Interview with Stephanie Blakeney, RCM Team Lead
What brought you to Echo?
For the first 10 years of living here, I was usually either working for my in-law’s company with the kids at home or just not working at all. And so finally, we decided to finish up our house. We ended up getting an offer to do the TV show to build our house. (More later) And so we decided that we would take them up on the offer and they would do the show about us building the house. So for that to happen, my husband had to stop working. He needed to cut the trees on our land and get everything prepped to build our house, and I’d go back to work. I interviewed at The Echo Group, met Kali and Ashley. I felt they were so nice, but I was pretty sure Ashley didn’t like me. And then, I came back and was hired and started as our RCM specialist. I learned all about billing and denials and how to manage both, and then a year or so later became team lead. It was great for me because so many of my good friends in the community knew about Echo from George (more about this later), so they raved about how great he was. So, I was excited for the opportunity to be at the Echo Group. This year is my fifth anniversary, and it has been quite a growing experience.
How did your friends know George?
Some of the ladies at my church actually had him as a teacher. It was funny because they kept referring to him as Mr. Epstein. These lovely elders of our church in their fifties and sixties said I could never call him George. I could never do that, you know? And it’s just so funny because he is just so welcoming and personable; he makes people kind of feel at home, I think. And so Echo became my home away from home while we were building the house.
To take a step back, how did you get to the Mount Washington Valley?
I was born in New Jersey, and I lived there a good bit when I was little. We spent a short, brief time, maybe a year in Florida, then the rest was in New York and New Jersey. I went to college in Providence, Rhode Island, at Johnson & Wales. I met a friend in college, and she loved to come up here on the weekends to visit family. I would come with her and got to know the valley.
It was like nothing I had seen before. I always really wanted to go to New England. You know, I grew up looking at National Geographic’s and pictures and reading about it, so I wanted to be up in this area. Once I started showing up here, and we’d go horseback riding and hiking, I just loved it and decided I wanted to live here someday. In my junior year, I decided to go out west to the campus in Denver. During that year, I took a tremendous fall. As soon as I could, I took a leave from school and came back east to recuperate
The building of your house was on TV?
Someone approached my in-laws from ABC Productions, and they came in and said, hey, you know, I’m just scouting around in the region. We are looking for anybody that’s building a log cabin. My in-laws told them that my husband and I were in the process of building a house. And a few months went by, and then the production company contacted and said, we’d like your permission to pitch this idea to the DIY network for their building off the Grid series. And so we said, sure, it would be awesome. They did, and DIY did accept it. Filming lasted about a year. Either my husband would film himself and then send them the files, or they would send the film crew up, and they would film big projects that we had going on, like when the beams were coming in or when the concrete was being poured and stuff like that. They followed us, and for over a year, they put the episode together. And so, there is an episode of our house build on the DIY network. It’s called Building Off the Grid Maine Mountain Home.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is getting to work with different agencies from all over the country. That is probably my favorite part because they’re really remarkable people – the people that we have the opportunity to work with because they’re taking care of other people in a time of need, in a time of struggle. I’ve always wanted to help other people,s so if I can make their lives a little bit easier in a small way so they can do that vital work, that is good.
What do you do for fun?
I eat chocolate chip cookies now. I like to bake a lot, and I like to bake a lot with the kids, but my husband is way more health-conscious about what we eat. I have a major sweet tooth, so I love baking with my kids. I just enjoy being in New England, going apple picking and hiking and swimming at the lake and activities like that.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Well, we were hoping this year to go to Scotland to visit my sister-in-law. She is a veterinarian, but she’s been traveling worldwide, learning and being a veterinarian. So I’d like to go to Scotland, and I would like to go to Ireland and probably Switzerland, just because the mountains are just really, really cool and Scotland’s neat because you have the ocean and the mountains.
So if you didn’t work in our system and you could do any job in the world you wanted to, what would you do?
I would be doing something helping other people. I don’t know what it would be, but I love working with other people to make things better. I know that when I was in New Jersey, I was in the inner-city areas. And so many kids were just struggling to find hope in this world. When we were working at the reservation, it was a similar thing. Some kids were struggling with that feeling of neglect or not feeling valued. And so it would probably be something to do with kids, helping families reach their potential and live a healthy, happy life because there are just so many people that unfortunately miss out because there are so many distractions and stuff in it this world. I think it would be great to help other people because I think people are pretty great. They just need to see the value that they have.
Thank you, Stephanie, for your time.