LeadingAge PA announces 2021 Distinguished Service award winners

By LeadingAge PA
June 16, 2021

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (June 16, 2021) - LeadingAge PA is excited to announce the 2021 Distinguished Service award winners! Established in 1973, the Distinguished Service Awards honor the exemplary contributions of individuals or groups from member organizations who are enhancing the aging services field through their involvement, innovation, leadership, or advocacy.

The awards encompass eight categories: Paul P. Haas Distinguished Achievement Award, Leader of the Year, Manager of the Year, Innovation of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Caregiver of the Year - Licensed, Caregiver of the Year - Direct Care, and Staff Member of the Year. 

Paul P. Haas Distinguished Achievement Award: Susan Cooper Drabic, President and CEO, Morningstar Living

LeadingAge PA's most prestigious award is presented to a distinguished individual who has demonstrated exemplary leadership, service, and commitment to the Association and across the state to positively impact and advance the field of aging services. Over the last 33 years, Susan Cooper Drabic has contributed her time and effort not only to enhance and shape the lives of residents at Morningstar Living, but also to positively affect Pennsylvania's aging services through her leadership on the LeadingAge PA board of directors.

Serving as a role model to her community, Drabic has been passionately devoted to improving the quality of lifestyle choices, health care services, and supportive programs for older adults. She has transformed the offerings and operations at the Morningstar Living campus through the development of new communities, and expanded services to include not only a partnership with the country's largest CCRC without walls organization, but also the creation of the Lehigh Valley's first Memory Cafe--a central meeting place for people with dementia and their caregivers.

Beyond Morningstar's campus, Drabic has established educational programs, and created a year-round special interest program to keep seniors engaged in learning, living, and connecting with others. She continues to give back to the community at-large and was named the "Take the Lead Lehigh Valley" honoree by the Girl Scouts of Eastern PA in 2019. Drabic has served in various roles on the LeadingAge PA board of directors, as well as on many of the Association's committees and task forces.

Leader of the Year: Cynthia Richart, Vice President of Pharmacy Services, Phoebe Ministries

This LeadingAge PA award recognizes an individual who demonstrates excellence in management or governance accountability, is proactive in quality of care to residents, and has played a pivotal role in overall operations leading to organizational success. During Cynthia Richart's 23-year tenure at Phoebe Ministries, she has demonstrated leadership through her willingness to help and selfless service to her community. Using her years of experience, she has established a quality-based pharmacy service model that she has grown slowly in order to ensure excellent pharmacy service delivery. Leading by example, her dedication to ensuring residents have the best possible care has garnered the highest respect from her staff. This commitment and hard work have also earned Richart accolades including the President's Award for the expansion of pharmacy services as well as a Healthcare Heroes Award for Healthcare Professional of the Year.

Manager of the Year: Rachel Gullett, Director of Nursing, Phoebe Ministries - Phoebe Richland

This award is presented to an outstanding mentor who has nurtured, coached, counseled, and encouraged others in order to help them develop personally and professionally as an individual and/or as part of a team. Phoebe Richland's Rachel Gullett has been steadfastly encouraging and championing her team since joining the Phoebe Ministries organization in 2012. As the director of nursing at Phoebe Richland Health Care Center, Gullett delivers premium care and takes pride in teaching staff to care for and understand how to treat each resident based on their life experiences. While supporting and assisting her team with delivering the best possible services, she takes time to encourage and inspire others and offers motivation. In addition, through her hard work and leadership, Gullett has been instrumental in developing the clinical pathway and partnership for the local hospital's bundle program, while also leading numerous projects for the director of nursing's team.

Innovation of the Year: Magical Memory Table, Fellowship Community

LeadingAge PA's Distinguished Service Award for Innovation of the Year recognizes a program or service that is a model of innovation and excellence that contributes significantly to the quality of life of individuals served. This year's winner, Fellowship Community's Magical Memory Table was developed to address the challenges faced by residents in their memory support neighborhood--decreased socialization, apathy, memory loss, and difficulty performing familiar tasks. Looking to increase resident engagement and improve their quality of life, the table presents interactive games using a computer-generated system. Not only do these games require residents to push balls, chase fish, or grow gardens--which increases hand and eye coordination, improves motor skills, and provides visual stimulation--but they also foster interaction and socialization with other residents. Since its installation, the Magical Memory Table has made great strides in engaging residents with dementia and encouraging them to become more connected to their environment and one another. 

Volunteer of the Year - Individual or Group: Carolyn Rutherford, Messiah Lifeways - Messiah Village and Brethren Village Grocery Stores, Brethren Village

This award recognizes an individual or group that has enhanced the quality of life of seniors through volunteer work for the benefit of the residents, member organizations, and/or greater community. For 2021, LeadingAge PA has awarded both Carolyn Rutherford, a longtime volunteer at Messiah Lifeways at Messiah Village, and the Brethren Village Grocery Stores, an all-volunteer run service at Brethren Village, with the Volunteer of the Year award.

Carolyn Rutherford believes that service is her purpose. Throughout her life, her servant heart and tireless dedication to her community have been evident. For more than 15 years, she has been an integral part of the Messiah Village community, from founding its Quilt Guild to serving as a resident ambassador and mentor to prospective and new residents, and spearheading the community's "Masks with a Mission" during the coronavirus pandemic, which provided a mask to all residents and team members--more than 1,200 in all!

However, her service doesn't stop within the confines of the campus. Rutherford also sews quilts for babies in underprivileged areas and knits prayer shawls for a local church. Additionally, she regularly sews supplies for Days for Girls--in partnership with Mission Central and Messiah Village's Pathways Institute for Lifelong Learning, all of which contributed to the more than 1,000 hours she devoted to serving others in 2020.

Since the 1980s when the Village Center grocery store opened at Brethren Village, it has provided residents with an alternative to grocery shopping by offering an easily accessible, amply-stocked store filled with handpicked items. Because of its success, a second location was added in the Village's Fieldcrest apartment building. Led by resident volunteer managers, Joan Miley and Ken Bealer, the all-volunteer staff supports the essential service of providing food and personal items to residents by shelving, pricing, and auditing products. 

Throughout the years, the stores have contributed significantly to the Brethren Village community. Most recently, between the two locations, 43 volunteers gave 6,046 hours for the fiscal year ending June 2020! In addition, the Brethren Village stores continue to give back to residents through the financial donations from the stores' proceeds. On average, approximately, $25,000 is gifted each year to help cover benevolent care costs.

Caregiver of the Year - Licensed: Linnie Clark, Clinical Coordinator, Morningstar Living

The Licensed Caregiver of the Year award recognizes a licensed staff member who provides excellent clinical care to their residents, while demonstrating leadership and a commitment to the field of long-term care nursing. For more than 30 years, Linnie Clark has been steadfastly committed to the residents and staff at Morningstar Living. Her "can do" attitude has led her to take on more responsibilities, as well as a variety of roles--including infection control nurse, wound care nurse, and clinical programs coordinator--to improve the quality of life for residents. In fact, during the COVID-19 pandemic, she tackled the role of infection preventionist to offer support, often working seven days a week. A resilient leader, she is dedicated to providing the highest quality of care and service to ensure everyone's safety.

Caregiver of the Year - Direct Care: Gisela Dietrich, Certified Nursing Assistant, The Campus of the Jewish Home of Greater Harrisburg

The Direct Caregiver of the Year recognizes a caregiver who serves as a model of commitment to compassionate care. LeadingAge PA is pleased to honor Gisela Dietrich, certified nursing assistant, with the 2021 award. For more than 13 years, Dietrich has been a highly skilled, compassionate team member who is also a passionate resident-family partner and advocate. A positive role model, she mentors and coaches others to help them develop and achieve professional goals. The epitome of compassionate, resident-centered care, Dietrich was also recently recognized by residents, families, and staff as the 2020 Employee of the Year for her contributions and support.

Staff Member of the Year: Wilfredo Macatantan, Housekeeping Associate, Pine Run Community

This Distinguished Service Award recognizes an individual who has exhibited excellence within their role, and enhanced a member organization through exceptional service to staff, residents, and families. As a housekeeping associate in the Pine Run Health Center, Wilfredo Macatantan brings peace and happiness wherever he goes. For more than six years, his hard work, dedication, and never-ending compassion for others has made a profound impact on residents and staff. Because of his commitment to serve others, it came as no surprise when Macatantan volunteered to take on the added housekeeping responsibilities for the designated skilled nursing COVID-19 section. Since then, he has been offering a ray of hope to residents and colleagues through his warmth and humanity.

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About LeadingAge PA:

LeadingAge PA is a trade association representing more than 380 quality senior housing, health care, and community services across the commonwealth. These providers serve more than 75,000 older Pennsylvanians and employ over 50,000 dedicated caregivers on a daily basis. Services our members offer include Life Plan Communities/Continuing Care Retirement Communities, skilled nursing communities, assisted living residences, personal care homes, and affordable senior housing. LeadingAge PA advocates on behalf of our members at the state and local levels to influence positive change and affect a healthy vision for the delivery of quality, affordable, and ethical care for Pennsylvania's seniors. For more information about LeadingAge PA and our envisioned future of senior services, visit www.leadingagepa.org

Media Contact:
Christina Carden
Senior Director, Communications