A temporary gig became a career and, in some ways, a life-changing opportunity for Yvonne McDonald.
McDonald entered property management in 2012, working for a temp agency at a variety of communities but a two-month assignment at a USA property in Woodland touched her heart in a special way.
Sadly, the position ended and she was placed at a market-rate apartment community in Stockton. It was a beautiful property and it became a permanent job. The two-hour, round-trip commute was demanding, especially since she also took care of her mother before and after work.
A long day at work was followed with a long drive home to Sacramento – and the challenges of being a caregiver after the traditional workday.
“The travel was just way too much,” she says. “It was also emotionally hard.”
In January 2016, she sought work closer to home and remembering her affection for the way USA Properties treated its employees, communities, and residents, she applied and interviewed at two USA Properties.
Sierra Sunrise hired her as Assistant Community Manager, a project-based affordable senior apartment community less than 15 minutes from her home.
“I fell in love with USA as a company as a temp employee, from what the properties looked like to how residents were treated,” she says. “It was just the right fit.”
It was a good fit for USA Properties, too. The company promoted McDonald to Community Manager of Sierra Sunrise in 2019.
The affordable apartment community, about 15 miles from the company’s corporate headquarters, is definitely unique. Many residents at Sierra Sunrise receive housing assistance from U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), while others are through the tax credit program.
Together, the apartment community provides much-needed – and much-appreciated – housing to low-income residents, many who may not have another option.
“Having worked in the industry, USA offers a top-notch product without charging a top price,” says McDonald, who handles plenty of paperwork with the two programs. “USA wants to provide a quality product to the underserved. They show so much care for residents.”
‘You want everyone to enjoy the best life possible’
It’s an approach that connects with McDonald – and her residents.
“The residents are so appreciative, they know they have a blessing,” says McDonald, who feels a connection to her late-mother through the residents at Sierra Sunrise. “It’s like seeing my mom every day. I have a lot of empathy; my eyes drain a lot. You want everyone to enjoy the best life possible.”
Her connection with residents started during her job interview at Sierra Sunrise. A woman, Marilyn, who lived at the community sat on a bench and spoke with McDonald after the interview.
“On my first day of work, she came over and gave me a hug,” McDonald says. “She made me feel welcome from day one.”
Later, Marilyn introduced McDonald to her pastor, and the relationship paved the way for an on-site food program. They hope to add a Meals on Wheels Hot Lunch program in the next 12 months at Sierra Sunrise.
“There’s a huge need for food, but also to share a meal with people,” McDonald says. “All of this was made possible because Marilyn had a friend who visited her every week.”
Of course, McDonald had a lot do with it, too. And now she is deeply involved in the extensive renovation of Sierra Sunrise.
Once completed, the new community room and kitchen will help provide more food – and hot meals – to residents. The project includes the addition of quartz counters in the kitchens and bathrooms, glass cooktops, and new appliances and flooring in housing units. New landscaping and the installation of rooftop solar panels are also part of the 18-month project at Sierra Sunrise.
“It’s like a birthday surprise,” she says of the soon-to-be completed project. “Residents know that something better is coming.”
It’s a feeling McDonald had when she joined USA Properties.
The company “treats employees with so much respect,” she says. “USA has so much to offer.”
Outside the office
Yvonne McDonald’s busy day at the office often continues when she gets home. McDonald, who has two twentysomething sons and a daughter, is a first-time grandmother. She lives in her childhood home, and has been completing home-remodeling and design projects in recent years. She’s also learning how to cook again, and determined to master sewing. “My mother was an amazing seamstress.”