Healthcare and senior living organization celebrates staff excellence at annual awards ceremony

Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community, a leader in senior living, memory care,  and rehabilitation in Vermont and New Hampshire, recently hosted its annual Staff Appreciation Awards celebration, recognizing staff members and their years of service and contributions to the community. The Staff Appreciation Awards, which were started years ago by co-owners and mother-daughter team Mary Louise Sayles and Patricia Horn, are a great way for staff to come together and be honored for their accomplishments and pursuit of excellence when it comes to senior care. 2018 marks Cedar Hill’s 30th anniversary of caring for seniors.

All employees, full and part-time, were eligible for all awards, which recognize dependability, compassion, dedication, and work ethics, among other qualities. The awards not only honor staff longevity and perfect attendance, but also included special categories for Positive Attitude, Professional Work Performance, Team Player, and Cedar Hill Hero. The honorees are nominated by their co-workers and resident families for outstanding achievements, such as for going above and beyond, showing exemplary leadership, building community and promoting the company’s mission.

The Selection Committee reviewed dozens of submissions; Cedar Hill Health Care Center had 25 different employees nominated from 18 nomination forms submitted, while The Village had 34 different employees nominated from 21 nomination forms.

“Of the 120 people who work for Cedar Hill, we had nominations for 59 out of 120, which says half of our staff were nominated for these awards,” said Patricia Horn, Cedar Hill Community Administrator, during the ceremony introduction. “That’s amazing! Let’s all applaud each other – that’s incredible participation.”

“These awards reflect the dedication and love our staff has for their jobs, their colleagues, and their residents,” explains Patricia. “Reading the nominations put a huge grin on my face because nearly all of our staff were nominated for at least one award by one of their colleagues or a family. I loved reading the nominations and handing out the awards. They were great moments.”

In reading the submissions, co-owner Mary Louise Sayles said, “How wonderful it was to read about our many terrific, caring, and talented employees!” Mary Louise and her business partner, fellow nurse Judith Brogren, left jobs at another nursing home in New Hampshire to start Cedar Hill in 1988. They began with a residential care home in a dilapidated Victorian mansion, and over the years built the campus into a state-of-the-art skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation facility, independent and assisted living apartments, and specialized memory care unit, fulfilling their mission of creating one of the first Continuing Care Communities in the state of Vermont.

“It was very gratifying reading all the employees praising each other and appreciating each other. All the write-ups were truly heartwarming,” added Cindy Grant, member of the selection committee, and also a daughter of Mary Louise, and sister to Patricia. “My mother and my sister and I just shared the nominations, and read and re-read them.” Cindy also sent congratulatory letters to each person who was nominated with some of the nice comments that were said about them to let them know how people felt, even if they didn’t win. A few people even took pictures and posted on Facebook saying “I love my job!” “That really was a nice extra step,” said Milissa Howard, HR Director. “I’m going to make sure to do it every year because I think it is really important to recognize the staff for everything that they’re doing.” 

Cedar Hill Health Care Center (CHHCC), which comprises the nursing home and rehab facilities, held their awards celebration on March 25, and had 25 different employees nominated from 18 nomination forms submitted:

 18 Nominations for Positive Attitude

18 Nominations for Professional Work Performance

17 Nominations for Team Player

15 Nominations for Cedar Hill Hero

And The Winners are:

Positive Attitude of 2017– Jennifer Grimes, Assistant Activity Director

Awarded to the employee who demonstrates a positive, caring attitude with co-workers, residents, families, and visitors.

Barbara Flinn, Activity Director, and Jen’s supervisor read her introduction. “When it comes to a positive attitude I think we all try to have it, but someone who works extra hard at it would be Jennifer Grimes. She really goes beyond the call of duty when it comes to her residents and other staff. Her positive attitude isn’t just at work, she’s like that all the time. She helped me get through a really difficult time in my life and I don’t know what I’d do without her.” 

Cedar Hill Administrator Cathy Leone added, “She always has something nice to say, and even when it’s not something nice she knows how to say it nice anyway!”

Professional Work Performance of 2017– Christa Hartzell, RN

Awarded to the employee who demonstrates a professional attitude, skills, safe practice and high work ethics.

Administrator Cathy Leone read Christa’s introduction: “Christa possesses so many great qualities as a professional nurse. She is there for her residents; it’s her number one priority. She is a true, true advocate. She pays attention to the small details as well as the whole picture while using her nursing skills and while remaining calm for the residents, and while smiling, gentle nature, and showing compassion and empathy. She is there for residents’ families and takes the extra time to provide them with reassurance, education, and a kind approach. She’s there for her teammates out on the floor; she helps LNA’S when it’s needed, not just not just for the residents but for their personal concerns as well. Christa is great at calmly reassuring teammates and using positivity more than any other person I know. Lastly, she’s there for the nurse management teams as well. With her heart-shaped papers with kind words of encouragement and appreciation that she leaves in our mailboxes, she brightens our days and brings us a smile.”

Team Player of 2017– Ann Rechisky, LNA

Awarded to the employee who demonstrates the on-going ability and general readiness to assist and go the extra mile to provide residents with a positive and cheerful manner.

Patricia Horn introduced Ann as a relatively new employee to Cedar Hill, but she had many, many colleagues nominate her as someone who, when asked to help someone, never says no. “She helps with extra shifts, she helps with residents, she helps with dining, she has been incredible around the whole campus. This is a role that is so integral to our being able to be able to provide quality care to our residents and a good work environment to our staff.”

Cathy Leone continued, “There so many qualities that come into play in being an LNA. One of my favorite qualities about Ann is her team playing skills. She will work with anybody to get the job done. When you approach her with another task to do on an already busy day she will complete the task without hesitation, all while providing outstanding care for residents.

Cedar Hill Hero of 2017-Milissa Howard, HR Director

The Cedar Hill Hero is someone who demonstrates above and beyond the call of duty toward residents, family members, and staff.

“The award that we are handing out today is for someone who got more nominations on this campus than anyone else, than any other employee. In fact, we couldn’t NOT give her the award!” exclaimed Patricia as she introduced Cedar Hill Hero Milissa Howard. “It is someone that I rel

y on heavily every day and who does a lot for her staff.”

Cathy Leone read the nomination: “Milissa is our HR director, but much more than that because she loves being with the residents. She is a voice for her staff; a voice for the residents; she visits and talks to people; she’s a friendly face to the families.

“Milissa is a very social person — HR being the perfect role for her. Like her favorite bird, the flamingo, she’s social and forms strong bonds with people. She’s loyal and believes in the mission of Cedar Hill. Whenever a staff person needs to vent, whenever a staff member is struggling, with tears in their eyes, she helps them. We thank you for saving us and caring for us and being who you are.”

Residents and staff members alike were treated to a buffet style lunch including delicious desserts after the awards were given out. 

“I think it was great! You really could see and feel the pride from the staff and residents for having such great and devoted caregivers,” said Sara Neily, RN, and recipient of a perfect attendance certificate.

View the Cedar Hill HealthCare Awards Image Gallery

Village Award Winner Group Portrait

At The Village at Cedar Hill, which comprises the Independent and Assisted Living Apartments as well as the Judith Brogren Memory Care Center, staff members were honored on March 23. Members of all departments were treated to a full taco bar and chocolate desserts before winners were announced by Executive Director Sue Spadaro.

The Village had 34 different employees nominated from 21 nomination forms

18- Nominations the Positive Attitude Category

18-Nominations in the Professional Work Performance Category

16-Nominations in the Team Player Category

17-Nominations in the Hero Category

Four deserving Village staff members were honored in the following categories:

Liz Smith, Memory Care LNA, was awarded Positive Attitude of 2017. Liz, who came to work as an LNA/RA in the Judith Brogren Memory Care Center in January 2017, is a caring friend to both her residents and her co-workers and is always willing to lend a helping hand. In presenting her award, Village Executive Director Sue Spadaro said of Liz, “This goes to an RN who is always willing to help out, and always willing to come in, always making the best out any bad situation.” Upon winning the award, Liz joked, “I’d like to thank Coffee and Red Bull!”

John Vigneau, Village Dietary Director, was the winner of the Professional Work Performance of 2017 award.  John came to work as the Dietary Director in November of 2014 and provides residents with delicious meals every single day. As Sue said when presenting his award, “I stole this person from a restaurant and introduced him to the wonderful world of assisted-living.” He can be credited for the magical holiday and special event meals that are enjoyed by residents and their families. Administrative Assistant Barb Greer added, “I think the residents would all agree too.”

Click for full image

Denise VanGuilder, Cedar Hill’s Finance Director since July 2015, was our pick for Team Player of 2017. Denise not only deals with payroll, but also is a great resource for residents, families and visitors. She is always willing to help with a tour or answer questions about insurance, financial decisions and beyond. “She is always here to help all of us, answers questions for us, and goes around fixing telephones and time cards, meets with families, answers insurance questions, and does payroll,” said Sue. “She does a multitude of things to make our lives easier.”

“Just the fact that it was your peers made it so much bigger, so much more meaningful,” said Denise. 

The Cedar Hill Village Hero of 2017 award was given to two very special individuals:

Pam Crosby, Activities for Memory Care, who goes above and beyond every day to make sure that her residents are engaged, entertained and full of laughter. Anyone who visits Memory Care will notice the beautiful artwork adorning its walls, all thanks to Pam and the residents. Pam came to the Village in February 2017. Cathy Connors, Nurse Manager of Memory Care presented the award, saying “This is given to this person as a village hero because she demonstrates everything that you could hope to have in an employee. She helps out always, she cares for staff, does whatever the residents need. I couldn’t ask for anybody better.” Pam said later, “I am honored and humbled to have my co-workers actively choose to recognize my daily work as being ‘above and beyond’. I am grateful and appreciative.”

Shana Mortensen, Village RA and Team Leader, has been working at Cedar Hill since 2009. Her love and dedication to her residents is tremendous, and her sense of professionalism makes her a wonderful role model to the Village Staff. In presenting the award to Shana, Resident Care Director Sarah Mack said of Shana’s service, “When you talk about volunteering, the ‘above and beyond,’ and creating a comfortable caring environment for residents, going above and beyond being at stopping at the store to pick up something for residents, being that shoulder to cry on. For other staff members, letting them have that personal contact outside; being their support. Giving pep talks to the families; being support for them. This employee actually went out for a residents’ birthday and bought her birthday gifts. That truly embodies what Cedar Hill is dedicated to – being a supportive family not only for the residents but also each other.

When asked how the accolade made her feel, Shana replied, “When I received my award I felt very honored and speechless. I love what I do.”

After the celebrations were over, the staff continued to talk about what a delightful day it had been.

“I think it went great and was a wonderful way to recognize staff,” said Megan Foster, Administrative Assistant. “It gives incentive for people to do better.”

“It does, it gives incentive. I think that all around it’s a great, great thing that Mary Louise and Patricia have done here. We have some hard-working staff, and I think all of the winners were so deserving, especially the Cedar Hill Hero”, said Milissa Howard, Cedar Hill Hero of 2017, laughing. “I think we’ll add even more categories next year. It was fun.”

As Patricia said, “What today is about is celebrating each other, and the work that we do every day and the joy we create every day and that and I hope that all of you and experience in your work as I do in mine. So many of you were nominated for so many of these awards, and it actually brought tears to my eyes when I was reading them, so I just want to thank every single one of you for being here every day.  I want to in particular congratulate all the award winners and see you back here next year.

The residents enjoyed the celebration as well. Many of the recipients gave big hugs to all the residents at the front table as they came up to get their certificates. Resident Judy told the crowd, “The staff here is so wonderful  they make me feel like I’m the only one here.”

And one especially poignant moment that stuck out to everyone was when Christa Hartzell got called up for her award, Larry, a longtime resident, shouted out “She saved my life!”  

Said Megan, “That made me cry.” 

* * * * * * *

Longevity Awards

Longevity awards are for people who have been working at Cedar Hill at least three years. The following staff members were presented with the Longevity Award for their years of service at Cedar Hill:

Cedar Hill Health Care Center (CHHCC)

3-4 Years

Milissa Howard, HR Director – 3 years

Pat Reed, LPN – 4 years

5-9 Years

Kim Jacobs, RN, MDS Coordinator – 5 years

Kathy Reid, RN – 6 years

Diane Mason, LNA – 8 years

Mike Silver, Maintenance – 8 Years

Christa Hartzell, RN – 9 years

Marjorie Laflam, Administrative Assistant – 9 years

Erika Osgood, LNA, Ward Clerk – 9 years

10 + Years

Elizabeth “Liddy” Merritt, Cook – 10 years

Lois Bromley Ellison, Community Gardener – 10 years

Jennifer Grimes, Assistant Activities Director – 11 Years

Josh Martini, Dietary – 12 years

Brandie Armstrong, Social Services Director – 13 years

Patricia Horn, Community Administrator – 13 years

Barbara Flinn, Activities Director – 19 years

20 + Years

Kandi White, LPN – 20 years

Mary Louise Sayles, RN, Founder, and Co-Owner – 30 years

Village at Cedar Hill

3-4 Years

John Vigneau, Dietary Director – 3 years

Katie Taylor, Village Cook – 3 years

5-9 Years

Tammy Lafayette, RA – 5 years

Earl Knight, Maintenance Director – 7 years

Lauren Smith, RA – 7 Years

Cathy Connors, LPN – 8 years

Deb Griffin, RA – 8 years

Corinna Green, RA – 9 years

Shana Mortensen, RA – 9 years

Sarah Mack, RN – 9 years

10 + Years

Tracie Viens, Unit Aide – 10 years

Alfonzo Ramirez, Maintenance – 12 years

Sue Spadaro, Executive Director – 11 years

20 + Years

Karen Jones, RA – 28 years

Perfect Attendance

The following Staff Members were honored for Perfect Attendance for a six-month period:

Cedar Hill Health Care Center (CHHCC)

Brandie Armstrong, Social Services Director

Brad Blanchard, Prep Cook

Nina Hines, RN, DNS

Carly Larmie, LNA

Sara Neily, RN, ADNS

Mark Cohen, Activities

Barbara Flinn, Activity Director

Christa Hartzell, RN

Kim Hood, Dietary

Jonathan Lanou, Dietary




Village at Cedar Hill

Pam Crosby, Activities, Memory Care

Angie Gonthier, Dietary

Shana Mortensen, RA

Amanda Rhoades, RA

Katie Taylor, Dietary

John Vigneau, Dietary Director

Deb Branch, RA

Cathy Connors, LPN

Alicia LaPlante, RA

Noah Rosenzweig, RA

Mike Parkinson, RA 

Adrienne Wailes, RA

Liz Smith, LNA

Sue Spadaro, Executive Director

Perfect Attendance for the entire year of 2017!

Cathy Leone, Cedar Hill Administrator

Josh Martini, Cook

Maggie Ondre, LNA

Erika Osgood, LNA, Ward Clerk

Levi Hazen-Foster, Village Dietary aide

Corrinne Kelley, Village Cook

Perfect Puncher

“Most of our employees know that they have to punch the clock. And if you knew behind the scenes what happens if you don’t punch that clock you would be appalled – a whole lot of headaches. So to give out these awards is Milissa, who has to clean up after all those headaches.”

We had 6 winners in the Perfect Puncher category which rewards those who are diligent with their time clock punches:


3rd Place Perfect Puncher: Mike Silver. Mike came to work for Cedar Hill in 2009 as an activity aide and now works in maintenance.

2nd Place Perfect Puncher: Maggie Ondre.  Maggie came to work as an LNA in December 2016.

1st Place Perfect Puncher: Josh Martini. Josh came to work in 2005 as a Dietary Aide. Josh has never missed a punch!


3rd Place Perfect Puncher: Regina Snyder, RA. Regina came to work as an RA in January 2015.

2nd Place Perfect Puncher: Mike Parkinson, RA. Mike came to work as an RA in January 2017.

1st Place Perfect Puncher: Tracie Viens, Unit Aide. Tracie came to work as a housekeeper over 10 years ago.

Congratulations to all the award winners, and to everyone at Cedar Hill Continuing Care Community for everything you do. We have a great team!

Photo Gallery