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, assisted 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 Homes 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.”
Carrie Desmaris, Director of Social Services
Carrie Desmarais joined Vernon Green in 1996 as a Licensed Nurse Assistant (LNA) and in time was promoted to LNA Manager. Her next role as Transportation Manager entailed driving residents to and from appointments and, as she reveals in hushed tones, “sneaking off to the local Dunkin’ Donuts or Burger King for a treat.”
Next, Carrie was promoted to Assistant to the Social Services Director, a position that involved transportation and multiple additional duties. She succeeded her boss to become Director of Social Services where she focuses on “developing and executing policies and routines that enable residents to maximize their individuality, independence and dignity. I also educate staff about residents’ rights. The goal is to foster a climate that provides residents with the highest practical level of physical, mental and psycho-social well-being and quality of life.”
She is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in human services.
One of the best things about her job is having “the honor to build close relationships with our elders and their families. I can still remember names of folks I took care of as an LNA 25 years ago and have built friendships with some of their family members.”
One story in 25 years stands out. “I knocked on a resident’s door. He asked “Who is it?” “Carrie, I came to assist you.” He asked, “Carrie Pratt?” I answered, “No, Carrie Desmarais. Who is Carrie Pratt”? The gentleman grumbled, “She owned a house of ill repute in Springfield Mass a long time ago.” “Did you frequent her establishment,” I asked. He shot back, “Hell no. But my grandfather used to tell me stories about her!”
The body gets old; the heart and mind stay young. Carrie says, “I have so many funny stories to share, but they are not fit for family audiences!”
Emily Vergobbe Houle, director of finance
Emily was recently promoted to the position of Director of Financing, after almost nine years as assistant director. 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."
Kathiana Cancel, Activity Coordinator
Kathiana Cancel joined us in 2015 as an Assistant to the Activities Director. Among other duties, Kathiana was primarily responsible for understanding residents’ differing abilities and conducting appropriate daily activities one-on-one.
In her current role, she plans goal oriented programs and supervises residents during activities tailored to each individual across the physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual spectrum. She also recruits and supervises activity staff.
What’s most important, she says, is “Getting to know residents at a deeper level and providing activity programs that benefit each person.” That involves brainstorming with her colleagues and learning from residents’ families to develop activities, events and programs that encourage residents to socialize and express themselves.
“Providing staff with new and inventive ways to interact with residents” is at the heart of this work. She says, “We want staff who develop a deep understanding of the people we care for. Doing so nurtures real community and togetherness.”
Kathiana relates that experiences with elders can be profound. Working with dementia residents in in the last stages of life, Kathiana recalls her former boss explaining the benefits of touch – a therapy that is part of Vernon Green’s Neshama program. She says, “By simply touching them, I put smiles on faces that usually did not express emotion. The program really opened my eyes and I quickly applied touch therapy in my second job of caring for elders in their homes. I learned the beauty of making a difference by utilizing the power of touch.”
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.”