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Our Directors

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Marcia Jarrell

Marcia Jarrell, President

Marcia is the executive director and co-owner of SarahCare at Lake Boone Trail, Adult Day Care Center. She opened the center in May 2008. She received her bachelor's degree from Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY in 1993 with a major in health care administration and a minor in Gerontology and began her career in 1985 as a Radiological Technologist and later entered the business profession as a sales and marketing representative for a variety of healthcare companies. During her years calling on nursing homes and hospitals, she realized her true passion was working with the senior population. She was determined to work in eldercare and wanted to be in a position to make a difference in the quality of life for those in need of care. She returned to college to complete her degree and then became a licensed nursing home administrator. Marcia spent 16 years working in the nursing home profession before opening the first SarahCare adult day care center franchise in North Carolina.

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Lauren Watral

Lauren Watral, Secretary

Lauren graduated from Duke University with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in 1981 and earned her Masters in Social Work (MSW) in 1985 from the University of South Carolina. While beginning her professional career in social work in 1986, Lauren progressed into various positions encompassing mental health, substance abuse counseling, and older adult care programming. She joined a geriatric care management company in 2003 and was instrumental in the design of services, training of care managers, and client management. She is the founder of Raleigh Geriatric Care Management. With compassion and confidence, she works directly for the family, giving the individual attention that each family and elder family member deserves to insure effective and specific care planning and is a member of the National Association of Geriatric Care Managers. Lauren lives in Raleigh with her husband, Robert and has three children, Jillian Rose, Jayme and Jenna.

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Ron Heath

Ron Heath, Treasurer

Ron has been working with seniors in North Carolina since 2007 as a Reverse Mortgage Consultant for Towne Bank Mortgage. It was a desire to work with seniors that proved to be the motivating factor in his decision to move from the service industry to the senior financial industry. His desire to assist seniors as they age has led him to begin serving on the Board of Directors for Guiding Lights, in the capacity of Treasurer. He also serves as an Ambassador on the Health Affairs Round Table Board of Directors. Ron is a native of North Carolina, and has lived in Wake County for over 40 years. His other joys include volunteering for the Wake County Senior Games and spending time with Becky, his wife of 25 years.

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Heather Altman

Heather Altman

Heather has worked with Carol Woods Retirement Community since 2003 and is the Project Director of Community Connections for Seniors, a 3-year grant funded by The Duke Endowment to implement initiatives at both the state and local levels, addressing service delivery, workforce development and policy and planning issues related to aging services. Prior to this role, Heather was the Director of Well-Being, ensuring opportunities that speak to the mind, body and spirit. Prior to joining Carol Woods, she served as Project Director for the Center for the Advancement of Health, a Washington, DC-based policy organization; Director of Research for Howe-Lewis International, a healthcare executive search firm; and Executive Assistant to the President at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Heather received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Brandeis University and her Master of Public Health degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Jackie Bedard

Jackie Bedard

Jackie Bedard's estate planning and elder law attorney and founder of Carolina Family Estate Planning, a practice focused on guiding clients through the complicated, often confusing, maze of balancing family protection, wealth preservation, and cherished family values in the planning process. Jackie is a member of the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and the Medicaid Planning Network. Jackie earned her Bachelor's of Science degree in Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and graduated law school magna cum laude at the University of Richmond School of Law. Jackie resides in Cary with her husband, Dan, and their two dogs, Kylie and Nelly.

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Alison Brown

Alison Brown

Alison Brown works for Rex Healthcare on marketing initiatives for oncology and surgical services. Alison is a Pennsylvania native and a graduate of West Virginia University. She has lived and worked in Raleigh for the past six years in both nonprofit and health related organizations. She has a background in development, marketing and public relations along with nonprofit experience. She has worked in different aspects of healthcare. She has also worked closely with Rehabilitation and Nursing Care Centers, Home Services, inpatient rehabilitation and other services within the hospital in the same capacity. She is very passionate about the mission of Guiding Lights NC. Her experience watching her mother take care of her mother for four years and then take care of her mother-in-law again less than two years later after she, too, was diagnosed with cancer. She wishes that she could have had the physical and emotional support from and organization like Guiding Lights.

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Franklin Farmer

Franklin Farmer

Franklin has been with the UNC Health Care System since 2001 and is the Assistant Director for the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Center for Aging and Health. He received a Bachelor of Science in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Masters in Business Administration from Elon University. He began his career in the UNC hospital labs and held positions in the Quality Department before managing five of the health care system's hospital based clinics, one of which was the Geriatric Specialty Clinic.

As Assistant Director, Franklin has a diverse range of responsibilities that ensure both the Division and Center meet and expand their clinical, education and research goals. In addition to his Assistant Directorship, Franklin teaches a required course in the Health Policy and Management program at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

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Cynthia Freed

Cynthia Freed

Cyndi Freed is the Area Business Development Director for Brookdale Senior Living. She grew up in the Cleveland, Ohio area and attended Kent State University. She and her husband of 33 years have 3 children and one grandson. They moved from Chicago to Raleigh in 1982. As a fulltime mom, Cyndi was actively involved in volunteer programs through her church, children's school, Meals on Wheels, Scouts and many fundraisers. She taught prekindergarten from 1985-2004 and became involved with Project Enlightenment, a wonderful learning resource for parents.

Cyndi's passion for connecting people with the resources they need led her to the senior industry. In 2007 Brookdale Senior Living acquired The Carolina House of Wake Forest and recruited Cyndi for the Sales and Marketing position. Meeting families and professionals that were striving to respect the lifestyle and care of seniors was a wonderful experience. Cyndi successfully partnered with people and businesses in Wake Forest and the Carolina House of Wake Forest thrived. Cyndi was asked to step into the role of Business Development Director in 2010. Cyndi supports the Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest communities. Her focus is developing valuable partnerships within the senior industry, education and working with the Brookdale team to truly create Optimum Life experiences for the people she serves.

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Angela Hampton

Angela Hampton

After 20 years in the news business, Angela shifted her responsibilities at ABC11 to focus on the community and building partnerships with a wide range of non-profits in the region. In her role as Community Affairs Specialist, Angela also hosts Heart of Carolina Perspectives on Sunday mornings and reports on special events for Eyewitness News.

Angela is an Emmy award winning journalist who joined the Eyewitness News Team in 2002. During that time, she co-anchored several newscasts including Eyewitness news at 6 with Larry Stogner and Eyewitness News at 11 with Steve Daniels. Prior to that, she was a news anchor in Minneapolis, MN and Albany, NY and was a reporter at the CBS affiliate in Raleigh and at WCHL-AM Radio.

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Angela grew up in the Triangle, attending Sacred Heart Cathedral, Cardinal Gibbons High School and UNC Chapel Hill. She serves on the Board of Navigate Cancer Foundation, and the Board of Advisors for Students of Ailing Mothers and Fathers, She is also a member of the Rotary Club of Raleigh.

Paul Immanuel

Paul Immanuel

Paul Immanuel is a long time resident of North Carolina who retired from IBM in 2009. During his 25 year career at IBM, he held several positions in development of networking products and workflow management systems. Prior to working for IBM, he worked for ITT in Raleigh where he developed fiber optic transmission systems for telephone companies. Paul has experience in hardware and software technologies and has presented papers extensively in North America and Europe dealing with issues related to hardware and software development. Paul is an electrical engineering graduate of North Carolina State University and has completed graduate level computer science and electrical engineering courses under an IBM program. Paul immigrated to the United States (and North Carolina) in 1964. He is married to Phyllis, a Raleigh native and they have two grown twins, Camille and Heather. Both their daughters are in the medical profession. Paul's love for helping seniors comes from his experience with helping Phyllis with taking care of her parents towards the end of their lives. Paul is active in church and community activities in Durham.

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Cooper Linton

Cooper Linton

Cooper Linton serves as the Vice President of Marketing and Business Development for Transitions LifeCare, which was originally founded as Hospice of Wake County. In addition to his marketing work, he oversaw the design and construction of Wake County's first freestanding hospice home and end of life care campus. Cooper has worked in the healthcare industry for over 15 years with a focus on home and community based care. His experience includes successful administrator roles for two home health and hospice companies as well as several years of sales planning, sales force management and business strategy design. Additionally, Cooper has worked in quality improvement directly for healthcare providers and on contract with Medicare through the Medical Review of North Carolina. Mr. Linton holds a Masters in Healthcare Administration and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he also completed his Graduate Certificate in Gerontology. When not working, Cooper is happily busy as a father and an avid outdoorsman.

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Leslie Mazzola

Leslie Mazzola

Leslie received her undergraduate degree in Interpersonal and Public Communications from NC State in 2000. She has spent the past decade of her career working with people in the community thru the organizations and companies she has worked for. Leslie worked as a Senior Loan Officer at State Employees' Credit Union for over 6 years serving state workers in our community. In November 2008 she excitedly joined the family business and started working for Homewatch CareGivers as Branch Manager. Leslie has had the opportunity to go out into the community and work with other members of the health care industry to improve the overall options for seniors in the triangle and has a passion for working with people and helping people. Born and Raised Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Leslie is a true Tar Heel fan, even though she is a graduate of North Carolina State University. She lives with her husband, daughter and dog in Cary, North Carolina. In her free time she loves spending time with friends and family, being outdoors, running and going to the beach.

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Brigitte Specht

Brigitte Specht

Brigitte Specht is an Area Account Manager for Sunrise Senior Living, responsible for business development and general public education in the Triangle market. She joined Sunrise Senior Living in 2007. Her background in senior living started in a Continuing Care Retirement Community where she held positions as Sales and Marketing Director, Assisted Living Coordinator, Memory Care Coordinator, and Housekeeping Director before joining Sunrise. Brigitte's passion lies in educating others. She has been a Virtual Dementia facilitator since 2009 and also teaches brain fitness classes. Brigitte is an alumni of East Carolina University and a Licensed North Carolina Assisted Living Administrator. She is very active in supporting Guiding Lights Caregiver Support Center, Alzheimers North Carolina, and COPE Eldercare. Brigitte and her family live in Holly Springs and enjoy spending their free time at Lake Gaston.

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Sarah Suite

Sarah Suite

Sarah is a Sales Director with Magnolia Glen, a Kisco Senior Living retirement community located in Raleigh, North Carolina. She has been with Kisco Senior Living since 2005 where she has held positions as both Sales Director at various properties including Sales Training/Quality Specialist for their Home Office from 2006 - 2008. She has been working with seniors since 2004 and currently holds her North Carolina Assisted Living Administrators License and is a member of the Senior Resource Alliance of The Triangle and HART, Health Affairs Round Table. Sarah holds a Bachelors Degree in Liberal Studies from California State University, Chico with an emphasis in Psychology and Child Development. Sarah lives in Raleigh with her husband Kevin and son, Grayson.

CEO, Transitions LifeCare

John Thoma

John Thoma is a graduate of Boston University where he received a B. A. degree in Spanish. He continued studies at Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Non-Profit Institute and Tufts University School of Continuing Education concentrating in Community Economic Development and Non-Profit Management. John joined Hospice of Wake County in 1991 and has served in the capacity of Finance/MIS Manager and Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer in August 2002.

Born in Austin, Texas and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, John has been a resident of Raleigh since 1990. In addition to his role as Chief Executive Officer, John serves on the Board of Trustees for the Hospice of Wake County Foundation and is very active in promoting quality end-of-life care at the state and national levels. John served on the Board of the United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) and the NC Association for Home and Hospice Care (AHHC). Nationally, John serves as Secretary of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) Board of Directors and chairs the NHPCO Governance Committee. He has previously chaired the NHPCO Quality and Standards Committee and served on the Membership Committee.

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