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Love Connection: Carmen and Jim Payne dedicated to serving Rolla Presbyterian Manor residents

Carmen and Jim Payne both took jobs at Presbyterian Manor because they were looking for something different. In the process, they found their life’s work — and each other.

“She hadn’t been working here too long when we had a snowstorm,” Jim said. “There was a car in the lot with Tennessee plates, and I was trying to figure out who it belonged to.”

It turns out the vehicle belonged to the new certified nursing assistant who had recently moved back to Missouri after her divorce.

They hadn’t met, but Jim’s gruff reputation preceded him, and Carmen was nervous to hear he was looking for her. But she needn’t have worried.

“It turns out he’s a big teddy bear,” she said.

That was almost 14 years ago. Carmen went on to become an activities assistant and then the director of dining services, a position she has held for more than a decade. She oversees the community’s three dining rooms, manages some 20 members of the dining staff, writes menus, and works with the nursing team to ensure that each individual resident’s nutritional requirements are being met.

“I was looking for something more rewarding than managing a fast-food restaurant,” her job before she began working at Presbyterian Manor, Carmen said. “This is a very rewarding place to be.”

Jim has worked in the Presbyterian Manor community for 32 years, with more than three decades in leadership as director of environmental services. He is responsible for overseeing maintenance of the community, and he manages the maintenance, housekeeping and laundry staff members, which number about 10.

“What has kept me here is the type of work,” Jim said. “I like problem-solving, and there’s something new every day.”

The couple also values the opportunity to serve the residents of the community, who are “a wealth of information,” Jim said.

The Paynes live on a farm, so part of their day includes caring for their animals.

“My favorite thing to do is play with the cows,” Carmen said. “It’s therapy for me.” They like having their ears nuzzled, and they’ll eat right out of her hand.

Together, they have six children and 16 grandchildren. One of their daughters served as a surrogate for a sister who couldn’t carry her own pregnancy.

When they’re able, the Paynes get away to their cabin at the Lake of the Ozarks, where they enjoy boating and fishing.

The couple are also devout Christians who are active members of St. Patrick Catholic Church.

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