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Excellence Awards Dinner
May 16, 2016

Lombardo's, Randolph

This annual event celebrates the best in the assisted living industry with Mass-ALA’s prestigious Excellence Awards. 


2016 Mass-ALA Awards Dinner


See all photos of the 2016 awards dinner. 
See a list of all of the 2016 nominees. 


Mass-ALA's 2016 Excellence Award Winners 

Direct Service Excellence Award

Joshua Freitas, LCB Senior Living
Joshua Freitas is truly resident-focused. Josh implemented a multilayered engagement program in our communities to assist residents with a dementia diagnosis in living more fruitful lives, learning new things and slowing down the progression of their disease. As a result of his work, one resident was able to speak at his daughter's wedding, which wasn't a reality prior to Josh's help. Josh pushes the boundaries of memory care. He developed an interactive dementia experience so one can briefly learn what it is like for a person living with dementia. The experience has a powerful impact on associates, who request to repeat it so it’s always kept at the forefront of their minds as they care for residents. Josh has also created a culture for our frontline associates that reciprocates better care, better interactions and more opportunities for residents. He provides on-the-floor, in-the-moment training, in addition to seminars and certified trainings. His heart beats for teaching. His creative approach makes the learning process fun, interactive, fruitful and inspiring. Josh is changing the world of healthcare and dementia.

Falls Prevention Champion Award

Karen Custodio, EPOCH Assisted Living of Norton
Karen Custodio is a champion of falls prevention. After she introduced an Otago-based program in the community, there was a 48% decrease in falls compared to the previous year. Her determination to decrease falls has become contagious, and Karen involves and educates staff. If it weren’t for her passion, enthusiasm and take-charge attitude, this program wouldn’t have been successful as it was and continues to be.

Employee Leadership Excellence Awards

Barry Joress, Avita of Needham
Fondly nicknamed "The Mayor," Barry Joress works cooperatively to help care holistically for each resident and fosters warm relationships with families. His positive demeanor and willingness to teach and train not only food service but service in general has earned him respect. Passionate about food and committed to the residents' health and happiness, Barry is always in the neighborhoods at meal and snack times, making sure everyone is pleased and well fed. Barry models how to nurture the spirit of each resident regardless of their level of dementia and promote their individuality with a thorough understanding of their family history, their food preferences and their interests. Families love to check in on him as he always has a cute story or anecdote to relay, making a sometimes difficult visit end on a high note. Barry is an ambassador outside the community as well, teaching healthy cooking classes, purchasing a share in a local organic farm, being a featured speaker and, this year, cooking and serving an organic turkey dinner on Thanksgiving to 200 people at the local Council on Aging. From recreating ethnic family recipes to providing externships for chefs in training, Barry's reputation as a friend and confidant to all is infectious. We just would not be the same without him.  

Michael Nelson, Goddard House Assisted Living in Brookline
Michael's work ethic, kind-hearted nature and attention to detail help define the phrase "above and beyond." He works in the maintenance department and understands that his time spent fixing a resident's light switch is really more about connecting with the resident than it is about connecting wires. Michael develops relationships with residents that go well beyond the scope of his job duties. For example, one resident was feeling anxious about moving from our traditional program to the memory support neighborhood. Each morning, Michael would bring her a "special" cup of coffee "from over there" on the traditional side. Of course it wasn't the coffee that was special, but Michael's companionship and thoughtful gesture. Every day, he offers gifts of kindness and patience, treating residents like they are members of his own family.
Kim O'Connell, Brightview Country Club Heights
As memory care director, Kim O’Connell has stabilized and elevated the talented team of resident associates by being an engaged, accessible, lead-by-example professional. Fellow directors deeply respect her intellect and good humor. Associates view her as an engaged leader who is fair, consistent, empathetic and someone they can trust. Greatly improved associate retention is a happy byproduct of Kim's work. Our community paced the company with its dramatic year-over-year improvement in resident and associate satisfaction, and was recognized at our leadership conference in March for that dynamic achievement. There is no doubt Kim's efforts contributed mightily to that recognition. Families and residents have offered accolades too numerous to mention. Besides quickly elevating touch therapy, music therapy, art therapy and the like as core offerings, Kim works hard to ensure we are constantly thinking outside the box to delivery joy to residents. A six-week equine therapy program at Ironstone Farm was met with virtually 100% participation, and touched the hearts of our residents and their families in ways that need to be seen to be believed.

Executive Director Excellence Award

Kymberly Codair, Atria Merrimack Place
As a fairly new executive director, Kymberly Codair has increased occupancy over 93%, often times hitting 100%. Our community has consistently scored in top of the Northeast division for customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and quality standards company-wide. Kymberly challenges herself and her team to be their best. She has brought our team together as staff struggled with difficult changes and turnovers in a very short period of time; she chose new leaders and supported staff throughout the transition. Now our team is stronger than ever. There is a positive, upbeat attitude that permeates the whole community, and it's contagious. Kymberly has even expanded the community's reach to area soup kitchen, churches and councils on aging seminars and events. She fosters a real sense of community inside and out.

Program Innovation Excellence Award

John Moniz III, Goddard House Assisted Living in Brookline
For more than two years, John Moniz III has nurtured the development of Growing the Farm, an urban farming project within our assisted living community. The program offers older adults access to nutritious "real" food and teaches about plants, animals and the natural world. Participants work together to experience how farm-to-table highlights abilities, interdependence and the instinct to care for all living things, including each other. In our community, we began by raising seed funds and now we have a chicken coop, a beehive for honey production and six raised garden beds for organic vegetable farming, all overseen by farmers. Residents harvest crops they grew themselves: more than 200 pounds of veggies and herbs this past summer and fall. And our hen house is a squawking success! All the produce goes directly to the kitchen and onto residents' plates in a rainbow of colors and flavors. John never stops considering how to make the world a better place for older adults and persons with dementia. His vision, leadership, creativity and conviction form the bedrock for Growing the Farm. We thank him for transforming our environment and the way we think about programs, possibilities and aging—in turn, transforming us all.

Resident Spirit Excellence Award

Bill Needleman, Harriett and Ralph Kaplan Estates
On May 7, Bill Needleman turned 101 years old. You'd never know it. He has the carefree spirit of a 30-year-old. As soon as he moved in this autumn, he said, "I need to liven things up." An accomplished public speaker, Bill begins his thrice-daily address to the dining room with "Hello, you wonderful people," before proceeding to greet all the residents. They hug him, pat him on the back and smile. Bill volunteers weekly at the childcare center on our campus. Recently, the children were celebrating the 100th day of school. The assignment for children and volunteers was to bring something that represented the number 100. Bill brought himself. He gave a short lesson to kids on the gift of living for 100 years. As he was leaving, one of the children pulled on his sleeve and said, "Could you come to my house sometime?" He inspires the young and old alike. No matter your age, you feel Bill's spirit.

Sales and Marketing Excellence Award

Amy Lucas, The Residence at Valley Farm
During the lease-up of her new community, Amy Lucas saw an increase in inquiries for individuals with frontotemporal dementia and young-onset Alzheimer's disease. To creatively meet the needs of her market, Amy led efforts to initiate a collaboration with the director of the Frontotemporal Dementia Unit at Boston's leading hospital and one of Massachusetts' premier geriatric care management companies that specializes in FTD to create a one-of-a-kind, research-based, supportive program for this niche population. To educate prospective families and professional partners, Amy conducted community educational events, participate in conferences, performed home visits, completed certified dementia practitioner training, created support groups and coordinated CDP training for local professional partners. In five short months, this program has cultivated strong relationships with geri-psych units, local social workers and other eldercare professionals, resulting in our community becoming a “destination” for individuals with FTD and young-onset. 

Public Policy Advocate Award

Fran Rybicki, Benchmark Senior Living
With a job that takes her around New England, Fran Rybicki sees the imbalance in laws that govern assisted living and their nurses. In Massachusetts, the law has put undue limits on nurses in assisted living, sometimes resulting in families having to move loved ones out of state so they could age in place. Fran is an advocate for assisted living. In 2015, she contributed her time and talent in the development of the foundation information for Senate Bill 2139, which would allow nurses who work in assisted living residences that offer limited health services to provide some basic nursing care. The bill is now awaiting debate in the State House. Nursing professionals have an important voice in assisted living. Without Fran and nurses like her who speak from experience, assisted living providers and the policies that guide them would be in a poorer state.

Volunteer Excellence Award

Rebecca Lekowski, Rogerson House
A daughter-in-law to one of our long-term residents, Rebecca Lekowski volunteers her time at least two afternoons each week. This spring, she decided to color Easter eggs with the residents. She came in with 10 dozen hard-boiled eggs, all of the dye needed, decorations and she even brought bags of jelly beans for the residents to munch on while they worked. She worked on all three floors with residents to decorate the eggs and they were beautiful. Everyone loves Rebecca and they happily gather around her when she comes. She is funny and sincere and helpful and thoughtful. She genuinely loves our residents as much as we do. We are very lucky to have her!

 Special Thanks to our Awards Dinner Member Volunteers

Faith Carlson
Kym Codair
Meg Coffin
Betsy Connolly
Thelma Diaz
Steve Ellsweig
Debbie Grover
Maria Lastoria
Kristen Morin
John Moniz
Sharon Nichols
Linda Mckillop
Betsy Ross
Stuart Segel
Doug Warren



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