The drive from Peabody, Mass., to Boston is just enough time to strike up a meaningful conversation, says Kate Hubbard, who works in the transportation department at Brooksby Village.
Hubbard works four days a week as a driver for Brooksby residents who need a ride to the airport, a doctor's office, or other location outside the Erickson Living community located in Peabody.
"This is my retirement job," says Hubbard, who previously worked as a quality assurance director in the information technology sector. "I was in corporate America and retired early. I knew I wanted to do something meaningful with my time."
Hubbard has ties to Brooksby Village. Her father Joe lived at the community, and one of Hubbard's friends from college, Laurie Phillips, works at Brooksby as the community's personal moving consultant.
"I saw the shuttle driving around Brooksby when I visited my father and thought it would be a fun job, driving residents and getting to know them," says Hubbard.
After she "quit the grind," Hubbard volunteered as a money management resource for low-income individuals on the North Shore and delivered food through Meals on Wheels.
"Just over a year ago, I heard there was a position open for a driver at Brooksby," says Hubbard. "I jumped at the chance."
As a non-CDL driver, Hubbard drives Brooksby's sedans, most often transporting residents back and forth from Boston.
"You establish a real relationship with residents while you're in the car," says Hubbard. "It's a great opportunity to get to know them a little better."
And since she's from Salem, Hubbard often discovers ties to residents who also grew up in the area.
"My first-grade boyfriend's mother lives at Brooksby," she says with a laugh.
Of all the connections Hubbard's made with community members, the most remarkable happened on a drive from Boston to Peabody.
"I was driving a resident back to Brooksby from a doctor's appointment, and she mentioned she grew up in Salem," says Kate. "We started listing names of people we might have in common and discovered she and my aunt were best friends in elementary school."
The resident, Audrey Frye Helzner, moved to Brooksby from Marblehead in 2014. Audrey says that connection in the car was nothing short of a miracle.
"I nearly jumped out of my seat," says Audrey. "What an amazing coincidence that my childhood friend was Kate's aunt."
Audrey and Hubbard's aunt, Mary Aulson, attended Horace Mann Training School together. After college, Mary became a missionary nun and moved to Bolivia, where she lived for 60 years.
"Mary and I wrote back and forth for 20 years before we lost touch," says Audrey, who married and had a family. "I'd often wondered how she was and what she was doing."
During the drive, Hubbard saw Audrey's iPhone and asked if she used the FaceTime feature. When Audrey said she did, Hubbard arranged for a FaceTime "visit" between Audrey and Mary, who was living in California at the time.
Since then, Audrey and Mary have spoken every week.
"We are both so thankful to renew our friendship after many decades," says Audrey. "It's such an exciting feeling to reconnect."
Hubbard, for her part, says those moments drew her to Brooksby in the first place.
"It was a wonderful connection to establish just by virtue of striking up a conversation and getting to know one another," says Hubbard. "One of my favorite things about being part of this community is seeing residents on an ongoing basis and building those relationships."