each other a lot of peer support. Even when her plate was full, she offered to help others. That was in her DNA. Jen and husband Mark also supported the Enfield Police Department where Mark worked, hosting events for the police department staff, having an annual pig roast for friends and family at her home and available to help others in need. She was always generous of her time and spirit.
You might have realized by now that Jen took on much more work than was required or expected. Even when she and her husband visited their favorite place in St Martin in the summer, she worked a couple of hours a day so that people’s requests wouldn’t be held up for 3 weeks. She’d send pictures of herself sitting by the beach, with her toes in the water and an iPad on her lap working.
Jen was the glue that kept the day-to-day operation of the statewide DME Reuse Program together.
Last Spring, the REquipment, Inc. Board of Directors established a scholarship in her name, “The Jen Baker Memorial Scholarship” of $1000 to be awarded to a student from MA or CT pursuing a career in OT, PT or similar field with an emphasis on reuse. It is one way we can honor her memory as she was a lifelong learner.
So, a year has passed, and we pulled ourselves together to make the program work as Jen would have wanted us to do. We miss Jen every day, but her spirit carries us on.