The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) pay tribute to the best and brightest in long term and post-acute care. Individuals and groups honored with awards will be recognized during the 73rd AHCA/NCAL Convention & Expo this month in Nashville, Tenn.

Doreen Locke, R.N., D.O.N.
Assisted Living Nurse of the Year Award

Doreen Locke, RN, DONAfter 30 years with Odd Fellows’ and Rebekahs’ Home of Maine, RN Nurse Supervisor Doreen Locke has created an environment that makes this assisted living community the most sought-after facility in the region.

She knows each resident personally, their favorite things, health concerns, and their personal family dynamics. She communicates with staff daily. She is always accessible to staff without complaint – even while on vacation, recovering from an injury, and through the births of her nine grandchildren.

Locke works weekends, night-shifts, and whenever needed to make sure everything is covered. She has worked as a floor nurse, a CNA, a CRMA, and even in dietary. Recently, she held the kitchen staff together with four dietary aides and no cooks, herself cooking on weekends—including a double shift when there were two call-outs. She refused to ask for help from an aide who was available because she wanted him to have a day off after 10 days straight working.

She always makes everyone laugh. She has an infectious wit and gets credit for keeping staff from burnout during the past three years. She has shown what it means to put the resident first, even throughout the pandemic. She has maintained the best attitude and is a shining example of what a caregiver is all about.

Barbara Quezada
NCAL Noble Caregiver in Assisted Living Award

Barbara QuezadaBarbara Quezada has served the residents of Beehive Homes of Taylor Ranch in New Mexico for the past 13 years as a Caregiver/House Manager. She consistently shows up for work when scheduled and is the first to pick up the extra shifts to make sure the residents get the care they need. She consistently demonstrates the community’s mission statement—“People are our business, improving the lives of all we touch”—in the humblest way.

When a new house manager and/or mentor is hired, Quezada is the first one called to educate and train this new position. She is always ready and willing to help, even when the training takes place away from her home in New Mexico.  

She truly cares about her residents and her fellow staff. On one of her resident’s birthdays, the resident was scheduled to go out to lunch with her daughter. Quezada came in on her day off to help the resident shower, get dressed, and fix her hair. She made sure the resident looked and felt her best.

A fellow employee was having a family crisis, and she was there to help. She listened to the employee’s story and told her to go home and take care of the crisis. She then worked the employee’s 12-hour shifts on both Saturday and Sunday—even after completing her own 40-hour work week.

Nicole Ellis
NCAL Administrator of the Year

Nicole EllisNicole Ellis started as a caregiver in 2010 and worked her way up to Administrator at The Cottages of Middleton in Middleton, Idaho in 2013. She did so through hard work, perseverance, and by living the company mission statement, “We Treat People Right.” She also recently took on additional roles of executive director and peer leader.

Ellis is motivated and positively engaged, serving as a true inspiration to her peers, co-workers, and other industry leaders. She has developed processes over the years to manage buildings in an impressively efficient manner. She has successfully built a positive culture in her communities and has maintained an AHCA/NCAL Quality Award-winning culture even through the challenges of the recent years.

Ellis cares deeply about delivering next-level quality of life to her residents. She has supported many efforts like Dream Flights and is always looking for ways to involve her residents in special events and opportunities. She is a true rock star and serves as a shining example within long term care.

Rod Burkett
Jan Thayer Pioneer Award

Rod BurkettAs Co-Founder/President/CEO of Gardant Management Solutions in Illinois, Rod Burkett has been pioneering accessibility and affordability for assisted living for nearly 25 years. His efforts have sparked awareness, conversation, and advocacy.  

Burkett is a visionary who saw the value in Medicaid waiver supported/affordable assisted living. He and his co-founder were one of the first responsive operators approved by the state of Illinois for development and certification under the uniquely licensed Supportive Living Program. He co-founded the Affordable Assisted Living Coalition, which remains the driving force in advocating, promoting, and protecting the Illinois Supportive Living Program. Because of his vision, Gardant Management Solutions serves over 5,600 residents in the Midwest who receive dignified lifestyles and care through services supported by the Medicaid waiver program.

Burkett also developed and hosted two “National Summits” in 2016 and 2017 for key influencers in assisted living to focus on existing and future needs for Affordable Assisted Living (AAL). He partnered with other providers and developers to petition multiple state governor's offices to bring awareness to AAL.

Furthermore, Burkett embraces the quality measures identified in the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program. Eighty-five percent of Gardant Management Solutions’ portfolio are Quality Award recipients, and one of the three assisted living communities nationwide to receive the Silver Award in 2022 is a Gardant managed community.

He is an action-driven advocate and leader at the national level. He has served on Argentum's CEO roundtable, chaired NCAL’s Finance & Policy Committee for five years, and served on the NCAL Board of Directors for three years.

Burkett earned his Bachelor of Science with honors in Community Health and his Master of Business Administration from Eastern Illinois University. He has also earned graduate hours toward his Master of Health Administration from St. Louis University.

The Jan Thayer Pioneer Award recognizes individuals who have moved the senior care profession forward, positively affecting the lives of those served and those who serve. Recipients must demonstrate dedication, leadership, and considerable contributions to the profession.

John Walters
NCAL Assisted Living Nurse of the Year

As a nurse supervisor, John Walters oversees the clinical needs of the 65 residents at Dominican Village in Amityville, N.Y. The center is a 2019 recipient of the Silver – Achievement in Quality Award through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award program.

Walters seeks to improve the quality of care residents receive at this Long Island assisted living community by working closely with case managers to develop care plans, setting goals for his Wellness Department team, and serving as a strong team leader. He is known for going above and beyond the call of duty, often working overtime or checking in on residents, especially those on hospice.

His knowledge of and passion for quality end-of-life care means he is frequently consulted and readily offers additional education and support. Additionally, Walters facilitates a support group for families and caregivers, discussing ways to handle stress, among other topics.