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About Us

Our Team

Activity Connection was founded in 1999 as an online community and resource for activity professionals. Over the years we have evolved into the website that you see today. We are headquartered in Portland, Oregon and our founders, partners, staff and freelance contributors are located throughout the country. Here are just some of the biographies of the great people that help make Activity Connection the amazing resource it is today.

 

Bob and Nancy Ewald

Nancy has a BS degree in Medical Technology and a MS degree in Allied Health Education. As a microbiology and hematology instructor, her early "activities" involved working with test tubes, pipettes and Bunsen burners. While taking some time off to raise her three children, she discovered her interest in helping seniors. When Nancy returned to the work force, she did so as an assistant activity director for a full-service community. She became the activity director a year later. In 1999, she accepted the position of National Director of Lifestyle Enrichment with Marriott Senior Living. When Marriott exited the senior care market two years later, Nancy devoted herself to developing Activity Connection, an online resource for Activity Professionals. Bob’s background is in Finance. He left the corporate world in 2005 to help Nancy with Activity Connection.

 

Lynne and Jeff Grip

Lynne is a registered nurse with a long (we won't say how long) and varied career in a number of diverse settings from emergency room and oncology nursing to hospice care and quality improvement/risk management in long-term-care and pharmacy settings. She has had the good fortune to care for and work with may wonderful and inspiring people along the way. She believes that, even though health care is a serious business, large doses of creativity and humor help provide balance and support to those who serve in the field. Lynne has been working with Activity Connection since its beginning and is now the site's Creative Director.

Lynne and her husband Jeff (an organizational psychologist and periodic contributor to Activity Connection) live outside of Baltimore, Maryland, with their blended family of five children and ever-growing number of grandchildren (nine and counting). As volunteers for the local pet rescue organization, Lynne and Jeff have a hard time saying "no," and the number of dogs and cats they've adopted keep growing as well.

 

Julie Allen

Originally from Battle Creek, Michigan, Julie has worked in the field of activities for about 15 years all combined. She is a certified activity director and has worked almost every angle from developmentally disabled to Sub-Acute and everything in between. Julie was the Director of Activities at the former John Douglas French Center in Los Alamitos, California for 4 years. It was the first of it's kind exclusively for Alzheimer's residents, in the country. Since it's closure in 2005 she has been the Director of Activities at Bel Vista Convalescent Hospital in Long Beach, California (a beautiful, privately owned, warm and intimate facility) and has been there for 2 1/2 years.

Julie has dabbled in many different occupations from stand up comedy to selling cemetery plots. She finally found her calling when she began working in the field of activities. An admitted ham with a love of big band music and old TV shows makes it a perfect fit. Julie lives with her husband Brent, their 2 dogs, Lucy and Shadow and their four birds, Hobart, Beaky, Benny Blue Butt and RJ, in Long Beach, California. Julie credits her knack for activities to the residents. When you listen to their interests and base your activities on what you hear, you can't go wrong.

 

Cyndi Bellerose

According to Cyndi, art makes her world go round. She's married to a fellow artist, is the mother of three amazing children, a stepdaughter, and a misfit cat she rescued off the street. She hopes to rescue a dog in the near future to make her family complete. It's in her nature to serve those in need and believes that giving her time and talent back to the community makes the world a better place.

With a BFA from the Columbus College of Art & Design, Cyndi founded Studio 49, her freelance design and illustration business. When she isn't working on her commercial art, you can find her creating and exhibiting her fine art, repurposing "junk" into functional items, whipping up healthy meals, and calculating the nutritional facts for her current "Clean Eats" cookbook project, meditating, doing yoga, working out, and doing cartwheels whenever possible. Cyndi is an active member of Mother Artists at Work (MAW) and volunteers as often as possible to assist in promoting and funding the arts, local schools, and charities.

 

Ted Boretti

Ted Boretti has a MA in Education and has taught English language and literature in high school for the past six years. He grew up in Boston, persevered through four years of all-boys Catholic high school, attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, worked in book publishing and as a Park Ranger in New York City, moved to Seattle to be closer to the mountains, became a teacher, got married, adopted a dog, bought a house, sold the house, left Seattle to move to Washington, DC, bought another house, became a stay-at-home dad, and now loves writing for Activity Connection. Whew!

 

Sharon Dorsey

Sharon Dorsey is a fine artist and avid crafter from Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing content for ActivityConnection.com she works as an art facilitator at Open Door Art Studio (opendoorartstudio.org), one of the country's premier studios for adults with physical and developmental disabilities. In her free time, she paints and sculpts and has been lucky enough to show her work in galleries across the country and to have pieces in collections worldwide.

 

Educational Slides for Older Adults – esoa.ca

In photo from left to right - Jamie Miller is a certified Recreation Facilitator in a Personal Care Home (PCH) and has been working with seniors since 2011. She began her recreation career working with Karen Hart as a student where she was introduced to developing PowerPoint presentations. Jamie has been hooked ever since, realizing a creative side she did not know she had. Jamie graduated from the Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults course at Red River College. Her passion is working with seniors, enhancing their lives through Therapeutic Recreation. Jamie started in this field because she loves working with people and to give something back, but has found she gets so much more from the residents. Her background is in Office Administration where she had a long career in Career Management, assisting people through their career transition. Jamie has a blended family and enjoys time spent with family and friends, especially her grandchildren.

Amber Guy has been helping create PowerPoint presentations for Older Adults since April 2011 and enjoys designing and learning as she creates them.Amber has graduated from Red River College with her ECE ll (Early Childhood Education level 2) and has been working full time in this field for 11 years. She finds it very rewarding being able to provide a nurturing and safe environment for the children. She plans and provides activities based on the children's interests and adapts them to fit their individual needs. "Always take advantage of teachable moments!" In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her friends and family; whether it's doing some sort of outdoor activity, bowling, watching movies or just hanging out.

Karen Hart has been making PowerPoint presentations to go with AC scripts since January 2010. She works full-time in an adult day program and states, "It is nice to know that the work you do makes a difference." How many people can say, "I get paid to make people happy and enhance their lives?" It is very rewarding. Graduating from Red River College with her Recreation Facilitator for Older Adults course and Therapeutic Fitness Leader Certificate allows her to be creative and be fit at the same time. She has been married for 28 years, has four adult children and her first grandbaby on the way.

 

Joan Etter

Joan is a graduate of Columbus College of Art and Design, where she majored in illustration and advertising. She started her full-time design career with Hamilton Design and Associates in Columbus and later established her own design studio called ArtEffects. She shared offices in the Short North with her husband, freelance photographer Tom Etter. After 10 years, she accepted a job with her largest client (Highlights for Children, Inc.) as a Creative Manager, working with and directing many outside artists. Joan is freelancing again and works on newsletters and Alzheimer's materials for Activity Connection.

Joan has two wonderful grandchildren who live very close to her and a delightful new one who lives near Denver, not close enough.

 

Carrie Fairchild

Since a young age, Carrie has been interested in helping others. At age 13 she started volunteering as an assistant for Camp Hope, a camp on the Oregon Coast for adults with developmental disabilities. For seven years, starting at the age of 17, she served as dean of Camp Hope and has been counseling ever since. Carrie has enjoyed working for a variety of non-profits, and most recently she was a Resource Development Director for a residential organization serving adults with developmental disabilities. But being an Activity Director for an assisted living facility has been one of her most challenging and rewarding positions. "There is nothing more special than being able to make a difference in someone's life by sharing your talent and love." Besides writing and singing for Activity Connection, Carrie also enjoys writing grants for a non-profit in her area.

Carrie has a passion for music and has been singing since she can remember. Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Keely Smith are just a few of her favorite vocalists. She currently sings for the local funeral home. Carrie loves being a stay-at-home mommy and wife. Her spunky toddler, Lydia Sue, keeps her very busy and enjoys "helping" mommy practice singing by joining in. Some of Carrie's hobbies include gardening, cooking, and genealogical research.

 

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is our graphic designer as well as illustrator designing everything from the bingo cards and birthday set, to the calendars and clip art. Starting off studying nursing, she quickly realized she needed something more creative to hold her attention and changed to a degree in Visual Communication from Otterbein College. She worked doing freelance work for several years focusing on logos and business identities before working with Activity Connection. With her strong computer skills and extensive knowledge in design and illustration, she brings creativity and energy to her work. Along with being a designer, she is a wife and mother of a beautiful little girl and draws inspiration and imagination from her family.

 

Dawn Hotchkin

Raised by a mother who was a nurse for thirty years and a father who taught school for thirty-eight years, it is not surprising that Dawn has devoted her life to helping others.

After earning a BA degree in Psychology from Rutgers University in 1992, Dawn accepted an activities position in the facility where her mother worked. Although it was only to be a temporary job until she found her "real" career, Dawn quickly realized that it was a perfect fit. From the very first day, Dawn embraced the concept of matching activities to the individual residents. As Director of Health Care Activities at Springpoint Senior Living at Meadow Lakes, Dawn has spent the past twenty years doing just that. Certified as both an Activity Director (ADC) and Dementia Practitioner (CDP,) her inspiration for creating programs has always been the residents' interests. Indeed, Dawn's love and respect for the people in her care has served to develop a strong bond with each of them. Universally well-liked by both residents and their family members, Dawn's department consistently receives praise for the challenging and meaningful activity programs which keep residents interested and engaged. Her passion for the elderly population and her unique gift for knowing what each person needs has earned her the Frances Black Humanitarian Award.

When Dawn began writing for Activity Connection last year, the residents at Meadow Lakes were thrilled since they had encouraged Dawn to showcase the many activities which they enjoyed through the years.

 

Yits Jimenez

Yits Jimenez has a BA in Communication and a Teaching degree on ESL/EFL. Her educational backgrounds have given her the opportunity of working in many different areas: as an advertising executive, marketing director, freelance copywriter, English teacher...

She took a sabbatical year off her advertising job in order to work as a Spanish teacher at a French High School located 40 kilometers away from Paris, and to benefit from this overseas experience. In January 2007, when she went back to her Mexican hometown, Guadalajara, she started her own business - a translating company offering a wide variety of services that are explained in her website: www.ytraducciones.com

Nowadays she's a part time college professor teaching about marketing and advertising, in the Mexican Colonial city of Guanajuato where she lives with her husband Francisco, a mathematician who applies his knowledge to computer programming innovation.

 

Susie Karya

Susie likes to say, "My hands are full, but so is my heart!" Her most fulfilling job in the world is being a mother (and homework helper and chauffeur and cook and housekeeper and laundress and...) to three silly and very busy boys. She enjoys traveling with her husband and kids; in fact, they just spent two years living on the Indonesian island of Bali absorbing its lush beauty and healthful energy. While the whole family is happy to be living in Ohio again, there are now many more places in the world that they all hope to visit together someday.

Whether traveling or not, Susie works on a full-time basis as a jack-of-all-trades in the publishing field for a variety of clients. (Activity Connection is definitely a favorite!) While she does quite a bit of writing and editing, this grammar nerd really loves proofreading the most. Her perfect business lunch discussion would be debating the use of the serial comma or instructing someone about when (or when not) to use a reflexive pronoun.

 

Lisa Krall

Lisa began her activity career in high school volunteering for her mom, an activity director in a skilled care facility. While attending college, she became an assistant activity director and spent nine years enjoying that position. Over the next 21 years, she and her husband built a dome home, developed their ten acres, and homeschooled their son through high school.

Recently, Lisa spent over three and a half wonderful years as the activity director for a premier assisted living facility and attached memory care unit, developing programming, mentoring new employees, and facilitating a family support system. She is continuing to connect with her favorite people by volunteering in facility activities, including MiniVisits (www.minivisits.com), miniature therapy horses with a special ministry of love. Rascal is her main man!

Interests in family research, DAR, travel, history, antiques, reading, gardening, and listening to family stories have all dovetailed with a love of writing to fuel a new direction with Activity Connection. With a passion for long-term care and dementia issues, Lisa's goal is to support activity directors in their quest to provide superior programming for their communities. Activity directors are the hearts of their homes, professionals who deserve the best we have to offer.

 

Jessica Melfi

Jessica lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two young children, Isabella and Niccolo. She holds a B.A. in English from Marietta (Ohio) College and an M.A. in English from Clemson University. Jessica has spent the majority of her publishing career editing textbooks for educational publishers SRA/McGraw-Hill and, most recently, Zaner-Bloser, Inc. The Activity Connection came into her life serendipitously when she was asked to recommend someone to help with the site's proofreading. She decided to pursue the opportunity herself and is so grateful she did! Her position on the AC team allows her to work from home and spend more time with her children during these tender years. In addition to editing, Jessica enjoys teaching writing courses at a local university, exploring the Buckeye state, and cheering for her Cleveland Indians.

 

MJ Plaster

MJ Plaster has been a professional writer for longer than she likes to admit with newspaper, magazine, anthology, corporate, and agency writing to her credit. She also served as managing editor for several association and special publications. During the dot com era, she specialized in technical writing, instructional design and training as well as functioning as a managing partner in a conference company.

Today, she concentrates on lifestyle topics such as the culinary arts, travel, and horticulture—the things that add the spice to life—as well as career advancement, privacy issues, and personal finance. After serving as a caregiver to her grandmother and parents, she has a particular interest in writing for seniors, and she blogs for seniors and caretakers on the Philips Lifeline blog. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, she was a member of the all-volunteer Civilian Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF), and today she blogs on the Home Depot veterans' blog.

When she's not writing, it's a good bet that you'll find her in the garden or the kitchen. A native Nashvillian, MJ spent more than two decades traveling throughout Europe and North Africa and considers herself a citizen of the world. As a flood survivor, she has co-authored Waves of Change, the story of Tennessee's 1000-Year Flood from the perspective of a survivor, a rescue professional, and a family grief counselor.

 

Mary Anne White

Mary Anne loves reading poetry and stories almost as much as she enjoys creating them.  She paid for her Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy degree by working as a proofreader and assistant production coordinator of Weekly Reader magazines and by proofreading legal case summaries. She is also an experienced textbook editor with an eclectic work history, highlighted with jobs ranging from substitute teacher to masseuse and nurse's aide to in-home caregiver. She volunteered for five years with a hospice and is a speaker on the impact of crime at juvenile correction facilities.

Mary Anne enjoys traveling, learning, acting, and writing for Activity Connection and her own website, creativewritingforyou.com.  When she's not busy with all of this, she enjoys the company of her friends and laughing at the antics of her dogs (Nazareth and Galilee) and her cats (Tangerine and Jesse).

 

Jessica Trumbull

Jessica is a freelance writer and editor living in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Denison University in 2010 with a BA in English/Creative Writing and German. After a few years of writing in a more journalistic style for various newspapers, Jessica sees her role with Activity Connection as a breath of fresh air; it allows her the opportunity to work from home and the time to concentrate on her own creative writing as well. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, playing music, baking, blogging, running, and gardening.