Since 1920, Vernon Homes has been guided by our mission to serve and honor seniors by providing secure, comfortable and affordable retirement living. Our campus is home to a full spectrum of care and services that span independent living, assisting living, nursing care, Alzheimer’s care and physical rehabilitation services – all delivered with compassion and grace. Vernon Homes, is a member of Advent Christian Retirement Communities, which includes Meetinghouse Village, an independent senior living complex in Kittery, Maine.
Vernon Home is:
- An affordable, non-denominational community offering fees that are remarkably lower than senior communities in neighboring New England states
- Modestly sized, ensuring personal attention and a real sense of belonging
- Medicare- and Medicaid-certified
- Located in beautiful southern Vermont in a secure, peaceful natural setting on the banks of the Connecticut River
- Near two towns that provide a multitude of services (including recreational, dining and lodging possibilities) for residents and their family and friends
Residents need have no particular creedal stance or background to live here. Vernon Homes is a non-profit, 501(3c) organization that maintains and furthers its mission through rental income, government programs and private donations.
We will foster communities whose relationships and services are:
- Exceptional (Exceeding customary practices)
- Creative (Transforming commonplace thinking)
- Generous (Surpassing measured exchanges)
Communities of caring. Seasoned with grace. Our tagline underscores our commitment to serving seniors and how we serve them.
If you would like to explore a range of Vernon Homes giving options, click here.
Meet Our Leadership
M. Bradford Ellis, Executive Director
I first became involved at Vernon Homes in 1996 when I completed an administrator-in-training program under Larry Knowles' leadership. I accepted an assistant administrator position in 1998, and then, with the leadership transitions that coincided with the establishment of Advent Christian Retirement Communities, I took on the executive director role in 2002.
For me, serving elders is a passion. I enjoy being surrounded by seniors every day. There is so much wisdom, experience, and wit among these seasoned individuals that you can't help but be blessed by being in their presence.
I also greatly appreciate working alongside people who daily fulfill the Vernon Homes mission. I'm privileged to have working with me individuals who go the extra mile. Because of their commitment I know that those we serve are well cared for.
I hope you will read the rest of the manager bios on this page so that you can appreciate what our leadership team brings to Vernon Homes. Of course, they only scratch the surface showing what each of these individuals contributes. You should know too that many other staff members fulfill their roles every day with excellence, and that they have their own stories to tell. It's important to recognize the people who contribute to our success at providing quality care to residents.
I'll close with an anecdote. No one is really sure why, but without fail, one nursing home resident consistently calls me "Richard." I am happy to respond to this name, because whether I'm Brad, Richard, Tom, Dick or Harry, my purpose in being here does not change as I seek to bring the best direction and leadership to Vernon Homes.
Wanda Scully, RNC, Director of Nursing
Wanda has been Vernon Green's Director of Nursing since 2007. Her leadership path started when she joined the nursing staff in 2001 as an LPN. Wanda also worked toward her Registered Nurse degree during this time. She was promoted and worked as a Charge Nurse for a few years before attaining the Assistant Director of Nursing position. With her experience and education, she was a natural when a retirement created a vacancy for the director position.
Responsible for planning and directing our nursing operation, she says, "I promote the mission and values of Vernon Green and its nursing department. The many hats I wear can include writing policies and procedures, staff scheduling, educating, attending/holding meetings, budgeting and supervising. All with the goal of assuring the best resident care."
Wanda recognizes that changes brought on by long-term care or even short-term rehab are difficult. She says, "My job is challenging and requires critical thinking as different situations arise. If you take time to listen to elders' wisdom, it can make a huge difference in their day. Nothing puts a smile on my face more than being able to make them smile or making them feel part of our family."
Nancy Ayotte-Williams, RN
Serving as Assistant Director of Nursing since 2015, Nancy oversees nursing staff, provides direct care to residents, and assists the nursing director in numerous areas such as completing audits.
She says, "I love interacting with our residents and families. Learning about them and the lives that they have lived helps me in providing care plans that enable residents to continue to live their lives as they want to."
Before becoming the Assistant Director, Nancy started in 2009 as a Unit Manager where she managed day-to-day resident care, supervised nursing staff, planned care with doctors and families, and helped ensure standards compliance, among other duties.
She says, "I am grateful to work in a facility that aims to provide the highest quality of care to elders. My goal every day is to deliver it. And you know, the little things of daily life really matter. So along with ensuring they're taking their meds correctly, helping someone sit comfortably or get the type of toast they like for breakfast is important."
Sarah Deyo, Director of Rehab Services
Helping seniors recover from injury, surgeries and medical conditions is an important part of the service offerings at Vernon Homes. Sarah came on board in 2013 to head up our rehabilitation department where she brings deep expertise and leadership abilities.
What does she like most about her position? She says, "I love that my job constantly has something different to offer. One minute I'm treating in-house patients, the next outpatients, then diving into financial business analysis, then handling staffing issues and next working with nurses, case managers, social services people and administrators."
As for the mission of serving elders she says, "This is very important, and of course plays a large role in my daily work. Elders are storehouses of knowledge and experience. I always enjoy hearing their stories. I also enjoy laughing with them -- so many here have an excellent sense of humor. Regular laughter is important for overall health, and this form of therapy is something I really enjoy."
Skip Sleeper, Director of Hospitality Services
Skip began his career at Vernon Homes in 1990. Formerly the Foodservice Director for Vernon Green, Skip oversee and directs foodservice, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance and IT functions campus-wide.
Skip says, "I enjoy the variety of tasks and the constant opportunities to learn."
Considering Vernon Homes' mission of serving elders, he says, "The mission is founded upon a sacred trust that elders will be cared for with dignity, respect and professionalism. My work supports the team by removing the roadblocks to their success so their daily decisions and actions will sustain that trust. We strive to make a difference every day."
Skip says, "I have been privileged to serve residents whose personal stories are laced with humor, wisdom and humility (how the world could use more of these qualities!). I've sung at many 100th birthday parties, listened to personal experiences about history I've only read about -- especially war veterans and those who remember the Great Depression -- and learned that good health and family are important parts of a rich life. The job is challenging, but I work with great people who make a craft of serving others. I end each day satisfied that our value is measured in more than dollars."
Holly Nicholas, food Service Director
Last year, we promoted Holly Nicholas to Food Service Director. Holly oversees all aspects of the Dietary Department and is charged with responsibilities that span providing superb service to our residents, planning menus, recruiting and training team members, and more. Holly began as a housekeeper in 2005 and was promoted to Director of Housekeeping and Laundry in 2010 before becoming Food Service Director. Her thoughtful and diligent approach to her work keeps residents and staff alike happy and well-fed.
Emeline Miner, Director of Housekeeping and laundry
Emmie was promoted to Director of Housekeeping and Laundry last year. Supervising a team of housekeepers, she is responsible for the cleanliness of our facilities, infection control and laundry. Emmie takes great initiative and, together with her team, ensures that Vernon Homes operates to the highest standards. Emmie has been with us since 2012.
Peter “Rookie” Olson, manager of vernon hall
Rookie joined us as Manager of Vernon Hall in 2013. His prior experience as an educator, coach and camp administrator made him a great fit to lead and take responsibility for daily management and oversight of our assisted living community, as well as for ensuring full occupancy at The Hall.
He says, “On a personal level, I totally enjoy the interaction with residents. I want everyone at Vernon Hall to experience a family atmosphere. And the manager in me finds professional fulfillment in organizing and directing the duties of our great team.”
“As a son, I share the experience of other sons and daughters with parents who moved through independence to nursing care, so I understand the journey that residents’ families are on. It makes me a better manager.”
Of course, as a sports enthusiast and former New Yorker, being a New Englander requires some adjustments -- and a sense of humor. Accordingly, his office displays both a Mets baseball cap and a “Yankee Hater” cap. The latter keeps Rookie on the good side of most visitors to his office.
Debbie VanNess, RNC, service coordinator
Debbie VanNess is Vernon Hall’s Service Coordinator. She moved to Vernon Hall in 2007 after serving, since 1985, as a charge nurse at Vernon Green where she was responsible for patient care, assessments, care plans, doctor calls, family meetings and resident education.
In her Service Coordinator position, Debbie oversees resident assessments, health plans, education and staff training. The personal relationship part of her work is what she finds most fulfilling. Debbie says, "Interacting with residents is the favorite part of my job. Seeing them smile and laugh makes me happy.”
In her view, “Elders are often forgotten. I want them to be remembered. Encouraging them to share their experiences and stories is one way to do that.”
And bringing out a little Yogi Berra-style wit does not hurt. Debbie relates, "One day I routinely asked a resident if he was alright. With a twinkle in his eye, he told me he was half left. It's the little, fun interactions like this that I find so valuable and enriching.”
Frankie Cloutier, Director of Activities
Frankie's history at Vernon Homes began in 2001 as a licensed nursing assistant, including a stint as a special needs LNA. After several years, she became an assistance to the activities director. She relates, "This is where I found my true calling. I worked as a special needs activity assistant for 5 years, working with the director to develop programs in reminiscing, music, crafts, physical and cognitive gaming, cooking and outdoor activities."
In 2010, she advanced to her current role where she coordinates her team's ideas, supervises assistants and volunteers, plans resident activities, documents state compliance requirements, attends internal meetings, and also helps plan special events like the annual Christmas party.
What does she like most about the job? Organizing myriad details, getting to know residents, and generating ideas with her team that "grow into really great programming."
Frankie relates to the VH mission and says, "I feel my work fosters human dignity, and helps our residents see worth in their past and in their current life, including interests and abilities."
Passionate about elder care, Frankie's job gives her a great platform to interact with residents and develop activities that enhance quality of life. That takes knowing those in her care. She says, "The words of a key note speaker at a conference I attended continue to challenge me each day: 'If you don't know 100 things about a person, you have no business designing programs for them.' I find you can really connect by learning the little things. They usually get to the root of who that person is -- which enables us to truly care."
Sue Arsenault, Director of Social Services
After volunteering at Vernon Green in 1981, Sue joined us in 1986 as a part-time worker who helped residents with bathing and other personal care. She progressed to full-time LNA and then in 1989 became the Special Needs Unit Program Director. Sue planned and implemented daily activities and also trained other staff members in dementia care.
She became the Activities Coordinator, for both Vernon Green and Vernon Hall before moving to her current position in 2008. The Director role is wide ranging, starting with reviewing applications and referrals for residency and working with referring organizations, families of residents, and consultants. Assisted by Carrie Demaris, Sue says, "I'm part of an interdisciplinary team that works together to support the emotional and social well-being of residents in their new homes here. I enjoy being a resident advocate and making the quality of their lives better."
"Serving residents with compassion and zeal rings true for me. My day is not complete unless I have sparked some joy in a resident. During my early volunteer work I remember how much an activity that brought young children together with residents brightened the day of those seniors. I also used to play Scrabble with a gentleman. This was not just special for him, but for me too because my grandfathers had both passed before I was born."
Sue may hold the record for the best manager's anecdote. A single parent when she started here, she was in the laundry looking for an item when a coworker named Alice asked if she could help Sue find what she was looking for. While Alice did not have the item, she did have a picture of her brother Tim. Sue married the man in the photo two years later. We'll have to wait and see if any manager can top this one.
Carrie Desmaris, Assistant to the Director of Social Services
Carrie started at Vernon Green in 1994 as an LNA after completing a class here. She added skills along the way such as ordering supplies and taking inventory, and in time became an LNA manager.
In March of this year she took on her current position. Her responsibilities are many and include: facilitating relations with residents, family, friends and staff; being a liaison between residents, Vernon Green and referring organizations; and helping residents obtain social services they may need. She also gets to drive residents to appointments. While the job generally involves "lots of paperwork," Carrie's ability to engage with residents and great willingness to "make pit stops for a coffee, muffin or a McDonalds meal" make many a resident's day.
She values the close relationships with the residents and staff, and says, "It amazes me how close one becomes to these folks. I recently had knee surgery. During my recovery, I received a beautiful get-well card from a resident who thanked me for being thoughtful and who wished me a speedy recovery. If that doesn't tell me we are doing something right, nothing does!"
David Welenc, director of finance
Describing himself as the "steward of Vernon Homes' assets," David has been our director of finance since 2003.
Aside from the responsibilities of keeping our finances in order, David's career at Vernon is motivated by his own life experience. He says, "I was blessed to be able to care for my mother and father as they aged and became more dependent on me. It taught me a valuable lesson about how important it is to honor those who have gone before us."
Our elders are treasures who let us see into the past. David enjoys interacting with residents and learning about their experiences, including the resident who served with General Douglas MacArthur in World War II, and another who was a submariner whose patrol included sailing beneath the North Pole ice.
Vernon's top financial expert gains inspiration from being "part of the important later years of people's lives and helping provide a place they can call home."
Emily Vergobbe, Assistant Director of Finance
Emily has been our assistant director of finance since 2009. For Emily, "every day is different" as she handles wide ranging responsibilities that span accounts receivable to quarterly government reporting.
Ever the professional, she says, "My greatest satisfaction comes at the close of the fiscal year when daily, monthly, and quarterly tasks are cleanly reconciled to create a picture of the financial health of the organization."
She goes on to say, "I am blessed to work for a Christian organization that honors residents and their families and friends. The staff here is second to none and valued by management. My role as a support staff member is to assure our residents and their families that their care is of utmost importance and that the financial aspects of their care will be handled with honesty and integrity."
Rachael Braskie, Human Resource Administrator
Rachael joined the Vernon team as a dietary aide when she was 16 and continued working through her college years during summer and other school breaks. After graduating, she moved on, working in the construction and manufacturing industries as a HR professional and executive assistant respectively.
After 14 years, she felt a need for a job change and prayed for God’s guidance. Upon seeing our ad for a HR Administrator she says “I knew instantly that I wanted to return to VH, as it had always been a rewarding place to work. I could not be happier with my decision! I am honored to be working for a Christian organization that truly values work/family and life balance.”
Rachael now has wide-ranging responsibilities, from orienting new employees to benefits management to being an all-around resource for our employees. Rachael is a great match not only for her work skills. She has a real affinity for elders. As she says, “Since my youth I have been drawn towards participating in organizations and events caring for the elderly. As I have watched my parents age, I have come to find even more value in the VH mission. I have several friends whose grandparents live here, and I was even baptized by one of the residents almost 25 years ago. I will always remember the look on her face when I stopped to say hello and she made the connection that I was the same Rachael who she had baptized -- her first and only baptism as an ordained minister.”
Jeremy Corey, Maintenance Supervisor
Jeremy had been on the maintenance team since 2006 before his recent promotion to Maintenance Supervisor. He is now responsible for the team that maintains the inner workings and integrity of the facility’s systems such as electrical and water systems.
He enjoys the variety of the work of keeping a busy community’s physical plant at peak performance. Jeremy relates, “Our single mission is to provide our residents with the care and respect they deserve. My job is to ensure that they have a safe and comfortable environment, and that all systems work and needs are met without any disruption.”
Serving at Vernon Homes for any length of time gives our team a wonderful opportunity to interact with those who have lived long and learned much. Jeremy says, “My favorite memories involve the conversations I have had with residents over the years. It’s like being in a history class every day!”
Rick Morton, Chaplain
Rev. Richard Morton recently expanded his chaplaincy service at VH to include the entire campus. Since 2008, he had been chaplain for Vernon Hall residents only.
Now, Rick serves everyone on campus and is available to advise, comfort, guide and visit all residents, employees and their families.
As a chaplain serving an elderly population, he naturally is called upon for end-of-life spiritual support. He says, “End-of-life concerns weigh upon many. I assist families in caring for their loved ones approaching this time of transition and work to connect people spiritually as requested. I see this as a worthy goal that our Lord would approve of.”
This work of helping people at a level they may not have experienced before can be very rewarding. As Rick relates, “One resident was so happy to be encouraged in her walk with Jesus that she requested to be baptized, which we did discretely at a service one Sunday.”