Get to Know A 12 Oaks RVP and Executive Director

Jun 14, 2024 | Blogs

There are a multitude of senior living career opportunities out there, ready for candidates like you. Unfortunately, the roadblock many potential candidates face is a lack of information. Not only do we believe senior living is an incredible industry to join, but we know that 12 Oaks is the best place to work within our industry. That’s why we sat down with Chase Thomas (Regional Vice President) and Shona Guenther (Executive Director, Winkler Court) to discuss their experiences working at 12 Oaks and give you an insider’s perspective on what your career could look like with us.

Chase Thomas, Regional Vice President

Chase Thomas headshot

Chase’s journey into the senior living industry began with his role as an administrator in a skilled nursing facility. After six years in that position, he transitioned to an operations specialist role with Civitas, where his leadership skills and operational expertise quickly shone through. He was soon promoted to an RVP role, further expanding his responsibilities and impact. In 2020, Chase joined Enlivant, eager to grow his career with a larger portfolio and a bigger team. In 2023, Chase’s dedication and expertise led him to 12 Oaks Senior Living, where he continues to oversee a number of communities in 12 Oaks’ Texas portfolio.

Explain Your Background and Path to Joining 12 Oaks?

I started out working as an administrator in a skilled nursing facility. After about six years, I saw an opportunity to jump into an operations specialist role with Civitas, which I did for about a year. I was then promoted into an RVP role. I saw an opportunity with Enlivant to really grow my career and operational experience with a larger portfolio and a bigger team. I jumped at that opportunity right as COVID was hitting and stayed with Enlivant from 2020 until 2023 when they announced they were closing.

I was fortunate enough to learn that 12 Oaks was taking on some of my communities. I applied, got accepted, and some of the communities I oversee today are still the ones I managed when I was with Enlivant.

Why Are You Passionate About What You Do?

I love what I do. I love that there are no two days that are the same. I love connecting with the teams and the people in the communities. I love the interactions with the residents. In my daily life, I get to interact with the hundreds of adopted grandparents that I have claimed as my own. I love the stories the residents tell. I love that every day we get to interact with doctors, attorneys, artists, musicians, poets, teachers, and people that have led incredible lives, and that are entrusting us and allowing us to be there for their final chapters. And for me, there’s something beautiful about that. Everybody really gets excited about a person’s first couple of chapters, but in our daily life, we get to be excited and love them at the end of their journeys. There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to have a family member say that their mom or dad loved our building, loved our staff, loved a particular caregiver or an activity, and feeling like we’ve gained a whole new group of family. That’s awesome.

A Group of Senior Living Employees Collaborating

What Is Unique About Your Role At 12 Oaks?

I am essentially the liaison between the community and corporate team members. Instead of our Executive Directors and community leaders hearing from several different corporate team members regarding various departmental needs, they get direction from me. This streamlines communication allowing me to direct corporate resources to the community team as needed. Conversely, the community teams have a direct line to their corresponding corporate support, under my management. This creates incredible efficiency in all areas of operations, including collaboration with our ownership groups. At 12 Oaks, I appreciate this level of trust in and responsibility for me.

How Do You Help 12 Oaks Community Team Members Grow?

My role is to help develop opportunities to stretch department heads, help them cover, or help them grow other department heads in newer buildings. I give everybody an opportunity. You’d be surprised how often you find people who haven’t realized their full potential. I’ve always thought it was my role as a leader to help people realize their full potential.

Even though something one of my team members thinks may be hard, they have the ability to handle it well, sometimes better than they thought. I love seeing people start out in one position and work their way up to where they’re running their own community or even running support from the corporate office or their own region. Sometimes, to me, that’s the biggest reward that shows I’m doing my job right. The people I oversee are succeeding in their careers and making better lives for themselves and their team members.

What Would You Tell Someone Considering a Career at 12 Oaks?

Apply. Absolutely, apply. If you want the opportunity to see what you’re really made of as a leader, as an individual who wants to make an impact in senior living, in the lives of seniors, then apply because 12 Oaks will give you all the tools that you need to succeed. And they will allow you to determine how far you want to go. You can go as high in this company as you choose. It’s not going to be easy, you have to work for it. But they’ll allow you the opportunity and the recognition whenever things work out the way that you want them to.

Learn more about working with 12 Oaks.

Greg Puklicz, President of 12 Oaks

Why Do Team Members Stay at 12 Oaks?

It’s the culture and the atmosphere. I think there’s something to be said about a company that values relationships over titles.

My boss Aaron Catoe sees me as a human being first who just happens to work with him, not the other way around. And I think that permeates throughout the entire company. I’ve never felt like I couldn’t reach out to anybody in the company, like I was going to get shot down or embarrassed. Every single person in the corporate office makes you feel welcome, and they encourage you to reach out. That’s a big change for me. Feeling supported in your daily tasks, for anybody, is a big thing. And I don’t think that’s something you can find in just any company.

Shona Guenther, Executive Director of Winkler Court

Shona Guenther headshot

Shona, a dedicated nurse with over 30 years of experience whose journey in senior living reflects a profound commitment to enriching the lives of the elderly. Despite initially ruling out working in nursing homes, Shona found her true calling and passion in caring for seniors, eventually transitioning into marketing roles within the industry.

Her path led her to Winkler Court, where she embarked on a new chapter as the Executive Director. With her wealth of experience and deep empathy for the elderly, Shona quickly became an integral part of the community, driven by her unwavering dedication to ensuring seniors receive the care, respect, and attention they deserve. Here are her insights from her senior living career and time at 12 Oaks.

What is Your Background and Path to Winkler Court?

My background is in nursing—I’ve been a nurse for 30 years. I began my career in long-term care at a nursing home, and surprisingly, I fell in love with it. It’s kind of funny because when I first entered nursing school, I said there were two things I’d never do, and one was work in a nursing home. Yet, that’s exactly where I ended up, and I absolutely loved it. Thus began 30 years of caring for the elderly. After some time, I transitioned into marketing. I know everyone in town, Carthage, Texas is a small community. One day, while I was out marketing, both a nurse and marketer from Winkler Court reached out and insisted I come in. Despite my initial hesitation, I interviewed, and got the job! I’ve been here ever since—over a year and a half now—and I love it.

Why Do You Love What You Do?

I am incredibly passionate about working with the elderly. It feels like this age group often gets overlooked in today’s busy world. People are so caught up in their own lives and families that they forget to cherish the wisdom and experiences of our elders. Retirement should be a time of enjoyment and companionship, but many seniors find themselves isolated and forgotten. They have so much to offer, with countless stories and invaluable advice. I’ve personally found immense joy in connecting with them. For instance, I grew up around gardening, my parents gardened. But in all honesty, I have learned more about gardening from one of our residents that he makes his own soil. He’s amazing when it comes to the garden. I’ve never seen tomatoes like the tomatoes that he grows here. So he’s taught me, and I’ve used that in my garden at home.

Why Do You Love Working at 12 Oaks?

It’s a breath of fresh air, truly. When I transitioned to 12 Oaks, it felt like a completely different experience. I appreciated the smaller, more intimate home office structure compared to the impersonal feel of larger corporations where you never even meet the CEO. At 12 Oaks, you feel like you’re truly a part of something meaningful. The impact they make with job opportunities is significant and has greatly influenced my leadership.

How Does the 12 Oaks Corporate Team Support You?

12 Oaks has been so open! When I take something to anybody, it’s a great experience. For example, going to IT. Lori Ely is a whiz. She can do anything, and it’s the fact that I know her name. I know who to email. I’m going to get a response. I know what the corporate team looks like when we go to the home office. They all come out. They know you by name. They say hello. It’s a different kind of support because you’re not scared to ask them anything. You’re not scared to talk to them about something. If they tell you no, there’s a reason that they’re going to tell you. Our corporate team makes sure we have what we need to be the best community out there.

What Would You Tell Someone Considering a Career at 12 Oaks?

You couldn’t go wrong! I would tell them if they don’t want to be in touch with their feelings, this might not be the best place. But in all honesty, I think sometimes people say that. I know there were several of us who were very nervous about the IMPACT training. And after the first session, we came out going, ‘oh my gosh, where has this been all my life?’ It’s just such a cool environment. I would very much encourage anybody that 12 Oaks would be a good starting place. It would be good in the middle, and a good ending. 12 Oaks just has a very good structure, and the way they value their employees is unbeatable.

What Would You Tell Someone Thinking About Living at a 12 Oaks Community?

Come on and sign that lease. You just need to move in and be a part of the family!

Hearing firsthand from community leaders like Chase Thomas and Shona Guenther offers invaluable insights into the fulfilling careers available at 12 Oaks Senior Living. Their passion for enriching the lives of seniors, coupled with the supportive environment fostered by our corporate team, exemplifies why 12 Oaks could be the perfect place to launch, grow, or culminate your career. Ready to join us in making a meaningful impact? Apply now and become part of our dedicated team.