Healthcare Heroes

We are blessed with a team of approximately 360 JGS Lifecare staff who have been providing comfort and care to our residents, our loved ones, while facing the unprecedented threat of COVID-19. Who are they and what has it meant to them to work at JGS Lifecare, while we navigate through the challenges and uncertainties of this pandemic? They are our Healthcare Heroes. They represent all departments, some on the front lines offering medical care, and others not so visible, but equally as indispensable and dedicated to the care of our residents, who we often call our unsung heroes. Through Honoring our Healthcare Heroes, we wish to recognize them, shed light on the work they do, and celebrate their commitment and accomplishments. Most of all, we would like to thank them for their dedicated service to our residents.

Devorah Jacobson Honored as a Healthcare Hero of Western Massachusetts – A Program of Healthcare News and Business West

February 8, 2021

On January 14th, our own Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, chaplain and director of spiritual life at JGS Lifecare, was among the recipients of the esteemed 2020 Healthcare Heroes Award, a program of Healthcare News and Business West magazines.   In the words of Susan Kimball Halpern, vice president of development and communications, who nominated Rabbi Devorah for the award, “Our heroes are people we look up to and admire for their extraordinary actions and achievements.  They are people we wish to emulate.  Devorah’s countless acts of caring and loving-kindness, her concern for others, her efforts seeking justice for all, make her a standout candidate for the prestigious Healthcare Heroes award.”

To see the video of Rabbi Devorah receiving her award, and her acceptance remarks, visit our website at https://jgslifecare.org/rabbi-devorah-jacobson-honored-at-healthcare-heroes-of-western-massachusetts/

Congratulations again Rabbi Devorah Jacobson, and thank you for all that you do!  So well deserved!


Sam Baah, Care Manager at Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence

October 14, 2020

Sam Baah, Care Manager of Ruth's House Assisted Living

Sam was born in Ghana and came to the US in Dec. 1999. There was an immigration lottery at the time and he won the lottery and was able to bring 3 of his 4 daughters: Priscilla, Esther and Christabelle. His wife Teresa would join him many years later along with his daughter Ophelia.

Sam was self-employed in Ghana, selling building materials and paints. After the death of his sister, he decided to travel. When he won the lottery, he left the business in the care of his wife and came to the US and settled in Springfield. He first found a job at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Six months later, in Aug. 2000, he came to work at Ruth’s House as a Care Manager. He continues in that position until today, celebrating his 20th anniversary on August 21st.

On this significant anniversary, Sam reflected on the years since he arrived in the US:  “Twenty years is a long time,” he said. “With the income I get from my job here, and with God’s grace, I have been able to put my children first and I can say, God bless Ruth’s House and God bless them all. For 12 years I was without my wife and raised my kids by myself until she could join me. It wasn’t easy but with God’s help I have been able to take care of my children. Christabelle graduated from Bridgewater University this year with her BA. Esther, who was 8 when we arrived in this country, graduated with a PhD in pharmacy in 2016, followed by a MA in Public Health Administration and is married with 2 children. Priscilla is now an LPN, married with 2 children. Ophelia is a social worker, married with 4 children, living in Springfield.

Sam started working at Ruths House when he was 45 and he is now 66. “I am healthy,” he says, “and I love taking care of the elderly. It’s a blessing to help people in need, especially the elders.”

When Sam is not working, he loves babysitting his grandchildren. He and his wife have 8 grandchildren now, although not all of them live in this area. He is also active in his church, New Creation First Baptist in Worcester. Sam is a man of strong faith, having been baptized into Christianity in 1980. His mother is 98, still living in Ghana. Sam last saw her almost 6 years ago when he made the trip back to his home country.

“At Ruths House,” he concludes, “it’s been all about teamwork and with all of us working together with a good spirit. That makes all the difference.”

We wish Sam many blessings as he concludes 20 years of service as a Care Manager at Ruth’s House. He has poured his heart and soul into taking care of his residents and has grown close with many families. He has always been a helpful partner on the team, and is always someone to count on to be there on any occasion. We send our deepest thanks to Sam for his devoted, loyal and loving service and his infectious spirit. May he and his family continue to prosper and know the fullness of God’s blessings.


Donnette Barnett, CNA at Wernick Adult Day Health Care

October 6, 2020

Donnette Barnett, CNA at Wernick Adult Day Health

Donnette was born and raised in Springfield, along with her sister Kim. She graduated from Commerce High School in 1983 and gave birth to her son Warren Jr. in 1984. She and her husband Warren Sr. have known each other practically their entire lives and they married in 1990.

After staying home full-time for a few years to raise her son, Donnette then went for CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) training. She had always wanted to be a nurse and thought this would be the first step towards that goal. After completing the program, she was hired by Ring Nursing Home on Ridgewood Terrace in Springfield and worked there for 14 ½ years. At that point, Ring was about to close.  One of the Jewish residents there was hoping to transfer to the Jewish Nursing Home, in order to follow her physician Dr. Jay Ungar, who had moved his practice from Ring to JGS. While the resident was touring the facility, Donnette filled out an application and was hired immediately.  She began work on July 31, 2000.

“From the beginning I always enjoyed being a CNA,” she said. “It’s very hands-on work. I like spending time with the residents and talking with them. You learn to love them so much.”

Donnette worked with the team on the A-1 unit for many years, and then, in 2015, there was a job posting for a CNA at the Wernick Adult Day Health program. She felt it was a good time to make a change. “I wanted to spend more time with my two grandchildren,” she said. “I knew I would have my weekends off, and that schedule would give me more time to be with them.” Her granddaughter Nevaeh is now 12, and her grandson Braxton is 5. “We love to travel,” she said. “My son plans the trips and the whole family goes. We have been to DC, Baltimore, Florida, California, New Orleans and Hawaii. We enjoy the sightseeing, and walking and of course, the eating.”

In her spare time, Donnette also loves to crochet, especially making baby blankets. Reflecting on her 20 years of service at JGS, she says, “My time here has been great.  Sure, there are good days and bad days. But I love the elderly and I love helping people. I like the people I work with, and enjoy meeting the different people I meet here.”

We congratulate Donnette for her long and valued tenure at JGS. Whether on the A-1 unit or at Wernick, she has always been a devoted and trustworthy care provider who brings a lot of laughter and smiles to those around her. She is personable and respectful and gives so much of herself to those she takes care of. We wish her many years of good health and great adventures as she continues to enjoy and travel with her beloved family. We thank her for her 20 years of caring and compassionate service at JGS.


Ava Wills, RN at Spectrum Home Health & Hospice

September 29, 2020

Ava Wills, RN at Spectrum Home Health & Hospice

Ava was born and raised in the 16 Acres Neighborhood of Springfield along with her 2 brothers Michael and John. She graduated from Classical High School, and then, following her dream to become a doctor, went to Springfield College for 1 year, to take pre-med courses. But a bout with mono forced her to drop out, and when faced with starting her coursework all over again, she changed course. She applied and was accepted to Baystate Medical School of Nursing. After three years of classes and clinical rotations at the hospital, she graduated in 1981 with an RN Diploma Degree.

That same year several other major events occurred for Ava: she married Alan, and they have been together 40 years ago. She took her Nursing Boards and passed. And she took her first job out of school, at Providence Hospital in Holyoke, and worked full-time in orthopedics. After more than a dozen years there, she left and worked at Rehab West in Ludlow. In the meantime, she gave birth to two daughters: Leah, who is now a nurse, and Anika who lives in Texas.

Ava later worked as a visiting nurse for Easter Seals Home Care in West Springfield for 5 years, and then on January 5, 2000 she began working for Spectrum Home Healthcare which at the time was located on Dwight Road. As Ava reflected on her many years as a visiting nurse and her twenty years at Spectrum she said, “Working in Home Care is such a good fit for me. There is a lot of autonomy in the job. Doctors get to know you when you call and speak with them. We get very close to the patients and their families. It’s very different than working in the hospital.”

Ava explained that she usually sees her patients 2 – 3 times a week and typically sees 6 patients each day. The Spectrum “catchment area” includes Longmeadow, Agawam, Ludlow, West Springfield and Westfield. “I never would have been able to spend the time I do with my patients had I become a doctor,” Ava said. “The patient care and the relationships are really key to me. And the camaraderie with my co-workers really makes the work fulfilling. We all get along really well and we all have each other’s backs!”

In her free time, Ava enjoys spending lots of time with her husband and their grandchildren especially swimming in their pool or just hanging out together. They now have 2 grandchildren, Gianni age 6, and Luca age 2 and their daughter Leah is expecting her third child in a few months.

We congratulate Ava on her over 20 years of service to Spectrum Home Health and Hospice Care and we thank her for the love, devotion and professional care she has shared with so many patients and families in Western MA. Ava has been one of the pillars of Spectrum these last two decades and continues to give her heart and soul and her talent very generously. Indeed, she and home care continue to be a great fit!


Christine Lunsford, RN, BSN, Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator, Leavitt Family Jewish Home

September 22, 2020

Christine Lunsford, RN, BSN, Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home

Christine was born and raised in Springfield along with her older brother Michael. She graduated from Central High School in 1996 and then pursued an education to become a nurse. She has always enjoyed caring for others and being a nurse was a goal of hers since early on.

She graduated from STCC in 1999 with an Associate’s Degree in Nursing and passed her Boards to become a Registered Nurse. She began her first job out of school on Sept. 7, 1999 at the Jewish Nursing Home. She started as a nurse on the A-2 unit on the 3-11p shift. Soon after, she was promoted to the position of Unit Manager on A-2 and also as a JNH Nursing Supervisor. For the last 15 years, she has led the MDS Dept. as the Clinical Reimbursement Coordinator. She also managed during these years to graduate from AIC with her BSN degree.

Reflecting on her almost 21 years of service at JGS, Christine said, “I’ve seen a lot here over the years, especially the ways in which healthcare has evolved. I have always loved the residents and I do miss the bedside patient care that I used to do. And I have had the opportunity to work with many different people including various managers and to learn new things from them. I feel like the organization has always been supportive to me. I have had so much faith in the care delivered at JGS that I have had many loved ones over the years come here for care when it was needed. In many ways, I grew up in this facility and went through so many life events here: I bought my first house, got married, had 3 kids, experienced especially more recently some big losses, gained more education, and throughout the years,  the organization has always been supportive with anything I needed. I have met a lot of amazing people and have developed some amazing friendships while here.”

Christine married her high school sweetheart, Rick, in 2004. They moved to East Longmeadow in 2005.  They have 3 kids: Maddy age 13, Gabby almost 10, and Ricky age 7. Her family and being a mom has really been central to her life. Every year, until this year due to the current pandemic, Christine and her family have been going to the Cape, either in South Yarmouth or elsewhere. And every year, until this year, her mom has enjoyed taking Christine and her family and her brother to Lake George in NY, where they have enjoyed all the activities a lake vacation could offer: swimming, paddle boarding, para-sailing, fishing and more. While her mom and dad are still alive, Christine’s brother Michael died at the age of 42. This August will mark the first anniversary of his death.

Outside of work, Christine enjoys family get-togethers and entertaining family and friends at her home.  She is always happy and quite content when her house is full, especially with her children’s friends.

We are so grateful to Christine for her long tenure at JGS. We celebrate this milestone with her and wish her continued success, satisfaction and growth at work. She is a true team player, always reliable and responsible, with a big heart for her residents and other colleagues. We also wish her and her family well, good health and much joy.


Deana Carnegie, Dietary Aid, Leavitt Family Jewish Home

September 10, 2020

Deanna Carnegie, Dietary Aid, Leavitt Family Jewish Home

Deana was born and raised in Jamaica to a large family. She was one of 9 children, with 3 brothers and 5 sisters. She graduated from Newell High School and then became a hairdresser.  She was employed for many years as a hairdresser and during that time she married and had 1 son, Craig who is now 34.  Deana came to the United States on May 2, 1999 and settled with her husband and son in Springfield. She started working at the Jewish Nursing Home on May 17, 1999 in the Dietary Deptartment and has been employed here ever since.

“I feel that I achieved a lot here,” Deana said. “I have met a lot of different people from different countries. I have also learned how to use different machines. And, I learned a lot about the kosher food practice because back in Jamaica I didn’t know anything about that.”

For twenty years. Deana has worked closely not just with the Dietary Deptartment staff, but with various residents, and other staff, and volunteers. “I love talking with the residents,” she said. “And I have worked with so many of the volunteers, especially in the cafeteria and in the coffee shop. People like Ester Cohen, and Abe and Hy Neigher, Elliot Levin and Rona Chase. There have been so many, I can’t name them all. “

During the COVID-19 months, Deana said that despite things being stressful, “I told myself I wasn’t going to quit my job, because really, you can get the virus anywhere. I never missed a day of work during COVID, I never called out.” In fact, Deana works almost every day at the JNH. “If someone calls out, I often stay to help,” she said,” because I don’t like to leave if they are short-staffed.”

In her spare time, Deana enjoys spending time with her son and daughter-in-law Dolly, and her grandson, CJ, who is now 4 years old. They play together and they talk together. “He’s very smart,” she said. Deana has many cousins here in Springfield, and they enjoy having dinners and birthday parties together. She tried to go back to Jamaica every 2 years to visit her relatives.

We thank Deana for her over 20 years of incredibly devoted service to the Jewish Nursing Home. She cares deeply about the welfare of the residents and their dietary needs. She goes above and beyond in her job, and gives of her heart and soul to the residents, the volunteers and everyone with whom she interacts. We wish Deana and her dear family many years of joy and good health!!


Carmen Figueroa, Lead Care Manager at Ruth’s House Assisted Living Residence

September 2, 2020

Carmen Figueroa, Lead Care Manager at Ruth's House Assisted Living

Carmen was born and raised on Central Street in Springfield to a family that included 2 sisters and 2 brothers. Although her childhood dream was to be a mailperson and work in the post office, she attended Putnam High School and trained to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. After completing her CNA license requirements, she worked at Ring Nursing Home on  Bicentennial Highway for 2 years. Having met her childhood sweetheart at age 14 and married at age 19, she also began to have children: Ashley, (who is now 27), Adaley (age 26), Ariana (age 22) and Alina (age 19) .

On January 13, 1999, at the age of 23, Carmen started working at Ruth’s House and has been here ever since. In addition to her work at Ruth’s House, she also works for Glenmeadow at Home as well as per diem at Golden Years and Kind Hands Care, other homecare agencies.

Ruth’s House opened just 6 months before Carmen started and thus she has seen, over the years, a lot of change. But what hasn’t changed a bit is her loyalty and devotion to the institution, the residents and the families: “This is my home,” she said, “I am not ever leaving. The first few weeks when I started here, I was in charge of the laundry. Then, two weeks later, I was promoted to Lead Care Manager. I like working in the Garden Level because I feel we are family. I love the residents and enjoy working with people with dementia.  The residents depend on us for everything. We are their voices. We have to be there for them, as we become part of their family.” As Lead Care Manager, working 40 hours a week, Carmen oversees all the CNAs in the Garden level, making sure they follow their assignments. She continues with those same responsibilities today.

“During the months of Covid,” Carmen said, “I was doing a lot of Facetime with the families and their loved ones. And the families call me, all the time, to check in and get information, to help bring mom to the window, so they can see her, etc.”

In addition to her work, Carmen devotes her life to her children and grandchildren. She currently has 5 grandchildren: Emilio (age 9), David (8), Anaya (5), OC (3) and Aylah (9 months). In November, she expects to have twin girls born to her youngest daughter Alina. “They are always at my house,” Carmen says with a smile, “We love to cook out and eat. They love what I make. I’ll always be the Mom.”

We congratulate Carmen on her almost 21 years of service to Ruth’s House, and thank her for her devotion and loving care of over a generation of residents and family members. We are so fortunate she has been with our Ruth’s House community almost since the beginning and thus helped create and nurture its warm and caring culture. She is beloved by so many and has put her heart and soul into her work such that for her it’s all part of who she is and why she is here. We wish her and her growing and beautiful family many years of good health and well-being.


Uvalyn Davis, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

August 26, 2020

Uvalyn Davis, CNA at Leavitt Family Nursing Home in Longmeadow, MA

Uvalyn was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica. She was part of a large family, as one of 8 brothers and sisters. She attended St. Andrew’s Technical High School, studying to be an accountant. After her schooling, she worked at several grocery stores and then a shoe store and in 1992, came to the US. Her husband, Augustus, who she married in 1984, brought her over and together they settled in Norwalk CT.  A year later, they moved to Springfield MA. They also welcomed their only child, Kyle, into their family in 1992. Kyle is now 28 and is living in Oregon.

When she arrived in this country, Uvalyn began working in homecare and then attended school to become a Certified Nursing Assistant. She started working at the Jewish Nursing Home in April 1997 and has been here ever since.  “I love my job,” Uvalyn said, “I always wanted to be a nurse but I didn’t have that opportunity. So this is the closest I get to what I wanted to do.” As she reflected on the more than 23 years that she has been here, she said, “I love to come to work here at JGS. I work with good people and I feel like I’ve been treated fairly. I feel like I’m treated with respect by my boss. I enjoy the picnics, and the raffle baskets, and all the giveaways they provide to us throughout the year. And mostly I love communicating with the residents and taking care of the elderly. They are like my family especially those that don’t have any family. They really need us and our love.”

During the COVID crisis, Uvalyn was home sick, battling the illness. She still feels the physical effects of the illness and emotionally she mourns the residents on the C-1 unit who died.  “I miss my residents,” she says. “Before all of this, I used to hug them, dance with them, and sing with them. Now, I miss all of that. Tears come to my eyes when I think about it and all that we have been through.”

When she’s not working, Uvalyn enjoys playing bingo and going to the casino. She tries to get back home to Jamaica once a year, to visit family. She was last there in 2018, when her brother died.

While she was recovering at home, Uvalyn experienced God’s caring presence very directly and as a result, she feels her life has taken a new direction. “I really want to get closer to God,” she shared. “God has done so much for me. I am so grateful and I want to work on becoming a better person.”

We are so grateful for Uvalyn’s humble and devoted service for over 23 years at the Jewish Nursing Home. She has served faithfully, and tended skillfully, to so many residents with a heart full of love and compassion. Each day that she comes to work, she brings her whole self, and a desire to be of help and of service. We wish for Uvalyn and her husband, who also contracted the virus, good health, renewed strength, and much joy.


Tony (Antoinette) Moseley, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

August 18, 2020

Tony (Antoinette) Moseley, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

Tony was born and raised in Springfield, along with her 3 sisters and 1 brother. She graduated from East Longmeadow High School and started working at Spectrum Home Healthcare as a Home Health Aide in July 1996. After a few years, she was working on the New York unit of the Jewish Nursing Home, as a Certified Nursing Assistant. She was planning on going to school for Physical Therapy, but met and worked with some wonderful nurses on the NY unit, who inspired her so much that she changed her plans, deciding instead to become a nurse. She applied and was accepted to the STCC Nursing Program. While going to school full-time, she continued working full-time at the Jewish Nursing Home .

After graduating from STCC, she decided not to pursue working as a nurse and has continued working at the JNH until the present time. And now, she has decided to take a refresher program, so that she can take the nursing licensing exam in order to pursue a career as a nurse. “In part,” she said, “I want to be an example for my kids: to show them that you don’t give up. “

Tony has 2 children, a son Milan age 22 and daughter, Nya, age 14. In addition to her children who live with her, her aunt and her mom are also living with her now. With her aunt coping with dementia, they all want to be there to help offer her a better quality of life.

Looking back at her 24 year tenure at JGS, Tony says, “The people I have worked with here have become my second family. I’ve met a lot of great people, who are either still working here or have left, but I am still friends with many of them. I love working with the elderly. They had rich lives before they got there and this is their last home, and you want to make them happy.  They look forward to sharing their stories with us. They touch our lives and we theirs. That’s why I like my job so much.”

During the Covid crisis, Tony got sick and stayed home recuperating for 3 weeks. She finds she is still recovering. “It takes a piece out of you,” she said. “At times, it has been scary to come back to work,” she said, “We just don’t want to get it again.”  In her spare time, Tony loves to spend time with her family and close friends. “Family is a big deal for me,” she says. She also enjoys cooking, and eating, and shopping.  In general, I’m a very happy person:  I love to laugh, and I try not to let life get me down. “

We so admire Tony and her positive and life-affirming spirit and we celebrate her 24 years of service to the residents of the Jewish Nursing Home. We thank her for bringing so much laughter and compassion to those she has worked with and those she has taken care of. We wish her much success in her career and years of good health and joy.


Dianne Modesta, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

August 12, 2020

Dianne Modesta, CNA at JGS Lifecare

Dianne was born on the island of Trinidad, located in the West Indies.  In 1983 she and her brother came to Springfield to join her parent, who had previously come seeking new work opportunities.  She was 8 years old at the time. Dianna also has family living in Canada and England.  She now has two sons, Richard 29 and Jarrel 22, and a beautiful grandson, Richard.

Dianne attended Commerce High School and received her CNA certification from Caregivers in Springfield.  She knew that she wanted a job caring for people, and she also liked the work-life balance of every other weekend off.  Dianne began working at The Jewish Nursing Home when she was 21 and has been here for 24 years!  “I have been here since 1996 through the good times and the bad.  I started on the A-1 neighborhood and then I moved to the C-1 neighborhood caring for people with dementia.  I would float between C-1 and C-2 neighborhoods.  Now I am always on C-1.”

What has kept Dianne at JGS for 24 years? “I love my residents.  It is hard to get too attached because it hurts when they go.  Some may be difficult but we do it, we care for them.  It is hard to see what they go through.  The simple things in life are often taken for granted.  Like during COVID – simply breathing and being able to come and go.  During the COVID isolation no one was coming out of their rooms. A lot of our residents were bored and they felt like they were being punished.  We work hard to keep them busy engaged.”

“I get along with everyone, I am easy-going. I like being a jokester and making people laugh…it helps to make the day go by and it is good to laugh off your troubles.  I have learned a lot here.  It feels good to share my experience and show the younger staff how to do things and make things easier for them.  I teach them and I listen to them.”

During the COVID crises Dianne became sick with the virus and was out of work for three weeks.  “I have never taken this many sick days off, but I needed the time to feel better.  I didn’t feel like doing anything, I was too sick.  My family cared for me and brought me food.  But I knew my residents needed me so I came back as soon as I could to care for them.”

When asked about our affiliation with Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, “Chelsea cares!  They offer good incentives and they ask your opinions and listen….they include you.  This makes me feel good.   I also like how management works with the schedule, and they have good health benefits.”

Outside of work Dianne likes to sleep!  She enjoys yard work, and taking long car rides to purposefully get lost and then find her way home, while making new discoveries along the way.  This is how she discovered the Buckland Hills Mall!

We congratulate Dianne for 24 years of service to The Leavitt Family Jewish Home.  We thank her for the love and care she continues to provide to so many residents as well as the leadership and support she continues to provide to so many colleagues – always with a warm and endearing smile!  We wish her continued good health and happiness!


Susan Halpern, Vice President of Development and Communications

August 3, 2020

Susan Halpern

Born in Springfield, Susan was raised in Longmeadow along with her 3 siblings: Jim, Wendy and Billy. She graduated from Longmeadow High School, the University of Vermont, and Western New England School of Law.

Susan practiced law for 10 years, first at the offices of Cohen Rosenthal and then at Cooley Shrair. In 1985, she married Richard and they soon welcomed 2 daughters: Jessica in 1989 and Lauren in 1991. After Lauren’s birth, Susan decided to become a stay at home mom for several years. Then, in 1995, she was hired by JGS CEO Howard Braverman to manage The Regeneration Capital Campaign. Under Susan’s leadership, the Campaign raised $7.5 million for renovating the JNH into more home-like neighborhoods as well as building Ruth’s House Assisted Living Facility. Throughout her tenure here, she has overseen other major gift campaigns including JGSYes and Project Transformation.

Susan has held many leadership positions at JGS: Director of Community Relations, Director of Development, Vice President of Philanthropy, and more recently Vice President of Development and Communications.

When asked about her tenure of over 25 years, Susan reflected, “It has been so rewarding to work here. To me it’s personal – I have a strong legacy here. My great grandparents, Hannah and George Kimball, were amongst the founders of the Jewish Nursing Home back in 1912. My grandparents Anna and Bill Kimball were longtime supporters. My father Jerry was a past president of the JNH Board of Directors and my husband Richard has served as a member of the Board since before I began working here.”

“Most important, I feel like I am making a difference,” continued Susan. “My work has helped provide the financial resources that have impacted the quality of life of so many elders. I have enjoyed such rich and rewarding relationships with many of our staff over the years, as well as with so many residents. I feel I became part of their lives and I was able to make a true difference in their lives.”

“JGS Lifecare is blessed with tremendous community support. Through fundraising and friend raising we have been able to accomplish some great things here. We were one of the first organizations to establish Assisted Living back in 1998, and to think in terms of de-institutionalizing our nursing home environment by creating residential neighborhoods. Project Transformation in 2015 was a natural extension of this effort to de-institutionalize, introducing the small house model of care known as the Green House model, where people can live in true homes with a consistent team of caregivers, resulting in better quality of life and quality of care.”

Susan credits many of her accomplishments to the wonderful colleagues and volunteers she has been able to work with over the years. “I have had the support of some strong and talented board volunteers to work with, including many Board and Campaign Committee Chairs. And our community volunteers are phenomenal, many have become close friends. People truly care about providing for our elders and they realize what a blessing it is to have our services right here in their own community.”

In her spare time, Susan loves to explore different art forms: photography, drawing, welding, sculpture, and glass-blowing. She enjoys working out and riding her bike. She loves spending time with her family including her mom and taking weekends away together. Susan and Richard recently celebrated the marriage of their daughter Lauren to Kyle Smith. The family has enjoyed some special time these last few months during Covid-19, hunkering down together.

We celebrate Susan’s 25 years of extraordinary service to this organization and her choosing to build on her family’s long and devoted commitment to JGS and its mission of caring for the elders in our community. She is a talented professional with an abundance of kindness, an eye for detail and an appreciation of the aesthetics of the environment. She is a joy to work with and a trusted friend to many, and she takes time to get to know and to deepen her bonds with our residents. We wish her and her dear family many years of good health and much success in her many endeavors, personal and professional.


Zuzanna Lakomska, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

July 27, 2020

Zuzanna Lakomska, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

Zuzanna was born in Poland and moved to the United States in 1990. While in Poland she worked for seventeen years as a kindergarten teacher. She and her husband Julian, “happily married for forty years,” have a son Jacob, who is thirty seven, a daughter Natalia who is thirty, and two grandchildren, Matthew five and Sebastian two. When she arrived in America she did not know English. At the time her son Jacob was seven and he went to Catholic school in Indian Orchard. He would bring home papers to sign. To understand what she was signing Zuzanna had a dictionary from Poland and was able to translate the papers. That is how she started to learn English, as well as by watching tv. “I learned from my kids,” she explained.

Zuzanna received her CNA certification through a three month course with the American Red Cross. The Jewish Nursing Home was the first place to call her for an interview. She was hired by JNH on September 25th, 1995, and looks forward to celebrating her 25th work anniversary! She felt she would work here for a while, but the while turned into twenty five years. “JNH had a very good reputation. I believe it still does. I feel honored to work here.”

Zuzanna has always worked the night shift, and her husband, who is now retired, worked a maintenance job during the day. This alternating schedule allowed them to avoid the need for a babysitter and share the responsibility of caring for their children, helping with homework, and providing rides and oversight. “While I’m sleeping he was with the kids, doing homework. We knew they were under control. Even at seventeen they needed rides. It was a lot of work, He did his part.”

Zuzanna has always worked as a CNA in the A building of the nursing home. She indicated that she began upstairs, but after the 1998 renovations she moved downstairs. “I like a stable job,” she remarked. “I was seventeen years in Poland at one job and now twenty five hears here in one job. I don’t like to change jobs.”

“I like my residents and the nurses I work with, they are my friends. Mostly I like that I can be home during the day to care for the children. Now I help my daughter care for her two boys. That is why I stayed working the night shift all these years. My body is used to it,” she explained.

Reflecting on these past few months, “COVID-19 was a really difficult time. We lost a lot of residents. A lot of resident liked me and I liked them. It was really hard when they died. My years of experience helped me to get through an experience like this. I have tried to help younger CNAs and share my experience. I like working with the younger girls. My religion, I am Catholic, has helped me too. I do a lot of prayers.”

We thank Zuzanna for her strong work ethic and extraordinary commitment to the care of our residents over these past twenty five years. Her experience has been a source of stability and strength during this difficult time.


Beth Ann Kalinko, CNA Sosin Center for Rehabilitation

July 21, 2020

Healthcare Hero Beth Ann Kalinko, CNA at Sosin Center for Rehabilitation

Beth Ann Kalinko was born and raised in Springfield and that is where she still resides. She has one brother, Gregory.  She graduated from Classical High School and then went to work at American Cyanamid, a West Springfield company that made Breck products. Beth worked on the production line for a while and then went to work in the company office. That was enough to inspire her to pursue another line of work, and she decided to become a CNA.

In 1986, she and her husband Joe got married, and soon had 2 children.  Her oldest daughter Katie will be 31 this fall and is planning a September wedding, and their youngest daughter Kara is 28, married, with one child, Sophia. She is Beth and Joe’s only grandchild for now.

Beth pursued her CNA training at STCC. Immediately after graduation, she was hired at the Jewish Nursing Home, twenty six years ago, on July 18, 1994. She first worked on the A-2 unit, and then moved to the A-1 unit for about 10 years. She then transferred to the NY unit which at the time, was the Rehab unit. “That’s really my calling,” Beth said, “I really enjoy Rehab. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the progress of my residents and to know that I had a part in their getting better.” When the Sosin Center for Rehabilitation opened in 2016, Beth immediately applied and was accepted. It was a natural fit!

“I love working at Sosin, “she smiled, “I love to cook, and I take a lot of joy preparing the meals for the residents. It has such a homelike feel. I really do feel at home there, like I have a warm blanket wrapped around me.”

Thinking about her tenure of 26 years, Beth reflected: “I’m not one to move around a lot. I am a pretty contented person. And I’m happy here. My co-workers are like my family. With some, we are very very good co-workers, even though there might be a big age difference. There are some that you just click with and work well with and the residents notice that too. They see that we are working well together, and that we are not rushing them or ourselves to get things done. “

During these last few months, caring for patients with COVID has not been easy Beth said, but “I never called out. This is our job, and this is what we signed up for. That’s my belief.  My parents instilled a really good work ethic in me, and I have tried to do that with my children as well.”

In her spare time, Beth enjoys quilting, counted cross stitch, vacationing in Vermont, Rhode Island and the Canadian Maritimes, especially visiting local breweries.

We are incredibly grateful to Beth for her years of devoted service to the residents of the Jewish Nursing Home. She has served with integrity, love and compassion for 26 years and has been a highly respected and reliable member of the team. We wish her, her husband, her daughters and their families, many years of good health and much joy.


Jessica Brown, CNA Leavitt Family Jewish Home

July 15, 2020

Jessica Brown was born and raised in Springfield.  She graduated from Putnam Vocational High School and that’s where she  was first connected to JGS. In order to get certified as a CNA, she came to JGS as part of her school training, and she officially started working here on June 21, 1993  just 11 days after her 16th birthday. Because she was still in school when she was hired, Jess worked every weekend.

Now 27 years later, Jess has seen a lot of changes in healthcare and a lot of changes at the Jewish Nursing Home.  But what hasn’t changed for her over the years is the absolute joy she gets from her job. “I enjoy what I do.  I love spending time with my residents. It is an achievement to be in one place that long. It’s because I love helping them and making them feel better. This is after all their home and they should be treated with respect. Especially now, with this virus, they need our time and our love.” These last few months, Jess has found that some of the residents have been anxious, scared, lonely and/or bored. “It’s so nice things are starting to change now,” she said, “and that families can  come and visit  with their loved ones outside on the patio.”

The other source of great satisfaction for Jess are her co-workers over the years. “I have great teammates with whom I work,” she said. “We become very close. They are like my other family.”

Jess has one son, named Matthew, who is 25 years old. “He was a big part of my coming here,” Jess said. “He enjoyed coming here for many years and met many of the residents. Some he got to know really well and he loved spending time with them.”

We celebrate Jess’ long tenure of 27 years, 27 years filled with caring, love and compassion for several generations of residents at the Jewish Nursing Home. We wish her many more years of fulfillment and good health, and  trust she knows in a deep way  that she is well-respected and so admired by her teammates, the organization as a whole, and by many many residents and family members.


Sharon Ritchie, Director of Food Service

July 10, 2020

Sharon Ritchie, the Director of Food Service

Sharon was born and raised in Longmeadow, MA. She started working at JGS Lifecare just prior to her 16th birthday in 1991. She was hired part-time as a dietary aide in the kitchen of the Leavitt Family Jewish Home. After her graduation from Longmeadow High School in 1993, Sharon started working full-time. In addition, she attended STCC and pursued training as an EMT but never continued in that field. She stayed at JNH and kept getting promoted: from dietary aide, to nutrition assistant, to kitchen supervisor, to Assistant Director (for over 15 years) and as of Jan. 2019, Director of Food Services, managing a staff of 28.

Why has she stayed so long? “I like what I do,” Sharon smiled. “I love the residents and the interactions I am able to have with them. I enjoy being part of this facility and being a part of all the changes that have happened over the years. I like the people I work with both in the kitchen and in other departments. They really are like my extended family. Some of us spend as much time here as we do with our families at home.”

Sharon has a lot of photos posted in her office, of residents and co-workers. There’s one of Ester Cohen, with whom she started working in the Dietary Department years ago. There’s a picture of Abe Neigher, a longtime JGS volunteer and then JNH resident. There are photos of staff working together for many special events at JGS, including Passover seders, Volunteer Dinners and much more. There’s a photo of the members of the Employee Activity Committee, on which Sharon served for many years, helping to plan all kinds of fun events for staff.

For many years, Sharon (along with her brother) has been helping her parents as they have aged, taking care of many of their needs. Although her mother passed away 2 years ago, Sharon continues to be extremely attentive and helpful to her dad who is now living nearby, in Springfield. In her quiet time, she enjoys her home in East Forest Park, planting flowers and taking care of the yard.

As she reflects on her 29 years at JGS, Sharon recalls a number of good mentors including Steve Lawrence and Tony DalZovo. And now that she is the Director, what does she look for when she is hiring? “Someone who brings a special personality,” she says, “an open mind, a willingness to learn new things (including the Kosher dietary practices), and a positive attitude.”

We celebrate Sharon’s long and devoted tenure at JGS and thank her for the positive spirit she brings to each person with whom she interacts. She truly believes in the mission of this organization and is a valued leader, leading with a compassionate and caring heart.


Ana Guzman, CNA Wernick Adult Day Health Care

July 3, 2020

Born in Puerto Rico, Ana came to this country at the age of 12 with her mom and 2 brothers. They settled in Springfield, with an uncle nearby.  She attended Chestnut Middle School and then returned to Puerto Rico to live with her father.

Three years later, Anna returned to Springfield, earned her GED, and attended STCC. While taking classes there, she met someone special, got married, and together they had 2 children: a son, Jose and a daughter Joanna. After Jose started school, Ana decided to work outside the home and began training as a CNA. She was introduced to the Jewish Nursing Home when she was placed here to fulfill her 1000 clinical hours for the program. When she completed the program, she decided to stay on, as a CNA. The year was 1987. While initially working on the clinical units at JNH, Ana was offered the opportunity to work at the Wernick Adult Day Health program. For almost 31 years, she has with her co-workers been preparing breakfast, providing showers, offering activities, and talking walks with several generations of participants in this exceptional program. Since Wernick closed temporarily in March due to the Covid-19 virus, Ana has been helping out in the Nursing Home in various capacities as needed.

“I have always liked my job,” Ana declared, “I didn’t really want to do anything else. The residents and the participants need someone to talk to, someone they trust, and especially, someone who listens. That’s been very fulfilling for me. And it’s helped me in my own life as well. It has especially helped me develop more patience, and that helps me with my mom as she gets older and with my family too.”

In March, Ana contracted the virus and stayed home to recover. There was no doubt in her mind about returning to work. “I came back because I knew what was needed and I wanted to help,” she said. “It was painful and so sad to see that many of our residents died. That was very hard.”

When she’s not working, Ana enjoys her home and cooking. She also enjoys spending time with her 4 granddaughters: Lanaya, Kaylany, Coey and Nalia.

On July 12, Ana celebrates 33 years working at JGS Lifecare. We extend our profound gratitude to her for so many years of exceptional service, filled with caring, compassion and acceptance. We wish her many more years, filled with much joy and good health.


Vivian Hatwood, Leavitt Family Jewish Home Kitchen Manager/Assistant Director

June 29, 2020

Vivian was born in Worcester, MA and came to Springfield at the age of 4. She was educated in the Springfield public schools and graduated from Putnam Vocational High School, with an emphasis in fashion design. She soon began working at Buxton’s Leather Factory, followed by several years at the US Postal Service. Vivian and her husband Tony welcomed their first child, Shawna, in 1982, at which point Vivian stayed home to take care of her. Several years later, their son Glenn was born, followed by their youngest son Tyrell.

After years of raising her children, Vivian went back to work, now at Raymour and Flanagan as a Customer Service Manager. After 15 years, she left that position to go to Culinary School at Branford Hall in Springfield and graduated with a degree in culinary arts. While at school, she came to JGS LIfecare, to fulfill her internship requirement. Upon completion of her internship, then Food Director Tony DalZovo invited her to join the Dietary Department team, initially as a cook and subsequently as Kitchen Manager/Asst. Director. “At first I didn’t think I would like it here,” Vivian said. “ I had never spent any time in a Nursing Home and I didn’t think I would like it. But I’m still here!! And I do like it! The employees are helpful, I really enjoy what I am doing, and it’s been a place where I’ve learned and grown from the employees and the residents. I’ll never forget one resident, I think she was from Ireland, she shared with me her story about a near-death experience she had. She told me that she heard God tell her: I’ll be ready to take you Home to Me so long as you thank Me every day for waking you up every morning. So that’s what I have been doing,” the woman told Vivian. And Vivian, who says she too believes in a Higher Power, took on that same practice.  “That’s been my prayer on my way to work every morning,” she says with a smile, “ Thank you God for waking me up this morning.”

Vivian is a proud grandmother to two grandchildren:  Jamari in Atlanta, and Keligha who lives locally. Since she began her work at JGS, Vivian has been a devoted and highly respected member of the JGS Lifecare team. We are grateful for her leadership and her generous spirit!


Cheri Ludwiczak, Chef at Michael’s Cafe

June 23, 2020

Cheri was born and raised in South Deerfield. Her grandparents had a farm there where they grew “everything: corn, tobacco, potatoes, as well as pigs and chickens.” She traces her interest in culinary arts to her experiences watching her grandmother make traditional Polish foods. “We’d go there for Sunday supper every week,” she said, “and our whole family would sit around the table, enjoying her golumpkis, pierogis, pot roast and more while she sat back and watched us all eat, enjoying her food.”

Currently Cheri lives with her husband Edward in Springfield, along with their 2 cats, Boba Fett (of Star Wars fame) and Montgomery. She received her BS in Environmental Science at Southern Vermont College in Bennington and later went to Holyoke Community College’s culinary school where she obtained a degree in Food Service Management.

Cheri was hired as chef for Michael’s Café when it opened in 2016. She has been working there until just a few months ago, when, because of the Covid-19 virus, Michael’s was closed. Since then she has been cooking meals for the 140 or so JNH employees on all 3 shifts, from her kitchen in Michael’s café, equipped with 2 burners and 1 stove.

Cheri is known for her exquisite cooking including of course her delicious soups, all made with homemade broth. Among some of the favorites enjoyed by Michael’s Café customers are her beef stew, corn chowder, and roasted cauliflower soups. Sheila Hayes, staffing coordinator at JNH commented, “Anyone can throw food together but Cheri puts her heart into it and it shows. All the little touches she does, even if it’s a simple sandwich, she puts a little extra love in it. I just want her to know how much we appreciate it.”

“I love working here at JGS,” Cheri said, “everyone is super nice, and I enjoy interacting with the community. It’s a challenge now cooking for the employees, as I have to think about more quantity and fitting any food I prepare into containers, for grab and go. The staff work so hard here, if I can nourish their bodies, to help them keep taking great care of the residents, it gives me real joy. “

Thank you Cheri for the thoughtfulness and care you put into all of the meals you prepare. Your culinary talents and your commitment to our staff are greatly appreciated!


Violeta Delgado, Housekeeper at The Leavitt Family Jewish Home

June 19, 2020

Violeta is a member of the Housekeeping team at the Leavitt Family Jewish Home.  She joined the team 3 years ago, after working for over 20 years at Vibra in Springfield.

Violeta was born and raised in Puerto Rico. She first came to the US to help care for family member. She liked it here, and soon after, met her husband. They married, and have three children, two daughters and one son.

Violeta enjoys working at JGS. “It’s like a second home to me, “she explained. “It feels like family. I enjoy meeting new people and I meet a lot of different people here. I like when the residents talk to me. When I’m cleaning their room, they feel comfortable with me. They thank me and they tell me their stories. With all the deaths we have had, I’m thinking about all the families. It’s so sad. We miss them so much.”

Violeta tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.  After she recovered she looked forward to coming back to work. “I like to help,” she expressed, “and they need me here. I wear all the protective equipment. I’m OK now. “

We so appreciate Violeta for her commitment to the care and well-being of our residents.  Violeta and the rest of our Housekeeping staff develop many meaningful relationships with our residents.  These relationships have been especially important during these past weeks when families were not been able to visit their loved ones.  Thank you Violeta for treating our residents like family and for providing them with a clean and safe environment, and a place that feels like home.


Jesus Carattini, Maintenance Department at The Leavitt Family Jewish Home

June 15, 2020

Jesus Carattini is a very personable, friendly and valued member of the JGS Maintenance Department. Since arriving, 3 ½ years ago, he has taken on a tremendous amount of responsibility and has learned a great deal. “It has been a lot of on the job training in many new areas ” he says, “like in plumbing, HVAC, turning the heat/AC system over from winter to summer and back, basically, just about every area of the building that needs taking care of.” Jesus’ work is mostly at The Leavitt Family Jewish Home though occasionally he helps out at Ruth’s House as needed and he is on-call every third week at JGS. Since he started, he has found JGS to be a welcoming place where most people work together and are very helpful. “Everyone is approachable at all levels,” he says, “and if they don’t have the answers, they will point me to the person who does. I’ve never experienced that kind of accessibility… I talk to Rob (Whitten) (JNH Administrator) everyday and others in the administration and that is just so different from others places where I’ve been.”

Jesus was born and raised in Holyoke, and his parents are from Puerto Rico. He has 2 brothers and 1 sister. Jesus and his partner, Tamika, live in Chicopee and have 3 children: twins Josiah and Genesis (age 4), and Jae-lee, their 8 month old daughter. His partner works the overnight shift, so Jesus is busy parenting the kids from the moment he gets home from work. “It is stressful,” he says,” but luckily my mother is an active grandparent and my sister is a big help as well.”

These past few months have been particularly stressful for Jesus, working in a healthcare organization with young children at home and the ever-present fear of bringing the virus home. “When I go home, I have to keep to a certain routine: my sneakers stay outside, my clothes come off and get bagged up and washed right away, and I go and shower. I sanitize everything I can. So far, I’ve managed to stay Negative for Covid. I have a cousin and an uncle who got the virus, but luckily they both have fully recovered. “

In his spare time, and when the courts are open for play, Jesus loves playing basketball and softball, and when the kids are napping, he enjoys playing video games. “I am a proud parent,” he says, “and my greatest hope is to prepare my kids for the world, so that they become successful adults, doing what they love to do. I’ve got to prepare them as best I can.”

We so appreciate Jesus for his ever-present positive attitude, his team spirit and his kindness. He never hesitates to help out and is eager to learn new things. Our Maintenance Department is responsible for the overall maintenance of the physical plant at JGS Lifecare, to ensure the health, welfare, safety and satisfaction of our residents. This team is known for helping out whenever called upon, which has been an ongoing occurrence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Jesus is a dependable and highly valued member of the team. We thank Jesus and our entire Maintenance Department for their commitment to the wellbeing of our residents and for the pride they take in keeping our facilities safe and operational.


Maria Osorio, Housekeeper at The Leavitt Family Jewish

June 5, 2020

Maria Osoria, Housekeeper at The Leavitt Family Jewish

Maria came to the US in 1994 from Puerto Rico.  ”I didn’t understand any English” she shared. She took classes in English at STCC and continues to focus on improving her facility with the language.  Maria has three children: a daughter aged 26, as son 25, and a younger daughter who is 10.  She also has two granddaughters.

Maria has worked at JGS since 2006 as a member of the Housekeeping department.  She enjoys working here and especially enjoys her co-workers, and feels they all support each other.

When asked what the best part of her work is, she immediately replied, “The residents.  I love speaking with them.  They don’t have family coming to see them especially now.  I visit with them and I speak English with them. I know when they are sad and I comfort them.  Before the virus, I gave them hugs.  For me, they become part of my family.”

Maria was sick recently, having contracted the COVID-19 virus.  After recovering she immediately came back to join her team.  When asked what it’s been like working at the Home during the virus she replied, “In the beginning of this virus I was afraid, but I’m not afraid anymore.  I think about the residents, that they live here, and they need me.  They need me to keep their room clean.”

Maria is a humble and spiritual person, proud of what she has been able to accomplish in this country. “I learned how to drive,” she said excitedly.  Before passing her exam and getting a car, she walked everywhere, often very long distances.  “You need a car in this country to get where you need to go,” she smiled. “Now I am able to drive and help my family this way.”

We so appreciate Maria for her kindness to our residents and the friendship that she offers them.  Although our Housekeeping staff may not be as visible as our front line caregivers, they foster meaningful relationships with our residents and their role in cleaning and sanitizing the environment is equally as important, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We thank Maria and our entire Housekeeping staff for their commitment to the wellbeing of our residents and for the pride they take in providing them with clean and safe surroundings, and a place they can be proud to call home.