Tag Archives: hospitality

LifeSpire releases 2016 Annual Report; CFO has reasons to smile


By Ann Lovell

RICHMOND, Virginia—Joe Kelley is a stereotypical accountant. A quiet guy with a dry sense of humor, you’ll most often find Kelley sitting quietly at his desk in his corner office surrounded by mounds of paperwork.

As LifeSpire of Virginia’s Chief Financial Officer, Kelley spends his work days analyzing the financial situation of LifeSpire’s four continuing care retirement communities. For financial reporting purposes, Kelley explains, LifeSpire’s Lakewood in Richmond, The Chesapeake in Newport News and The Culpeper in Culpeper make up what’s known as “the obligated group.” The Glebe in Daleville is a separate financial entity.

Although he’s always up for a good laugh, co-workers say Kelley rarely gets excited. When he’s happy, those closest to him notice a slight smile and a twinkle in his eye. Based on the consolidated financial statements released in LifeSpire’s 2016 Annual Report, Kelley’s smile is broader than usual — for very good reasons.

“For the first time in nearly 20 years, LifeSpire posted a net operating gain in 2016,” Kelley reports.


Joe Kelley is LifeSpire of Virginia’s Chief Financial Officer.

Kelley gets particularly excited about debt service coverage ratios. The debt service coverage ratio compares debt payments to adjusted net operating income, Kelley explains. Anything over 1 means a company has enough cash to cover its debts. Generally, banks require a debt service coverage ratio of at least 1.2. The higher the ratio, the stronger the organization is financially.

“Our debt service ratio for the obligated group is 2.09 and for The Glebe it’s 2.11. That’s amazing considering where we were just a few years ago,” Kelley says.

Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire’s president and CEO, also appreciates the significance of these numbers.

“A few years ago, it was very common for the financial benchmarks in each of our communities to hover around debt compliance levels,” Cook says. “Thanks to the hard work of staff in each of our communities, we now have the opportunity to build some reserves to sustain us in the event of future economic downturns.”

Kelley has a number of charts that accompany his presentations on LifeSpire’s financial position. One of them highlights the downward slide of operating income that began with a $1 million loss in 2000 and bottomed out with a $9 million loss in 2007 at the start of the global financial crisis.

“If I had looked at the financials when I came to work here, I might not have come,” Kelley jokes. “The auditors thought we were going out of business; we received ‘going concern’ audit opinions from 2008 through 2011.”

A number of factors contributed to the financial difficulties of VBH:  the development and startup losses at The Glebe, the recession and capital market collapse in 2008 and 2009 and The Glebe’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2010, Kelley says. These factors impacted all VBH communities.

“Because of the organizational distraction and the costs associated with the bankruptcy, VBH was unable to adequately reinvest in our communities the way we wanted to,” Kelley says.

But the problems actually began two decades before the economic downturn of the 2000s, says Cook, who recently discovered a 1980s-era letter from then-VBH board chair, Hunter Riggins. Titled “Facing the 80s: Problems and Solutions,” the letter begins, “Virginia Baptist Homes, Inc., faces the greatest challenge it has ever faced in the decade of the 80s. This challenge is at or nearing crisis proportions. The challenge facing the Homes is how to put the overall operation on a firm financial foundation and at the same time maintain current operations and continue the substantial work done in the past and the present for elderly Virginia Baptists.”

“In reality, the organization had been struggling for years before 1999 because we focused more on the spiritual and mission components of our business and less on fiscal stewardship,” Cook says.

LifeSpire board chair Susan Rucker defines it as a “downward spiral.”

As a result of the flagging economy, “losses had begun and were accelerating,” says Rucker, who joined the LifeSpire board in 2014. “One or two years of losses are not a disaster, but you don’t want to get in a position where you can’t recover.”

Fortunately, both the board and senior leadership realized the organization’s dire predicament and took steps to reverse the trends. “Sustainability became the board’s goal,” Rucker says.


The reversal began in early 2008 when, in response to The Glebe’s escalating difficulties, an external management firm came in to oversee operations.

“The management company provided the chief operating officer, the chief financial officer and other operational expertise,” Kelley says. “They brought a level of proficiency VBH didn’t have in-house at the time.”

Specifically, this management expertise helped VBH communities receive Medicare certification, adding “$4 to $5 million in annual reimbursements for services we were already providing,” Kelley says.  “This coupled with economic recovery was the turning point.”

VBH utilized the company’s services for about three years and then moved to hire the talent they needed, Kelley says. In 2014 the board hired Cook, and the steepest recovery began then.

“We understood the next CEO had to have financial acumen,” Rucker says. “Part of the job was getting the communities on track to be profitable and sustainable.”

But, financial stability is more than just “good business,” Rucker stresses.

“Being financially stable positions us to live up to our commitment to our seniors. When we are financially stable, we are able to try new things and invest in new ventures and new technology. We want to help seniors age where they want to age and continue to look at ways to serve seniors outside the walls of our CCRCs,” Rucker says.


Rucker says LifeSpire’s current situation is “night and day” different, and the future is very promising, thanks in large part to the commitment of staff at each community. Sustainability can’t be achieved “by senior management alone.”

Cook agrees, “Our goal is to provide lifestyle-based services with hospitality, dining and wellness as the focal points,” noting this vision relies on the full buy-in of staff at every level.

“We want to build on being a place where people want to come,” Rucker says. “Over the next five years, we envision significantly refreshing our physical plant, offering new programs and finding other ways to serve the market that are relevant to seniors.”

Kelley and Cook share Rucker’s vision and enthusiasm for the future.

“LifeSpire has been transformed,” Kelley says. “We are actively engaged in becoming one of the premier mid-sized senior living companies in the mid-Atlantic region, financially and operationally. The groundwork we have been laying recently will enable LifeSpire to meet its commitments to current and future residents for many years to come.”

Cook agrees, adding, “If these trends hold, and I have every reason to believe they will, we may even hear Joe start to whistle.”


Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.


LifeSpire welcomes Hospitality Ambassador

sansoucieRichmond, Virginia—LifeSpire of Virginia is pleased to announce the addition of Sally San Soucie to the newly created position of Hospitality Ambassador. As a member of LifeSpire’s corporate team, San Soucie is responsible for establishing hospitality standards across LifeSpire’s four communities, developing a detailed curriculum in hospitality training for all LifeSpire employees, and instilling a culture of hospitality unprecedented in today’s continuing care retirement communities.

“We’re very excited about bringing 5-star hospitality and customer service to senior living,” said Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire president and chief executive officer. “Under Ms. San Soucie’s direction, our reputation for hospitality will be unparalleled.”

San Soucie brings more than 15 years’ experience with life plan communities to LifeSpire, including Westminster Canterbury Richmond, St. Mary’s Woods and Shenandoah Valley Westminster Canterbury. Most recently, San Soucie worked in a contract management role with Aramark at VCU Health System.

San Soucie resides in Richmond with her mother, son and two cats.

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.



‘We are family’ says The Chesapeake’s Dining Room Manager


By Ann Lovell

George Moore HiRes CroppedNEWPORT NEWS, Virginia—George Moore believes in putting others first. As the dining room manager at The Chesapeake, Moore understands that the quality of the food and the attitude of the dining room staff give seasoned, new, and prospective residents a sense of The Chesapeake’s unique hospitality.

“From the time they walk in the door, I want them to feel they can be happy and safe here,’” says Moore, who has worked at The Chesapeake for 15 years. “I especially want new and prospective residents to see our community as a place where they want to spend the rest of their lives.”

Moore has a long history of experience in food service, including several well-known Fortune 500 restaurants. Prior to joining the staff of The Chesapeake, Moore was the dining room manager at Lakewood, a LifeSpire community in Richmond. He enjoys preparing and serving delicious, nutritious meals that promote overall wellness, and he believes The Chesapeake’s dining room staff is central to the community’s success.

“We have great, dedicated employees,” Moore says. “Our first priority is service, and our goal is to do the job the right way.”

Moore’s customer service is exemplary, says Tammy Slowikowski, The Chesapeake’s director of dining and hospitality services.

“George and his staff touch each resident every day with food and hospitality,” Slowikowski says. “Here, they don’t come and go” like they would in a traditional restaurant. “This is their home. George understands that.”

The feeling of family is important to Moore, and he trains his staff to see the residents as family as well.

“I tell our younger employees that our residents are like their grandmothers and grandfathers,” Moore says. “We will treat them with the utmost respect because they are part of our family.”


Ted and Baerbel Schaller model life and love worth living


Editor’s note: In celebration of OLDER AMERICANS MONTH and the theme “Blaze a Trail,” LifeSpire of Virginia is featuring one resident a week from its four continuing care retirement communities who most embodies the characteristics of a “trailblazer” in wellness, community and hospitality.

By Ann Lovell

LAUGHING TOGETHER—Ted and Bell Schaller laugh together as they share the story of how they met and fell in love in Germany in the 1970s.

NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia—She calls him, “My Ted.” He says he always gets the last word: “Yes, dear.”

Ted and Baerbel Schaller obviously love each other. The couple, both 76, will celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary in June. The couple’s devotion to one another is well-known among residents and staff of The Chesapeake in Newport News, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community, where they’ve lived since 2010.

“They still hold hands walking from their cottage to the dining room. They are an inspiration,” says Patricia Morris, LifeSpire vice president and head of the VBH Foundation, LifeSpire’s benevolence arm.

The Schallers also model wellness, community and hospitality, which is why they are two of LifeSpire’s featured trailblazers during Older Americans Month in May, says Jonathan Cook, LifeSpire President and CEO. The U.S. Administration for Community Living sets aside May each year to recognize the contributions of older Americans. The 2016 theme is “Blaze a Trail.”

“The Schallers are true ambassadors for The Chesapeake,” Cook says. “They represent all that it means to be part of a LifeSpire community.”

ENJOYING LIFE—Ted and Bell Schaller relax in the pool at The Chesapeake, a LifeSpire of Virginia continuing care retirement community in Newport News. The couple regularly uses the community’s pool, hot tub and fitness center to meet a variety of fitness goals.

The Schallers look for every opportunity to be involved in The Chesapeake’s myriad activities. Ted bikes 20 miles three times a week, and Baerbel claims he is “addicted to exercise.” She serves on the activities committee and the chorus committee, and both serve on the worship and spiritual life committee and as music librarians. From “aqua ease” in the community’s indoor pool to exercise class to creative arts to chorus, the Schallers’ involvement and energy seem boundless.

“We moved in six years ago at age 70. It was the best time to do it because there is so much to do,” says Baerbel, who goes by her nickname, Bell, she says, because many people can’t pronounce her German name.


The couple first learned about the community when they attended an AARP refresher driving class hosted at The Chesapeake in 2009.

“We can’t afford this,” Ted and Bell said to each other at the time, admiring the many amenities of the community. Ted is a retired U.S. Army sergeant who worked for the U.S. Postal Service in Newport News. Bell is a homemaker who manages the couple’s finances.

“He makes the money, and I spend the money,” Bell quips.

ARTWORK—Bell Schaller displays Ukrainian eggs she made in a creative art class at The Chesapeake. She has decorated her home with ceramics and other artwork she created in classes there.

But working with Liz Gee, The Chesapeake’s marketing director, the couple realized affordable options were available to them. The couple also paid a refundable deposit to add their names to a waiting list. This program, now called The Chesapeake Club, allowed them to use the community’s amenities at no additional charge. They also put their house of 34 years on the market — in the middle of the U.S. housing crash.

“Our house was on the market a year,” Bell says. “We moved in anyway.”

“There’s no place like this place so this must be the place!” Ted exclaims.

He continues, “The Chesapeake had the right feel, but two things sold me on it. One … being able to use all the amenities before we moved in. Two: If we run out of funds through no fault of our own, they won’t put us out on the street.”

“This is why we make contributions to the benevolence fund,” Bell says. “We know the benevolence fund helps keep people in their homes.”

The couple also appreciates the faith-based nature of The Chesapeake. Neither Ted nor Bell was “raised in church,” Bell says. Ted’s father immigrated to the U.S. from Austria, and he describes himself as Catholic. Bell grew up in East Germany where worship was forbidden and describes herself as Lutheran. Both say religion plays a part in their lives now, and both serve as ushers in the nondenominational worship service that meets weekly at The Chesapeake.

“The Schallers are ‘utility players,’” says Nancy Hayes, chaplain at The Chesapeake. “I know I can count on them.”

But it isn’t so much “religion” or religious activities that inspire the Schallers as the way that faith-based attitudes play out in their everyday interactions with The Chesapeake’s staff and other residents. “Respect” is one word Ted uses, incidentally the same word he uses to describe the success of their marriage. “Honesty” and “trust” are others.

“People treat each other differently in a faith-based community,” Bell says. “They talk differently to one another. Nobody talks nasty here.”

“Everyone is honest,” Ted says. “It has a calming effect.”


AN EXPRESSION OF LOVE—This Scrabble curio is displayed in the Schaller’s cottage at The Chesapeake where they have lived since 2010. It is just one tangible example of the love the Schallers express for one another.

Respect, honesty and trust are not only hallmarks of the couple’s relationships with other people; those characteristics have been the foundation of the couple’s relationship with one another since their first meeting in a small West German village in 1974. Bell, whose family lived in East Germany, left the communist state in 1955 when she was 15 years old.

“When I finished my schooling in East Germany, I had the choice of becoming a blacksmith or a mason,” Bell says. “My parents said, ‘No.’” So, the young woman moved to West Germany to live with her aunt and uncle.

Ted, who was stationed with the U.S. Army in West Germany, first spotted Bell at a party in an adjoining village. She didn’t notice him. A few months later, a young American military couple who rented their home from Bell needed a driver to take them to the airport. Ted showed up with the car. Bell didn’t speak much English — as an East German, she had learned Russian in school. Ted, who understood some German, was studying the language. He asked Bell to help him with his German homework.

“We were married six months later,” Ted says, proudly. “It took me three tours to Germany to find her.”

To this day, the two still speak German in their home.


The couple’s only regret in a lifetime of happiness is that they have no children.

“I love children,” Bell says. “I always wanted children.”

In 1976, the couple filed paperwork to adopt but were advised that the military lifestyle was too unstable for a child. Still, they recognize that the life and love they share is unique and fulfilling.

“We never fight. We have no kids, so there’s no reason,” Ted quips.

“And, we have nieces and nephews, and we have the big family of The Chesapeake,” Bell says.

In particular, her nephew, Sven, who lives in southern Germany, calls, texts and visits them often. They proudly show photos of Sven and the numerous trips they’ve made together.

“One time Sven told my Ted, ‘Uncle Ted, I never drink or smoke because you don’t do it,’” Bell says proudly.

Modeling good behavior for the next generation is important to the Schallers, not just for Sven’s benefit but for others as well.

Bell sums it up best.

“We want to live a life in front of people that they can look up to,” she says.

Ann Lovell is Corporate Director of Communications for LifeSpire of Virginia, formerly Virginia Baptist Homes. For more information, email alovell@lifespireliving.org or call (804) 521-9192.

LifeSpire of Virginia operates four continuing care retirement communities in Virginia: The Chesapeake in Newport News, The Culpeper in Culpeper, The Glebe in Daleville and Lakewood in Richmond.