By Chelsea Stanhibel of Gardant Management Solutions

Jaclyn O’Keefe, the leader at Heritage Woods of Rockford, has been named Administrator of the Year by the National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL).

This award is part of the NCAL Awards Program, which recognizes exemplary assisted living caregivers. Honorees represent the best of the assisted living profession.

“The common element among this year’s recipients is that they all go out of their way to ensure assisted living residents receive the best care,” said NCAL Executive Director Scott Tittle. “Whether supporting team members, offering their personal time, or connecting with family members, Jaclyn  inspires those around her, and NCAL is honored to recognize such an exemplary caregiver.”

During her nearly four years as the administrator of Heritage Woods of Rockford, O’Keefe has helped the Illinois assisted living community measurably improve in several areas, including staff retention, annual surveys and resident satisfaction.

These efforts, among others, helped the community earn the Bronze—Commitment to Quality Award through the AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award Program this year.

O’Keefe is known as a strong leader, constantly empowering her employees to seek professional development while fostering a teamwork atmosphere.

Describing O’Keefe as the best administrator she has come in contact with in her 20-plus years working in senior living, Yvonne Peterson, the marketing director at Heritage Woods, said, “Jacki’s passion for providing the highest quality care to seniors is unmatched. She tirelessly looks for interventions to keep our residents out of nursing homes. She’s driven to always find new and inventive ways to better our community.”

The residents of Heritage Woods regularly give back to the larger Rockford community through book drives, holiday donations, and fundraisers for veterans and students, frequently organized by O’Keefe.

A tireless advocate for residents and the profession, O’Keefe recently led an effort in which hundreds of residents, families and staff wrote letters to their state legislators, encouraging appropriate Medicaid funding.

“I am extremely proud and excited to work with Jacki O’Keefe and to have her lead one of our communities,” said Rod Burkett, CEO of Gardant Management Solutions, the company that manages Heritage Woods. “ Her ability to accomplish so many objectives and reach so many goals, while not diluting the human connection in all that she does is exemplary.  This award is well deserved and illustrates the impact and influence she has on countless numbers of residents, families, staff and on our sector as a whole.”

Dozens of people gathered at Heritage Woods last month to surprise O’Keefe with news that she would receive this prestigious honor.

Residents raved about O’Keefe and the positive changes they’ve seen during her time at their community.

Margaret Sadler described O’Keefe as warm and compassionate and went on to say that Heritage Woods is the “ideal assisted living community because of Jacki’s dedicated leadership.”

Another resident, Allen Holden, likened O’Keefe to Margaret Thatcher who said, “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end.  It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s a day you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”  Likewise, Holden shared, “I’m sure this is because of the way Jacki whirls around, always on the move, yet never too busy to stop with a kind word to a staff member, resident or family.”

Humbled and honored to receive the award, O’Keefe said she believes she is simply doing what she’s been called to do.

“For almost 20 years, I have been working with seniors, and I believe any accomplishments I receive come from a burning passion to see seniors enjoy the most independent and respectful life possible,” O’Keefe explained. “It has given me such satisfaction to know that what I do every day makes an impact on the lives of our residents and staff. To be recognized for doing something I feel is a privilege and joy is truly remarkable.”

O’Keefe will be honored in October at the 70th AHCA/NCAL Annual Convention & Expo in Orlando.


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