Our Team

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bill_and_judeIn the early 1990’s, Dr. Bill Thomas and Jude Thomas co-created The Eden Alternative®.  Between 1991 and 2002, they alone drove the consultation and education of a corps of Eden Associates that has grown to over 30,000 in number across the globe and whose influence now reaches across the entire continuum of care.

Known to thousands as the heart and soul of the Eden Alternative movement, Jude Thomas continues to offer guidance in aligning the organization’s activities with its core mission and vision. As a founding member of the Board of Directors, she participates in international speaking, networking, and educational events for The Eden Alternative, touching people committed to transforming care all over the world.

Dr. Bill Thomas, MD, the visionary spirit behind The Eden Alternative, is an international authority on geriatric medicine and Eldercare, a renowned speaker, and an award-winning author. Dr. Thomas continues to help shape and inspire the focus, direction, and application of the Eden Alternative’s Ten Principle Philosophy.

Board of Directors

Chris Cheek, Board Chair
President and COO of SentryCare, Inc., Mississippi

Chris is  a founder of SentryCare, Inc., and has served as President and Chief Operating Officer since its inception in 1993.  A graduate of Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree, with a minor in Psychology, in 1985 and a Master of Business Administration degree in 1988.  Chris was employed by a regional management company for four years as Corporate Administrator for various skilled nursing facilities and assisted living facilities in Alabama, Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas.  In his career, he has directly operated twelve licensed facilities in four states and has been a licensed Nursing Home Administrator in the State of Mississippi since 1991. As President of SentryCare, Chris has overseen the research, design, development and construction of the company’s four long term care properties in Mississippi.  He has developed a successful model of operation based on the principles of the Eden Alternative and continues to manage the implementation of the Eden philosophy in all of the company homes.  Chris also serves as an Eden Educator and an Eden Mentor.  He is President and a founder of GROW Mississippi, a not for profit organization which supports the principles of culture change in long term care in Mississippi.  He has given talks to various groups on the importance of culture change in modern nursing homes. Chris has served on boards and committees within the long term care industry, the local community and educational institutions.


Sally Hopkins, MBA, Board Vice Chair
Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for The Eden Alternative in Australia and New Zealand, Camberswell, Victoria, Australia

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Sally Hopkins

In September 2009, Sally Hopkins joined The Eden Alternative in Australia and New Zealand as the Business Development Manager. She is also the Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for Eden in Oz & NZ, Oceania and now South East Asia. She is responsible for growing knowledge of The Eden Alternative as the preferred philosophy of support and care in residential and community care environments. Sally has more than 30 years extensive operational and business development experience within Aged Care.

In her current role, she promotes and supports an understanding of The Eden Alternative through training, conference presentations and trade exhibitions. She mentors new and existing Eden Registry Members to operationalize their understanding and knowledge of The Eden Alternative into their business. Many of the homes and individuals associated with the Eden Alternative in Australia and New Zealand are award winners.  Sally herself was the recipient of the Nancy Fox Leadership Award in 2018.

She is interested in creating networks with Eden Registry Members to connect them with other members around the world. As an Eden Educator, she has a comprehensive understanding of the challenges individuals and organizations face when they first start and continue their culture change journey. She is also involved in developing region specific curricula that supports culture change through The Eden Alternative. The first Eden Alternative training was held in Singapore in 2017 which is a milestone for this new Region.

Sally resides in Camberwell, Victoria (Australia) and is married to her husband Alan

Thomas Zwicker, Board Treasurer
NHA, Co-Founder of AgeSpeaks, Wisconsin

For years, Tom Zwicker has labored to deliver excellent medical treatment within a community that supports quality of life for everyone — families, residents and staff.  As a young man, Tom Zwicker was influenced by his mother to become a certified nursing assistant and since 1977, as a nursing home administrator.   Later in his career, Tom was once again impacted by his parents when they came to live in his nursing home.  According to Tom, “Caring for my parents was the most important thing I ever did.  It caused me to own my profession and embrace the idea of transformation – reimagining the way we care for old people.”  His story was captured in Provider Magazine, http://goo.gl/blB6rl  In 1997 Tom joined the Eden Alternative as an associate and mentor and operated the first Eden Alternative home in WI and one of the first in the country.

During his career Tom has held many positions:  owner/operator of a 250-bed health and rehabilitation center; Vice President of Operations for 17 skilled nursing facilities in northern California; President of the Wisconsin Health Care Association; President of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Health Care Association; Co-Founder of Age Speaks Company™; board member positions for profit and non-profit organizations.  Zwicker has presented at conferences throughout the United States, including the Pioneer Network and Eden Alternative International Conference.  Tom is an Eden Alternative Mentor.  He holds nursing home licenses in Wisconsin, Texas and Washington.

Cheryl George, MSc
SubstandardFullSizeRender (2)Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for Western Canada
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Cheryl is the International Regional Coordinator for Western Canada and has been teaching, mentoring and supporting the growth of The Eden Alternative with Suellen Beatty since 1999.  She also served as Education Leader at Sherbrooke Community Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada for over 28 years. In this role she supported the adoption and implementation of the Eden Alternative Philosophy. Sherbrooke has been an Eden Registry Member since January 1999 and received the Eden Alternative Master Gardener Award in 2010. Sherbrooke is regarded as a Centre of Excellence internationally, and Cheryl has helped to host visitors from around the world as they come for a tour or a learning experience at the Sherbrooke Learning Centre. Cheryl continues to serve on the Advisory Committee for iGen, a grade 6 class located at Sherbrooke Community Centre. This intergenerational class provides close and continuing contact between Elders in long term care and school aged children over the period of one school year. Cheryl is passionate about quality of life for all care partners and loves to share what she has learned with others. She has presented across Canada and the U.S.A. as well as Australia, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Cheryl lives in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and is the proud mother of son Davis.

Karin Dahl, RN
Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for Denmark, Lyborg, Denmark

Karin Dahl first learned about The Eden Alternative in 2004. She became inspired by this fantastic way to inspire tired and pressed organizations to find new ways to create a life worth living for residents, families and staff. A nurse for 23 years, she and her colleague Aase Porsmose supported the first 4 years of Eden Alternative education in Denmark. From 2007-2009, they served as project leaders in a grant project involving 26 nursing homes. The project’s success revealed the value of the Eden Alternative Philosophy in Denmark, as well as the need for a national anchor to support organizations on their Eden Alternative journey.  As a Regional Coordinator, Karin focuses on dialogue and cooperation on the basis of leadership, as well as stakeholder involvement to heighten the experience of everyone’s well-being. Over the last decade, Denmark’s focus has been on evidence-based knowledge regarding the physical side of care. Thus, infusing a value-based philosophy into eldercare practices is a complex process.Together, she and Aase cooperate with other International Regional Coordinators to share experiences and challenges, try to support each other as needed, and help drive the philosophy more deeply into eldercare practices in each country. Karin has a Masters in Rehabilitation, is a Registered Nurse, and became a Dementia-coordinator 1993. Her professional roles have included traditional nursing, work-environment and patient security, administration, teaching and coordination of the cross professional services for people living with dementia and their families. Karin lives with her husband Michael in Denmark, enjoys music and culture, walking in nature, and time with friends and family, including their 3 grown children.

Mitch Opalski
Franchise Owner, Synergy HomeCare, Virginia

A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Mitchell Opalski graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 1986 with a degree in Accounting.  He worked in the D.C. office of Deloitte & Touche for 8 years. Mitch left public accounting to take a position with the Finance Department of the D.C. BlueCross BlueShield Plan.  There, in addition to his accounting and finance duties, he worked part-time with the CEO monitoring and reporting on the operating results of the company.  He was appointed to the management team that that effected the merger of the Maryland and D.C. BlueCross BlueShield Plans (renamed CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield).  After 6 years with CareFirst, Mitch accepted the position of Director of Finance with the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC).  He was promoted to VP Finance in 2002.  In 2004 he was promoted again to Chief Operating Officer. In September 2007, Mitch became a non-medical home care provider when he opened the first Synergy HomeCare franchise office in Virginia.  He is now busy growing the company and contributing back to the community that he has lived in his entire adult life.  His franchise in Northern Virginia has grown to be the second largest in the Synergy HomeCare family of over 150 offices nationwide.

Mitch has assumed various leadership positions in local civic and community organizations, including Douglas Park Civic Association (VP); Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia (President, committee chairman and board member); Notre Dame Alumni Club of D.C. (Treasurer, VP, President, board member); Columbia Pike Community Emergency Response Team (Team Leader); Senior Services of Alexandria (board member); Alliance for the Physically Disabled (Treasurer); Arlington Steering Committee for Services to Older Persons, Arlington Commission on Aging (Chairman); Alexandria Long Term Care Coordinating Committee, Alexandria Commission on Aging; Mount Vernon at Home (Advisory Board Member).

Angie McAllister
Director of Cultural Transformation, Signature Healthcare, Kentucky

Angie has worked in long term care since 1995 when she entered the industry as a nursing assistant. During the past 22 years she has worked in many roles including that of an Activities Professional and most currently as Director of Cultural Transformation in the Hometown Segment of Signature HealthCare. Over the past five years, Angie has led a team who has assisted 40 Signature HealthCare communities to be placed on the Eden Alternative Registry. Through that process, her team has provide Eden Associate education for almost 2,000 individuals within the organization who form a powerful army to create and sustain change on a daily basis. Angie also serves as an Eden Educator and an Eden Mentor. She has served on the Tennessee Eden Alternative Coalition Board for the past three years as board member to assist with advancing culture change throughout the state of TN. Angie has recently published a five year study demonstrating how the Eden Alternative Principles can impact of person directed care on the lives of elders living in her communities. Angie McAllister & Signature Healthcare were the 2018 recipients of the Eden Champion Award.

Peter Reed, PhD, MPH
Director, Sanford Center for Aging, Nevada

Dr. Peter Reed serves as Director of the Sanford Center for Aging and Professor of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a statewide aging center that is part of the UNR Division of Health Sciences, the Sanford Center’s mission is to enhance quality of life and well-being among elders through translational research, education and community outreach. Dr. Reed brings to the Center a commitment to service and collaboration, built upon 20 years of experience in the field of aging that bridges research, practice, policy, and organizational leadership. Dr. Reed received both a PhD and MPH in Health Behavior and Health Education from the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a National Institute on Aging Pre-Doctoral Fellow in the Carolina Program on Healthcare and Aging Research. He is also a Phi Beta Kappa-graduate of the University of Kentucky, receiving a Bachelor of Science in Sociology. Previous appointments include serving as CEO of Pioneer Network, President and CEO of the Center for Health Improvement, and as Senior Director of Programs for the Alzheimer’s Association National Office. He is active with numerous boards and commissions, currently serving on the Governing Board of Consumer Voice, the Board of Directors for the Alzheimer’s Association of Northern California and Northern Nevada, the Board of Directors for Nevada POLST, as the Chair of the American Society on Aging Mental Health and Aging Leadership Council, and as Vice-Chair of the Nevada Task Force on Alzheimer’s disease.

Deke Cateau
Chief Executive Officer, A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab, Georgia

Deke Cateau is the Chief Executive Officer at A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab, a nonprofit organization providing therapy and rehabilitation services, short-term recovery and long-term care at three metro Atlanta locations. Deke has worked in the long-term care industry for more than 15 years. Prior to becoming the CEO, he served in various roles at A.G. Rhodes including the Chief Operating Officer, Chief of Strategic Implementation, and he was the Administrator for seven years at the organization’s flagship location in Grant Park.

In 2013 and 2014, Deke won the American College of Health Care Administrators Facility Leadership Award, and he won the Georgia Health Care Association’s Leadership Excellence Award in 2015. In addition to being a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator, Deke is certified by the National Council of Certified Dementia Practitioners as a Certified Dementia Practitioner and a Certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Care Dementia Trainer. He is also a Certified Eden Educator and Certified Eden Neighborhood Guide, and a Certified Virtual Dementia Tour Facilitator for nursing homes.

Home Office

Patrick Bultema, President & CEO

Patrick Bultema has served as CEO, Founder, and Executive Chairman of numerous companies, acted as an advisor to multiple venture-backed startups, and supported various social entrepreneurial initiatives. Throughout his career, one common theme rings clear – leveraging innovation to bring about dramatic, positive change.  Raised in a close-knit community where elders played an important role in the lives of their neighbors, Patrick has lived the values that drive the mission of The Eden Alternative. Deeply shaped by this experience, he is committed to expanding the reach and impact of our vital message.  Patrick has an MDiv from Princeton and is husband to Lily and the father of their seven children, including three adopted daughters from China. Connect with him at pbultema@edenalt.org.


Kathy Hagen, Head of Business Operations

Kathy Hagen, MBA, joined The Eden Alternative® as Operations Manager in January 2011 and became the  Project Administrator in 2015. In March 2021, Kathy became the Head of Business Operations, responsible for working with the team to focus on objectives and key results that drive the organization forward.  Kathy lives in the Rochester, NY area and enjoys power yoga, meditation, sailing, connecting with friends and family, and spending time with her partner, Tom, their Golden Doodles, Tucker & Skylar, and kitty, Amber.  Connect with her at khagen@edenalt.org.



Meredith Martin, Education Coordinator

After being active in The Eden Alternative® since 2003 as a leader in a Registry Member Organization, Meredith Burrus joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in 2009. As Education Coordinator, Meredith manages the organization of all educational marketing and fulfillment needs, coordination of educational host sites, the growth and development of Eden Educators, building new and nurturing established relationships with collaborative organizations, and networking with the Eldercare community to discover potential partnerships for educational events.  She lives in Murfreesboro, TN and is active in her community, participating in the Tennessee Advancing Excellence Coalition and is a board member for the Tennessee Eden Alternative Coalition. She enjoys gardening, spending time with friends and family, and listening to live music in Nashville.  Connect with Meredith at mmartin@edenalt.org.

Laura Beck, Learning & Development Guide

Laura Beck, MPAff, joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in 2003 as the developer of Eden at Home. Today, as Learning and Development Guide, she coordinates management of the Eden Alternative brand and packaging of the organization’s message in educational and promotional content. Laura also supports design of new and existing Eden Alternative curricula and educational products, coordinates and facilitates the Eden Alternative’s webinar-based education, develops grant proposals and manages grant projects, and serves as a public speaker and an educator of designated educational offerings. She lives in Ithaca, NY and loves being a mother to her amazing teenage son, Ethan, enjoys dance and expressive movement, hiking and the outdoors, a good film, and chocolate.  Connect with Laura at lbeck@edenalt.org.


Denise Hyde, Community Builder

Denise Hyde, Pharm.D., RP, has been involved in the implementation of The Eden Alternative® since 1997, both within a state veteran’s home and as an Eden Alternative Regional Coordinator for seven states. Currently, as Community Builder, Denise guides and supports organizations that belong to the Eden Registry. Her responsibilities include facilitating conference calls, adding membership benefits to the Registry, updating web site resources for Registry Members, developing new educational tools and materials, creating networking opportunities and inviting new organizations to join to the Registry. She also participates in the Nebraska Culture Change Coalition, does speaking engagements and participates in national culture change projects. Denise lives in Omaha, NE and enjoys spending time with her family and especially her grandson, quilting, ringing in the church bell choir, attending wine club meetings, and reading a good romance novel!  Connect with her at dhyde@edenalt.org.

Kris Angevine, Eden Registry Liaison

Kristine Angevine joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in November of 2018. As Eden Registry Liaison, she works closely with Denise Hyde, Community Builder, to guide and support Registry Members. Kris facilitates conference calls, supports the Eden Mentors, assists in adding membership benefits to the Registry, develops networking opportunities and invites new organizations to join the Eden Registry. Formerly from St. Johns Home and Jewish Senior Life in Rochester, NY, Kris brings with her in-depth knowledge of creating small homes within organizations, the focus being empowered work teams and person-directed care. Kris has strong roots in the food and dining industry and applies this knowledge to what the dining experience looks like in the culture change world. She was the Guide for the Penfield Green House Homes for the first 5 years of operations and a Guide/Operations Manager for various neighborhoods within a long-term care organization. Kris is also an Eden Alternative Educator and Neighborhood Guide Educator who has had the pleasure of teaching over a thousand culture change agents. She brings with her a knack for taking words and ideas and turning them into actions and reality.
Kris loves throwing bowls in her pottery class and can often be found with a good book or a reality TV show. Spending time with her husband, Chris, and their four-legged family, Kelli Jean, Loki, Gigi, & Minerva is near and dear to her heart.  Connect with her at kangevine@edenalt.org.

Sue Gerould, Operations Manager

Sue Gerould is Operations Manager for The Eden Alternative. Sue collaborates with every member of the Home Office Team and provides executive level support to the President and CEO, Jill Vitale-Aussem. Sue  lives in the Rochester, NY area and loves being with her children, Michael and Mackenzie, her grandson, Karter, and their dog, Toby, the world’s best lap dog.  Her simple pleasures are being outside in her gardens, quilting, baking, DIY house projects, and spending time with family and friends.  Connect with Sue at sgerould@edenalt.org.


Kimberly Wood, Education Support

Kimberly joined The Eden Alternative in March of 2019 to provide support for our educational events and grant projects. She lives in Murfreesboro, TN with her husband, Jeffrey, and two daughters, Morgan and Annsley, and their dog Charlie. She enjoys spending her down time listening to all genres of music, singing with her girls, playing piano, reading a great book, going on weekly dates with her husband, visiting with family and friends, hosting dinner parties and vacationing anywhere there is a beach or a pool.  Connect with Kimberly at kwood@edenalt.org.


Danna Pentes, Communications Associate

Danna Pentes joined the Eden Alternative Home Office Team in September 2019 as Communications Associate. She works closely with Laura Beck creating educational and promotional content using video, audio, graphic design, and motion graphics.

Danna earned her audio chops playing bass for the ground breaking alternative pop band Fetchin Bones, and as an audio engineer for NPR in Washington DC, and Turner Studios in Atlanta, GA. Since 2014, she has worked as an independent professional in multiple design areas.

Danna lives in Decatur, GA and loves dog walks and recumbent trike rides on the beltline.  Connect with her at dpentes@edenalt.org