Dining: Destination or Journey?

If you’ve had a scrumptious meal at Givens Estates, most likely Kenneth Jenzen had a hand in it. As Director of Residential and Assisted Living Dining Services, Kenneth is committed to providing high-quality dining experiences for residents of Givens Estates. Kenneth is involved in all stages of dining operations and has set high standards of excellence for the dining team. Having served in his role for over eight years, his contributions have had a far-reaching impact. Enjoy learning a little more about him!

What are a few of your primary responsibilities?

I oversee the operations for Wood Assisted Living, Residential Living dining, and the Dining Renovation Project.

What goals are you currently working toward achieving?

Some of my current goals are to successfully open and operate our three new dining venues, start the MBA program at Western Carolina University, continue to develop my career path of becoming an Executive Director of a Life Plan Community, then COO and ultimately CEO of a Life Plan organization.

As a leader, what are some of your values? In what ways do those values align with Givens Estates’ values?

I value our residents. I enjoy their positive reactions to what we produce as a department.  It is my personal mission to create smiles and memories that are everlasting in others. Each day, I set out to create experiences for our residents and team members. It could be as simple as trying a new food or experiencing a new dining event we are offering or preparing their favorite meal that brings a sense of comfort. I truly care about others, and caring is a core value of Givens Estates. I also value courage and try to apply that in my role daily. It takes courage and commitment to introduce new ideas and practices in a community, and I’ve been fortunate that Givens Estates has been supportive of new ideas that work in the best interest of residents.

How do you ensure your department and its activities are aligned with Givens Estates mission, vision, and values?

Our department strives to meet resident expectations and we thrive off of feedback.  Dining works very closely with residents, the resident dining committee, and our frontline team members. We listen and respond to resident feedback so we can tailor the dining program to meet and exceed our residents’ and team members’ expectations. Dining Services has recently invested in a 7+ million-dollar renovation so we can better meet the needs of our current and future residents. The new dining program was developed after years of resident feedback, focus groups with current residents, waitlist depositors, and team members. We did not take shortcuts; instead, we committed to designing dining experiences that really cater to our residents wishes.

What inspires you?

My two amazing sons Harper and Charlie inspire me. Also, I believe that the effort I put into my work can have a big impact on the team I work with and the residents we serve.

What advice would you give someone moving into a leadership position in the senior living industry?

I recommend staying focused on the big picture. It is very important to listen to and respond to the needs and desires of those you serve.  Know that the journey is just as important as the final destination. Be patient, and know that the path created is won by walking not running.

Of what achievement or contribution to Givens Estates are you most proud?

Our CEO once called me the Givens social butterfly. Hearing that makes me believe I have the ability to bring people together. In 2018, I had the amazing opportunity to lead our community’s CARF re-accreditation process. The entire leadership team here at Givens Estates made the experience a memorable one. We created some fun opportunities to achieve our accreditation. One of the most rewarding moments of our accreditation process was at the very end at our final meeting with the survey team when they said this was the most enjoyable and memorable survey we have ever been a part of. I believe it was because of the level of effort that went into the survey and the new approach our community took to achieve our re-accreditation.

What resources do you use to help you as a leader (other leaders, books, organizations, etc.)?

I lean on Senior Dining Association, Leading Age National Academy alumni group, Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott, and watching and learning other leaders in our industry.

What life experience or event has influenced your leadership style?

I’ve had tremendous mentors over the years and each has played a major role in developing and molding my leadership style.  All my mentors have been upfront and direct with me, and I have adopted that approach in my leadership style. In 2019, I was accepted into the Leading Age National Leadership Program. That experience is something that I will never forget. It strengthened my foundation in my ability to lead a team, gave me new tools to pull from when faced with career challenges, and created lifelong relationships that will have a positive impact on myself and those I serve.

How is your job rewarding?

Working in the senior living industry is extremely rewarding. Just knowing that we are placed in our residents’ and team members’ lives at this point to be a positive influence on them is meaningful. It provides me with daily motivation, daily smiles, and emotions that you don’t typically experience in other industries. For that, I am grateful.

What is a fun fact about you or something that others might not know about you?

I was on one episode of Sesame Street as a kid! And I love to play golf, travel, and hike.

What is one word that describes you best?


If you would like to learn more about dining at Givens Estates, please contact us at 828-771-2203 or [email protected].