Award Winners Shine at Fall Convention’s Shining Star and National Quality Awards Luncheon

During WHCA/WiCAL’s 68th Annual Fall Convention last week, providers gathered at for the Shining Star and National Quality Awards Luncheon to honor this year’s deserving winners.

At the beginning of the ceremony, John Vander Meer, WHCA/WiCAL’s President & CEO recognized 2019 AHCA/NCAL National Quality Award winners, who were recently honored at the AHCA/NCAL Annual Convention in Orlando.

Congratulations to the following facilities for receiving the Bronze-Commitment to Quality Award:

  • Court Manor Health Services,
  • Delavan Health Services,
  • Elroy Health Services,
  • Florence Health Services,
  • Green Bay Health Services,
  • Hammond Health Services,
  • Hayward Health Services,
  • Meadow View Health Services,
  • Mercy Health Services,
  • Randolph Health Services,
  • Rib Lake Health Services,
  • Riverview Health Services,
  • Shawano Health Services,
  • Sheboygan Health Services,
  • Sheboygan Progressive Care Center,
  • Francis Health Services,
  • Three Oaks Health Services,
  • Tomahawk Health Services,
  • Twin Ports Health Services,
  • Wausau Manor,
  • and Willowdale Health Services.

In addition to the recipients of the Bronze-Commitment to Quality Award Winners, congratulations to Oakwood Health Services for receiving the Silver-Commitment to Quality Award for their success in demonstrating Commitment, Achievement, and Excellence in the second phase of their quality journey!

This year, WHCA/WiCAL honored the five Shining Star Award winners, including new award category this year, Director of Nursing Shining Star:

  • Volunteer – Don Leist, The Bay at North Ridge, Manitowoc, WI
  • Support Staff – Bridget Geigel, The Bay at North Ridge, Manitowoc, WI
  • Direct Caregiver – Olga Plaetter, Ladysmith Care Communities, Ladysmith, WI
  • Director of Nursing – Brooke Kemnitzer, Edenbrook Platteville, Platteville, WI
  • Administrator – Laurie Edelman, Hammond Health Services, Hammond, WI

Volunteer – Don Leist

Don began volunteering with The Bay at North Ridge 18 years ago after his father, a resident of the facility, passed away. He started volunteering for bowling activities twice a week and from there, he started doing one-on-one visits with residents who were not interested in daily activities. His volunteerism has grown to seven days a week, sometimes twice per day. “Don comes in every day with a smile on his face and a song in his heart, whether it is telling a funny story or joke, whistling a great tune, or reminiscing with our residents. He will even treat residents to a special treat for those who may be lonely or are having a hard week. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful volunteer, who has a heart of gold,” said Susie Schleis, the Activities Assistant of the facility.

Support Staff – Bridget Geigel

Bridget is a Dietary Cook who has been a tremendous asset to the team at The Bay at North Ridge. Bridget has 46 years of dietary experience and has been with North Ridge since 1973. “Bridget always puts her all into everything she makes in the kitchen. Her meals are always made with love and she’s always there to make your day better,” said Vanessa Heck, HR/Business Office Manager. Bridget has always had a passion for the residents from The Bay at North Ridge, often donating colorful napkins and fun sprinkles to brighten up the residents’ holidays and most recently funding the root beer float drive to raise money for the resident council fund.

She always has a positive attitude and sets a great example for the other employees with her contagious smile.

Direct Caregiver – Olga Plaetter

Olga first arrived in the United States five years ago from Russia and shortly thereafter began working at Ladysmith Care Community as a Homemaker, the entry position in the nursing employment ladder. While employed as a Homemaker, she dedicated herself to becoming fluent in English so she could progress in her career.

When she did not pass her first CNA written test, she studied even harder and was determined to reach her goal of becoming a CNA. She retook the written test and passed, becoming a CNA in late 2018. As Ladysmith Care Community Administrator Jenny Abernathy said, “I have said many times that if we could only clone Olga and have 40 more of her, we would be set. She exemplifies residentcentered care every minute of her time spent with our residents.” Now that she has accomplished her goal of becoming a CNA, Olga has now set her sights on the next rung of the ladder, to eventually go to nursing school.

Director of Nursing – Brooke Kemnitzer

Brooke has been the Director of Nursing for Edenbrook Platteville for four years following her tenure as an Assistant Director of Nursing for three years prior. She has consistently proven to be a leader and a team member that leads ethically, humbly, and professionally. Brooke’s leadership is shown through many achievements, including the recent achievement of leading nursing team to a deficiency-free survey. She has the ability to provide education in a way in which staff understand and follow. This education translates to better patient care and a more empowering place to work. “Brooke is our ‘Fearless Leader,’” said Suzy Thomas, Assistant Director of Nursing. “She believes that, we are a big family that must work together and care for one another to accomplish our common goal.”

Administrator/Manager – Laurie Edelman

Laurie has been the Administrator/Executive Director of Hammond Health Services for the past 21 years and, during her tenure, has faced the challenges of her position head on. She is constantly striving to maintain and improve quality services to residents and has led her team through adversities, joys, and accomplishments. She established the “Kindness Karma” program to recognize the staff that consistently go above and beyond for residents and acknowledge the staff who work long hours to provide quality care through consistent motivation, reminding them of their value to the facility, and providing snacks for their extra efforts. As a CNA from the facility said, “Laurie may not feel like a hero every day when things get tough, but she is our hidden hero. Laurie continuously does big or small things that keep employees working and impacting our lives to show us we matter as well as the residents.”


There were many outstanding applicants this year for the Shining Star Awards. WHCA/WiCAL would like to thank all of those people who nominated worthy individuals for this year’s awards. This year, WHCA/WiCAL received a record-setting 91 nominations! Special thanks to North Shore Healthcare, who submitted more than 40 nominations. THANK YOU to all who submitted nominations.

WHCA/WiCAL would also like to thank the Shining Star selection committee for their challenging task of choosing the award winners among so many fantastic nominees. Thank you to Kathy Jokisch from Oakridge Care Center, Caryn Adams from Wipfli, Jenny Abernathy from Ladysmith Care Community, and Laura Holmstrom from North Shore Health Care for your help.

Congratulations again to this year’s winners. Winners and nominees embody the commitment to care that long-term care professionals across Wisconsin provide 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Congratulations, and thank you for all you do.