Todd Roper Class of 1988
Administrator Conover Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Conover, NC

Caring for elderly loved ones is a major concern for many families, and being assured that they are in a safe and comfortable environment is of primary importance.

Conover Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (CNRC) is the only privately owned and operated skilled nursing facility in Catawba County, Todd Roper, who serves as administrator, is responsible for making sure that the residents receive not only the physical and rehabilitative care that is best for them but also the personal caring attention needed to make their lives as happy and pleasant as possible.

I never expected to be managing a nursing facility, explains Todd, but Joshua Sherrill, the owner, approached me to say that I had the personal attributes that he was looking for and offered me the opportunity. I had no previous experience in this field, but he assured me that the administrative skills needed could be learned on the job and that a positive personality and sincere love for people were of the greatest importance.

My job as administrator is to manage the operations, budgeting, personnel, scheduling, purchasing, and all the day-to-day activities necessary to keep the place running smoothly. We have more than 150 employees in a variety of departments, and we are required to meet all the standards and follow all the regulations required by local, state, and federal organizations. The nursing care business is one of the most highly regulated in the country. Administrators must be careful to meet the standards of the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Medicare, Medicaid, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as North Carolina and Catawba County standards. Because CNRC is a family owned and operated facility and therefore not bound by corporate regulations, there can be more flexibility in how to best meet the needs of the residents, but the staff remains extremely conscientious when it comes to safety and guidelines.

All of our staff members, including the CNAs, nurses, therapists, housekeeping staff, dietary specialists, and office personnel, work together to give our residents personal attention and emotional support. My wife, Nicole, also East Burke class of 1988, is the director of rehabilitation services. We not only work as a team, but we also add a family touch to all that we do. Its people who make the difference. We love interacting with the residents and seeing them laugh and enjoy themselves. We provide as many activities for them as we can, and knowing that they are comfortable and have a positive outlook is very rewarding. The goal for rehab patients is for them to heal and return to doing the things they love. For our long-term residents, we strive to make each day as enjoyable as possible.

The rehabilitation facilities, including a gym and indoor track, are state of the art, and the personnel are trained in the latest techniques. One of the primary features of the facility is a meditative garden with flowers and waterfalls, rocking chairs and bird feeders. Residents often visit with friends and family members in this soothing and inviting environment.

CNRC has received a five-star rating every year since 2014, and recently it was recognized by the American Health Care Association for quality achievements in three national goals: reducing use of antipsychotics, improving residents functional outcomes, and re-hospitalizations. We are honored to receive recognition for this incredible achievement and are committed to continued improvements for our residents.

Todds journey from public school student to health care administrator is an unusual one. My main focus all through school was music, and Kathryn Siphers was my greatest influence. When I was in the sixth grade, she started teaching me to play the violin and drums. When I got to middle school, she introduced me to the French horn, which is a challenging instrument to play, Fortunately, Miss Siphers had majored in French horn, so I had the best teacher possible, and it was because of her great instruction that I became a successful player. She also encouraged me to participate in a variety of musical experiences including the Czerny Music Club in Valdese. I played tri-toms in the marching band and the drum kit with the stage band, directed by Leonard Brendel. I also played keyboard in a rock band along with my good friends Michael Bonner, Henry Garrou, and Athos Rostan. We stayed together and played music past high school and college and for a number of years after that. We would often play in areas such as a beach setting where I couldnt take a keyboard, so thats when I also took up acoustic guitar, which I still play today.

I also enjoyed participating in the drama program at East Burke. My sister was a cast member in every musical produced while she was a student, so I was able to take part as well. Almost every production has a part for a younger person, and I was happy to be included. Music and theater are great learning opportunities not only for performance skills but also for working together as a team and taking responsibility for doing ones best for the group.

After graduation from EBHS, I enrolled in UNC-Chapel Hill, where I earned a bachelors degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. But it was still music that drew me, and I went off to Hollywood to enroll in the Musicians Institute, where I studied piano/keyboard. It was a great decision. I knew what skills I needed and was able to learn them from great instructors.

Soon after that, it was off to Nashville for three years where I played in several bands and tried my hand at song writing. While living in Nashville, I worked as a researcher at the Vanderbilt University Kennedy Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities. Our primary focuses at the time were studying Prader- Willi Syndrome and how residing in group homes impacted the lives of residents. But I also worked at the Bluebird Caf, where so many country artists, both newcomers and established acts, perform on a regular basis. I wanted to be close to the action, and it was the best place to be.

When my wife and I decided to start a family, we thought it best to move back to Burke County, and I worked for a while in staff development at Western Carolina Center (now J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center). Marsha Riddle, knowing my experience in music and in research involving developmental disabilities, suggested that I work at Studio XI in Morganton. Studio XI was the first of its kind in the country to educate and promote artists with developmental disabilities. I stayed there for seven years before Josh Sherrill offered me the administrators job at CNRC.

Interestingly enough, owner Josh Sherrill is a guitar player himself, so it was the mutual love of music that brought them together in this work as well. And the love of music continues, as Todd makes sure that the residents at CNRC are provided with a rousing, rollicking show every month. We call it Rehab Rocks. We have a grand piano in the dining hall, and I enjoy playing it along with guest artists who sing or play guitar and other instruments. The music touches all genres and includes some country and gospel, we often have sing-alongs, and the residents enjoy themselves. One of our current employees, Shellem Cline, is an up-and-coming recording artist, and we enjoy featuring him along with other entertainers.

And just in case anyone thinks that Todds skills are limited to health care and music performance, he adds that for five years he coached his daughters traveling volleyball team. She was with the Carolina Select Volleyball Club. I started with the 12-year-old premier team and moved up each year as she grew. When she turned 16 and went to another club in Charlotte, I hung up my whistle! It was a great experience, one well always remember.

Combining a love for people, a dedication to excellence, creative thinking, and a passion for performing, Todd is in a great position to bring comfort and care to the residents of CNRC. Its a part of who we are that we bring into this home good people, a forward-looking approach, and a focus on daily well-being that really does enhance lives.

Published May 2021

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