LeadingAge Magazine · September/October 2016 • Volume 06 • Number 05

Presenting the 2016 LeadingAge National Award Winners

July 21, 2016 | by Deborah Cloud

We honor the LeadingAge Award recipients for 2016.

Behind every great aging-services organization are caring, committed people who exemplify the best of our field. We salute the creativity, compassion and leadership of the 2016 honorees, presented here. They will accept their awards at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting and Expo, Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2016, in Indianapolis.


Award of Honor

Jerry Brown
Executive Director
San Francisco, CA

Jerry Brown’s passion for serving older adults and persons with disabilities is evident by his many contributions over nearly 3 decades. He has continuously championed affordable, service-rich housing; diversity and inclusion; management excellence; and development of the next generation of aging-services leaders.

Brown has served LeadingAge and LeadingAge California ably in countless volunteer leadership roles. His prominence as a persuasive speaker has cast him as the lead spokesperson on numerous legislative visits in Sacramento and Washington, DC. He has been a highly respected coach for both the national Larry Minnix Leadership Academy and its state counterpart, LeadingAge California’s Emerge program. He has been active on his Area Agency on Aging’s Advisory Council, as well. His commitment to the arts led to the development of Ruth’s Table, an art program housed at Bethany Center and recognized by the City of San Francisco for its innovation and impact.

Brown is the recipient of previous national honors for social responsibility and mentoring. Eleven years ago, he led in establishing the LGBT Network, which has hosted an inclusion event each year at the LeadingAge annual meeting.

Older Adult of Distinction Award

Jess Harder
Sunshine Meadows Retirement Community
Buhler, KS

Jess Harder, who passed away July 17, 2016, was a shining example of a life lived for others. He believed in benefiting both his retirement community and the broader community. Still active at age 100, he counseled, did public speaking, wrote, and donated time, money and labor to projects on the Sunshine Meadows campus. He literally wrote the book on Sunshine Meadows as a way to share its history and mission.

Harder was an ardent advocate for Sunshine Meadows nearly all of his adult life. He was 29 and his wife Mae was 21 when Sunshine Meadows was founded in 1945. They saw the need for such a place in their community and worked alongside other church members to make it a reality. During Harder’s 9 years in the Kansas House of Representatives, he advocated for nursing homes. Years later, in what some might call a twist of fate but the Harders considered to be good planning, he and Mae made their home in the very community they helped imagine, fund and build, and where Mae still resides.

Seldom did people come away from a visit with Jess Harder without a sense of awe and a desire to do more in their own lives for others. Throughout his long life, he was one of Sunshine Meadows’ best ambassadors for furthering its work.


Excellence in Not-for-Profit Leadership Award

San Antonio, TX

Morningside Ministries has provided life-changing care and services to seniors of all walks of life for 55 years. The organization’s core values are faith-based mission, compassionate care, integrity, innovation, stewardship and excellence. In addition to meeting the needs of 800 residents in 3 communities, Morningside Ministries serves seniors beyond its walls. Its mmLearn.org website offers online training courses centered on caregiving and aging. Launched in 2007, the award-winning education portal has grown to reach caregivers and audiences in all 50 states and 98 countries.

Morningside’s culture of innovation has led to the introduction of other cutting-edge programs. In 2014, Morningside Ministries at The Manor became the first skilled nursing community in Texas and only the second in the nation to invest in a germ-killing robot that uses UV disinfection technology. In 2015, the organization introduced Music and Memory, a program that employs iPods and familiar playlists to bring music therapy into memory care residents’ lives. Introducing the program was made possible via fund-raising events and a partnership with the music program at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Not-for-profit leadership embraces community engagement. Morningside Ministries is a long-time partner of Jefferson Outreach, a San Antonio not-for-profit that provides services to help seniors remain at home. Among other partners is the San Antonio OASIS chapter, which is headquartered in The Manor community, allowing Morningside residents easy access to mind-enriching, low- or no-cost services.


Innovation Award

Walker Methodist Health Center
Minneapolis, MN

Walker Methodist Health Center partnered with the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry to establish a dental clinic that benefits both Walker clients and the community at large. Launched in 2006 with funds from the Minnesota Department of Health, the initial goals of the modest clinic were to enhance access to oral health care for older adults as well as foster geriatric education for university students.

During the first year, the dental clinic served 337 clients. By 2016, it had served 2,300 clients while training more than 300 dental professionals in geriatric care. The clinic provides unrestricted access to low-income seniors, including Medicaid beneficiaries and those without insurance; it is now an officially designated Minnesota Critical Access Dental Provider, with uncompensated care amounting to $850,000 since inception.

The dental clinic has completed a major expansion with support from additional sponsors to double its capacity for clinical services, education, and innovation in geriatric oral health care. Its success is a clear example of how collaboration, innovation and commitment to improve the quality of life for older adults also advances the missions of the organizations involved and can serve as a practical model for others.

Excellence in the Workplace Award

Clark-Lindsey Village
Urbana, IL

Clark-Lindsey Village (CLV) is intentional about its “Imagine” culture of well-being for residents and employees alike. CLV understands that employees with a strong sense of well-being are best positioned to support residents’ well-being. The organization promotes the Imagine philosophy community-wide through education, hiring and evaluation, and operational practices. From its Imagine Academy, employees learn how the domains of well-being relate to their work and experience. Sixty staff and residents design and lead the academy’s multi-sensory, highly interactive instruction. Employees are allowed paid time to take part in or lead programs that support the Imagine objectives of inclusivity, civic engagement and community outreach. Cooks have taught painting classes. Restorative aides have hosted tea parties. Accountants have been actors, and groundskeepers have been playwrights. A resident-directed choral group includes a half-dozen employees. Employees and residents also are challenged to experience what it might be like to live with dementia. These opportunities for personal growth and interaction help staff connect what they do to why it is important.

CLV uses multi-disciplinary teams to set organizational priorities that support its philosophy. The Imagine Design Team, a group of 30 staff and residents (with a waiting list of team hopefuls), provides critical feedback to CLV leaders on ways to strengthen the Imagine culture. Smaller groups of staff from all departments and residents from all levels of living also make decisions and implement new ideas. Since launching the Imagine Design Team in 2013, CLV has seen marked improvement in employee engagement and sustained high marks in resident satisfaction. The average length of service among CLV’s employees is 9 years; 55% have worked there 5 years or more, and a third for 10 years or more.

Excellence in Research and Education Award

Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay
Virginia Beach, VA

Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay, collaborating with Eastern Virginia Medical School and Virginia Wesleyan College, led a 24-week study known as The Birdsong Initiative. The goal was to study how customized, touch-screen technology might improve the quality of life for residents with dementia. Thirty-one nursing and memory care residents had personalized, touch-screen computers available to them in their rooms 24/7. Another 31 took part in routine, face-to-face therapeutic recreation. After 12 weeks, the groups switched. Interns from Virginia Wesleyan College engaged with the test group residents 5 hours per week. The study’s principal investigators found the following positive, clinically significant findings: lower depression symptoms; reduced medication usage; fewer and less intense behavioral episodes; higher cognition scoring; and lower staff caregiver stress.

Through this donor-supported study, approved by the Institutional Review Board of Eastern Virginia Medical School, Westminster-Canterbury was able to demonstrate that computers in conjunction with therapeutic recreation can be an important part of wellness and can have a significant, positive impact on quality of life. Researchers found that residents enjoyed the technology so much that they used the computer 30.7 hours per person per week, on average, more than the 5 hours of intervention time with the interns. Next in the Birdsong Initiative research are similar studies focusing on assisted living and independent living residents.

Dr. Herbert Shore Outstanding Mentor Award

Steven A. Nash
Chief Executive Officer
Stoddard Baptist Nursing Home
Washington, DC

Steve Nash is a natural teacher who primes people to advance, say those he has mentored. He helped organize a preceptor program for administrators-in-training in the District of Columbia and was one of the first to serve as a preceptor. He speaks frequently to university students to encourage them to pursue careers in health care and senior services leadership. Nash’s mentees have become successful leaders and advocates for older adults in D.C., several states, and the Virgin Islands. One person he mentored turned a failing nursing community into a successful one. Others have won professional honors, quality awards and held association leadership posts.

In the words of one of his mentees, “Mr. Nash’s strength as a mentor is in his humility and respect for human dignity … He believes in treating his staff with dignity. … In fact, one of his mottos is “Praise in public, but give constructive criticism in private.”

Nash takes every opportunity to expose those he mentors to legislative and advocacy events, introduce them to leaders of state and national associations, and encourage their participation in those associations. According to a Nash mentee, “Through his mentorship, I have the confidence to reach out to [City] Council members and the mayor’s office. I have met with our representative [in Congress] and attended congressional briefings and legislative hearings. [T]hese are essential to being an effective advocate for those we serve.”

Hobart Jackson Cultural Diversity Award

Dominican Sisters of Springfield, IL

For decades, the Dominican Sisters and all of the congregation’s sponsored entities have made a conscious, committed effort to dismantle racism wherever it exists. The Sisters have made it a priority to tackle systemic racism through study, teaching and community partnerships. They have created mechanisms for accountability to people of color. They have ensured the use of printed and spoken language, worship time and ministries that are inclusive and welcoming. They have stood against injustice with nonviolence and prayer.

The congregation established a Springfield Dominican Anti-Racism Team in 2004. Since then, a team or committee has been implemented in each of the Dominican Sisters sponsored entities, including those that serve older persons, LeadingAge-member Sacred Heart Convent among them. Other groups beyond the congregation have been inspired by the Sisters’ actions, as well. The results have been far-reaching and are ongoing. Through education, organization and numerous partnerships, the Sisters are engaging with city, public school and state agencies, as well as the Sisters’ own sponsored organizations, to confront racial biases and embrace diversity—in the congregation, the church and the world.

Outstanding Advocacy Award

New Cassel Retirement Center
Omaha, NE

At New Cassel Retirement Center, veterans matter. When the VA fell short of funding, a side effect was lack of reimbursement for critical, supportive programs such as adult day services and home care, not just for Nebraska’s 1,900 veterans receiving services but for veterans across the nation. With short notice of the looming funding cuts, leaders at New Cassel and its Franciscan Adult Day Centre launched a grassroots advocacy campaign within 24 hours that mobilized veterans and families to action.

Media outreach led to Omaha World Herald and KETV coverage on three occasions, and the Associated Press picked up the story. Press coverage showed the damage the cuts would inflict on veterans and caregiving families. Social media outreach and grassroots advocacy on many levels (local, state and national) helped spread the message, as well. Thanks to New Cassel’s leadership, the timely mobilization of grassroots advocates, and the enlistment of support from Nebraska’s Rep. Brad Ashford and others in Congress, funding of “nonskilled” supportive services for the nation’s veterans was restored at the 11th hour via H.R. 3236. New Cassel’s leadership and well-timed advocacy helped to create national awareness and ultimately benefited veterans across America.

Public Trust Award

John Thorhauer
President and CEO
United Methodist Retirement Communities, Inc.
Chelsea, MI

John Thorhauer’s vision, compassion and entrepreneurial spirit are critical assets at a time when the senior-living field is being called upon to serve a growing population of older adults of all income levels. He recognizes that earning public trust necessitates community engagement. One example of such engagement is the partnership through which United Methodist Retirement Communities (UMRC), Presbyterian Villages of Michigan and others came together in Detroit to create Thome Rivertown Neighborhood, the city’s first affordable assisted living and independent living options.

UMRC was one of only 5 organizations approved by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority to pioneer affordable assisted living in the state, and the only one approved for a program in the City of Detroit. To ensure a successful launch, Thorhauer sought local partners whose expertise complemented UMRC’s. Today, Thome Rivertown is a nationally recognized model of comprehensive services for low-income seniors. Representatives from 43 states have visited since its opening to learn more about the model and how it might be replicated.

Thorhauer is a trusted advocate for older adults and those who serve them. His compassion for others is reflected in UMRC’s actions as a good neighbor in the communities it serves. After a tornado struck Dexter, MI, in 2012, for example, he opened UMRC’s Chelsea campus to families whose homes were damaged or destroyed, allowing them to live in available apartments and cottages until they could return home. Under his leadership, UMRC has garnered numerous regional, state and national awards for innovation, excellence, business leadership and environmental awareness.