Daughter of refugees becomes leader of human resources at LCS Northwest

by | Oct 18, 2022 | Aging & Independent Living, Refugees & Immigrants, Staff Spotlight

What separates a top-notch organization from the rest of the pack? There’s no doubt for Aija Stapars: The key is attracting and retaining quality employees. She learned it working 25 years in Pacific Northwest senior living communities and other nonprofit healthcare settings. She learned it as a human resources leader and an interim Chief Executive Officer.

As LCSNW’s newly hired Chief People and Culture Officer, Aija’s job is to ensure it remains top of mind as the agency pursues our No. 1 strategic goal: To be a regional employer of choice.

“I believe employees are the most valuable asset that an organization has,” she said, “If you don’t have good employees in a good culture and a good environment, you really don’t have the ingredients for a successful organization.”

Aija (pronounced AYE-yah) will start tending those ingredients on Oct. 31, her first day in an LCSNW executive position formerly known as Chief Human Resources Officer.

She spent the last 12-plus years in senior living community leadership, first as the Vice President of Human Resources for Wesley, a faith-based network of housing and healthcare facilities for older adults. In early 2021, she joined the Hearthstone at Green Lake, a Seattle retirement community with Lutheran roots. Hearthstone hired her as Chief Human Resources Officer, but she soon shifted into the interim CEO role.

“I led strong for nine months, and there were a good number of surprises,” she said. “My colleagues all rallied around me.”

What makes Aija a good fit for LCSNW? Her senior living and healthcare background gives her a natural affinity for our aging and independent living programs in the Greater Puget Sound district. In addition, this child of refugees is firmly grounded in values that are core to the agency and our service to refugees and immigrants.

Her parents fled Latvia after World War II under harsh circumstances not unlike what Ukrainian refugees face today. Aija knows what it’s like to develop a blended identity; she grew up in the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Seattle and didn’t learn English until kindergarten.

“We worked very hard to become contributing citizens even though we still have deep cultural ties to Latvia,” she said. “It’s not just church; it’s school, it’s folk dances, it’s our Independence Day celebration every November.”

A resident of West Seattle, Aija loves to walk long miles between the hills and Puget Sound waters of her community. A dual citizen, she enjoys traveling around Europe.

LCSNW President and CEO David Duea is eager for Aija to go to work. “I am so excited that Aija will be joining the team. She brings decades of experience to lead a very strong HR team. She also has a strong background supporting the employee experience.”