SEBRING — Julia Mercer, marketing director for The Palms of Sebring, enjoys bringing people from the community to the Palms. She understands that social interactions with the community are absolutely vital for residents.

“Adults who are more socially connected are healthier and live longer than their more isolated peers,” according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. After studying the mortality rates of people from industrialized countries, a recent study concluded “individuals with the lowest level of involvement in social relationships are more likely to die than those with greater involvement.”

Mercer’s job involves planning activities, such as Dog Daze of Summer, that bring people from the community to The Palms. Locals brought their dogs and puppies to the Palms on Aug. 27, and residents were able to enjoy petting and playing with the canines.

On Aug. 24, Mercer helped plan a Centenarian Tea for residents ages 95 years of age or older, with the hope of bringing in friends and family to see the residents.

When The Palms holds its annual Apple Festival, residents will help bag apples and be actively involved in the sales. This interaction gives them a sense of purpose, and Mercer tries to plan community activities that require their involvement.

Although Mercer does not consider herself an artist, she knows the importance of art in the lives of the residents. People who can not talk or communicate verbally can communicate when they are given a brush and a canvas.

She oversees sales for independent and assisted living and oversees community events. She encourages people to move to the Palms, and then she plans events to keep them involved with the community.

Mercer enjoys posting pictures of the residents on The Palms’ Facebook page. Many of the residents do not have family who live nearby, and family members enjoy the Facebook posts. One post said, “It’s great to see my mother-in-law in the Palms’ photos.”

“She [Mercer] has learned how important community is to business,” Wellness Director Adele Dornheim said. “Being out among the people and businesses is how she stays connected to the heart of Highlands County. She is always looking for ways to bring people to The Palms, not only to expose them to life at The Palms, but also to keep our residents involved with the outside community too.

“She tirelessly represents The Palms at many functions around Sebring and sits on many boards too,” Dornheim said. “This makes her a great asset to the Palms’ organization.

“I know that Julia is very dedicated to her job, residents and co-workers,” Dornheim said.

When Mercer was hospitalized a couple of years ago, she even texted back and forth with other employees to make sure that The Palms’ Foundation dinner was still a success. She continued assisting the organization during her 13-day hospital stay, because she loves the residents and her co-workers.

Mercer could hardly wait to get well and get back to work. She refused to stop; the smiles from the residents are the highlight of her day.

Since Mercer believes so firmly in helping others, she has sat on five boards in the community — the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce, the 4-H Foundation, the Highlands Art League, Meals for Wheels and Well Being in the Heartland [magazine].

“Julia is an amazing member of the Sebring Chamber,” Liz Barber, president of the Greater Sebring Chamber of Commerce, said. “She’s served as a member of the Ambassador Club and is currently serving as a member of our board of directors.

“Anytime we need a volunteer, supporter, sponsor, or cheerleader, we always know we can count on Julia,” Barber said. “Her glowing smile and attitude positively effects everyone she surrounds. We’re so lucky to have her on our team as a board member and volunteer.”

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