A little more than a year after starting a new job as a dining room server at the Lakeside Park memory care community in Oakland, CA, Michael Robinette’s life changed forever when he was fitted with new hearing aids that enabled him to hear music and voices for the first time.

He previously had considered the hearing devices, which cost $3,400 each, out of reach. They were bought and paid for with funds from a Go Fund Me account set up by Robinette’s peers at Lakeside Park and its management company, Watermark Retirement Communities.

“I am at a loss to describe the joy I felt watching the expression on Michael’s face,” Robinette’s boss, Lakeside Park Executive Director Cheryl Martin, told colleagues after seeing his face light up as he heard music for the first time.

Robinette became deaf at age three after experiencing a high fever and received his first hearing aids at age five. His first language is sign language.

After he joined the team at Lakeside Park, in addition to working his normal shifts, Robinette volunteered to teach sign language classes at the community through Watermark University.

Through his efforts, Robinette helped residents, family members and fellow associates become more mindful in communicating with people from the deaf culture, which as it turns out, has benefitted the community in many ways, as the advice is beneficial for any face-to-face communication, whether with a resident, fellow associate or guest. His students learned to slow down and face each other when speaking and be present in the moment, for example.

Last April, Watermark President and CEO David Barnes flew Robinette to Watermark headquarters in Tucson, AZ, to take part in Watermark’s Leadership Summit. There, Robinette and students from the Arizona Schools for the Deaf and Blind conducted workshops to help associates understand what it is like to be blind, visually impaired, deaf or hard-of-hearing.

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