Category Archives: Meet the Team

It all adds up

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Dewey Pettit will add his passion for the future of senior living to his varied financial leadership experience as he assumes his new role on June 21 — Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Vista Prairie Communities (VPC). Dewey is ready for the transition from senior leadership in for-profit companies to a nonprofit.

“I am delighted to join this innovative organization,” Dewey said. “The role of senior care organizations will increase significantly in the future. I am eager to help Vista Prairie continue its growth and maintain its integrity as one of the best providers in the Midwest.”

Dewey joins VPC from HomeRiver Group where he was the Vice President – Finance, responsible for the financial reporting, accounting and treasury functions. During his four-years at HomeRiver, he built the accounting team and integrated numerous acquisitions that more than tripled the size of the company.

Prior to HomeRiver he was the Director, Sales Operations at Polaris Industries, where he also served as the Chief Audit Executive, streamlining external and internal audit and implementing a process improvement practice. Dewey also held various Financial Planning & Analysis leadership roles at Boston Scientific. He started his career at KPMG in their assurance practice and was a Certified Public Accountant for six years.

“We welcome Dewey to Vista Prairie Communities, to this important role and to our Executive Leadership Team,” said VPC President and CEO Jim Bettendorf. “Dewey will be responsible to ensure that our finance team continues to provide its excellent financial management and counsel. Our Controller, Reed Mainquist, and his staff will report to him.”

Dewey earned his BBA in Accounting from Saint John’s University and holds an MBA from Indiana University, with a major in Finance. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Plymouth Wayzata Youth Baseball Association and resides in Maple Grove, MN with his wife and their two children.

Welcome aboard Dewey!

Educator, nurse, joy promoter

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Aja Ross embodies all three identities on the staff for Vista Prairie at Goldfinch Estates in Fairmont, MN. Most recently and by popular demand, she’s escorted Lenny, her Bichon/Lhasa Apso mix – a source of plenty of joy for Goldfinch.

“He’s a little timid but once he gets past that, he’s a social butterfly,” Aja explains. “People just seem to light up when they see him.”

Now that the community is more open, with COVID-19 waning in Martin County, Lenny tags along with Aja (pronounced Asia) a few days each week. His coat is hypoallergenic, so no risk to residents — and he’s well compensated. “Sometimes the residents give him treats, his favorite form of payment,” Aja says, “and the back scratches and playing fetch with him.”

The pandemic’s fewer restrictions are a welcome transition for the whole Goldfinch community. Aja is thankful that the residents responded so well to the vaccinations.

“My guard still isn’t down. I was nervous when we opened up,” she says, “but that’s just the nurse in me.”

Aja brought her Med-Surg and ER experience at Mayo Clinic Health System-St. James Hospital to her new position as Goldfinch’s staff development nurse, responsible to ensure that the whole staff complies with the latest state health department requirements and Vista Prairie’s stringent policies for quality care. She’s now taken on the added responsibilities as the Director of Health Services, a position that still requires her to tap her earlier roots as an educator.

Career transitions are nothing new for Aja. In 2007 she started a one-year stint as a social studies teacher at Fairmont High School, before she decided to go back to college for her degree in nursing.

“The combination of being able to teach and still work as a nurse with staff development was perfect,” Aja says of her initial Goldfinch role. “I’m still using my nursing skills but I’m also teaching.” One of her earliest clinical training experiences in nursing school was at Goldfinch, and her grandpa lived there for a time, in memory care.

Goldfinch Estates offers 41 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. We also offer 92 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who want access to supportive services while maintaining their independence.

Sally is still Sally

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Lynn Buckley’s expression describes the difference in today’s care for people with dementia as opposed to former methods prevalent in her field of expertise. For the last two years, Lynn has managed the memory care suites at Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. She and the staff she manages provide long-term care for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia.

“That person is still there,” Lynn emphasizes, referring to the folks they care for. “They’re just not able to communicate with us in the way they used to. We need to know them as a person, their likes and dislikes, their life history. Knowing those pieces can help our whole approach to caring for somebody, including which interventions are better for certain behaviors.”

Lynn recently became a Certified Dementia Care Specialist. The CDCS certification involves specialized training in the latest standards and techniques for caring for patients and clients diagnosed with Dementia.

“Dementia is not a disease in itself. There are several diseases that involve dementia,” Lynn explains. “We need to educate people about the basic signs of dementia to get an early diagnosis.”

Lynn’s CDCS certification equips her to present several courses, some through the Alzheimer’s Association, which she plans to offer to community education in the local school district and in several other area venues. 

“I’ve always had a passion to work with older adults,” says Lynn, a Licensed Practical Nurse who started as a nursing assistant in high school. She went on to manage a hospital adult day program for 25 years before she joined Vista Prairie.

Lynn likes the direction that dementia-care is going, “It’s a whole culture change. You’re looking at behavior management methods other than medication. Back in the ‘80s we were supposed to bring clients back to reality. Well, that didn’t work. Now we just enter their reality. That’s person centered.”  

In addition to its 16 memory care suites, the Garnette Gardens community offers 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who value their independence but want options for personal care and the supportive services they need. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

Holly and Jingles — out of quarantine!

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December 10 was a big day for Holly and Jingles as the two elves ended their 14-day quarantine.  They are back for their third year, making spirits bright for Vista Prairie at Garnette Gardens in Redwood Falls, MN. The COVID-19 safety protocol made this year’s visit a little different.

“The residents have really enjoyed them these last two years,” reports Colleen Marcus, Garnette’s community outreach manager. “A few will go around each day and look for where they might be.” 

With their new-found freedom, Holly and Jingles will be roaming around the community from now ‘till Christmas Eve, making sure everybody is ready for Santa. You can track their adventures on the community’s Facebook page

Holly and Jingles got their invitation from Garnette Gardens Executive Director Natalie Seehausen, whose daughter hosts their friend Elf on a Shelf each year at her house. Will the two elves will be back?

“We do plan to bring them back next year, under less difficult circumstances,” Colleen says. “They show up Friday after Thanksgiving and after Christmas eve they go home to the North Pole.”

The Garnette Gardens community is making spirits bright in 61 one and two-bedroom apartments for seniors. We also offer 16 memory care suites that provide a long-term option for seniors diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. Care Suites round out the options, offering enhanced care for people recovering from surgery or illness.

Generosity and Imagination

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Vista Prairie at Copperleaf in Willmar, MN combined generosity and imagination recently to share an early holiday gift — as “hero bears” surprised special persons in Copperleaf staff members’ lives. Each staff member’s family got one, along with a personal note of gratitude for their loved one’s dedication during more than seven months of care and protection against COVID-19.

“As we protect our most vulnerable citizens against COVID, it can be emotionally draining,” said Copperleaf Executive Director Jennie Marcus. “We are not just caregivers for the residents we serve; we are family, we are a team of superheroes. These hero bears will help us remember this challenging time. We hope these special people: spouses, partners, parents and others will beam with pride that their loved one made a difference to so many seniors. How cool is that?”

The generosity came from The Manhattan Toy Company, which donated 100 stuffed teddy bears. Jennie’s husband is the North American Distribution Center Manager at Manhattan Toy. He worked with the company to orchestrate the donation.

The imagination came from Jennie and Business Office Manager Mackenzie Fragodt, who managed the project to dress each bear in a “hero” T-shirt and a face mask. Mackenzie also put together the letters to each recipient’s “special person.”

A Copperleaf family member reacted this way, “Thank you for giving my daughter Adrienne such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of Copperleaf Senior Living Community. She is certainly happy with her new employment experience and glad she decided to try a new pathway.”

Copperleaf senior living community offers 55 one-and-two-bedroom Assisted Living apartments, 20 Memory Care Suites and seven Care Suites, providing 24-hour continuous senior care.