Since arriving at Ardenwoods in July 2022, Housekeeping Manager Tonia Maughan has fit in extremely well with the residents and staff — which she credits to her 25 years of experience as a CNA. At Ardenwoods, Tonia oversees all housekeeping operations around the community and works closely with the maintenance team to make sure that new residents’ homes are ready for move-in. When Tonia is not at Ardenwoods, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 15 years, Adrian, and their two cats, Midnight and Talon. Together, Tonia and Adrian stay active by participating in scavenger hunts, which has led to many outdoor adventures that have taught them more about western North Carolina.
Ardenwoods certainly has no shortage of influential, noteworthy and awe-inspiring women in its community — from residents to staff to leadership — and Women’s History Month, celebrated each year in March, is the perfect time to recognize our very own leading ladies.
“Our leadership team is nine folks, and six of those nine are women,” said Executive Director Pam Pate. “That’s not the case in every business, to see those kinds of numbers.”
In fact, across all departments of Ardenwoods’ community, “we have a really strong group of women,” Pate continued. “Women are really well-suited to work in senior housing, because — generally speaking — women bring compassion and kindness to the job but they’re also able to really get things done. I feel lucky to work with such a great team of women every day.”
Pate herself has been with the community since 2002. As Ardenwoods’ longest-tenured staff member, she was originally hired on as the accounting director, having previously worked in accounting in the manufacturing industry.
“I wanted a job where I could use my accounting skills but have more interaction with people, and senior housing seemed like a great option for that,” she explained. “I actually grew up in Mills River, so I drove by Ardenwoods often, and it seemed like a great fit for me.”
After taking on the role, Pate began getting to know the residents and their families while also taking care of the financial operations of the business — learning all about retirement community structures and different residential models around the country.
“It was great to make those connections that I didn’t really have before,” Pate said. Not only that, but in this line of work “every single day brings a new challenge, a new opportunity — and I like that variety. Even though I’m going on my 21st year here, something will happen today that hasn’t happened any other day in the last 21 years.”
During her time leading accounting, Pate found herself filling in as the interim executive director on a few separate occasions. But in 2017, after 15 years with the company, Pate was asked by her predecessor to officially take on the job.
“It just seemed like an easy transition for our staff and for our residents,” she explained. “Changes in leadership are always a big deal for the residents, and it helps when it’s someone familiar, someone leading the community that they already know.”
After nearly six years as Ardenwoods’ executive director, Pate still enjoys spending time with the community and hearing about the many adventures and life accomplishments of each resident. Outside of Ardenwoods, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 39 years, Bob, who works at Pate’s family farm and garden supply store (Valley Ag in Mills River), their two adult children and 2-year-old granddaughter, and the family dog, Beau.
“I just care so much about the community, and I’m so glad I get to be plugged in and involved on so many different levels,” Pate said.
Meet Gena Duncan, Ardenwoods’ sales associate and public relations manager since March 2019.
Employed in the senior care industry for the last 15 years, Gena loves working with residents, crediting their often-wise words for giving her a new lease on life. Prior to working with seniors, Gena worked in construction for 20 years, originally moving to Western North Carolina to open a fireplace company with her husband. After the economic downturn in 2008, the business became hard to maintain, and it motivated her to make a career change.
When she first began working with seniors, one of the residents offered her a bit of advice: Live life to the fullest. She took this tip to heart, purchasing her own Can-Am motorcycle and learning to ride solo. No longer a backseat-biker, Gena is now on her second Can-Am, which she enjoys riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway alongside her husband, who rides his own motorcycle. She says that riding her own bike has given her a newfound sense of freedom — and she’s forever grateful for the wisdom of the residents she works with each day.
In addition to her work at Ardenwoods, Gena also has a real estate license, and she is in the process of obtaining her Senior Real Estate Specialist endorsement. Gena enjoys spending time with her three children: Jessica, TJ and Dillon; her two stepchildren: Jessica and Derek; and her four grandkids: Callie, Silas, Raiden and Raven.
When she’s not hard at work at Ardenwoods, you might find her relaxing out at Lake James, where she and her husband own a home — spending most summer weekends boating, kayaking, swimming and visiting with friends.
Nathan Rihm has lived and worked all over the globe — managing dining halls on cruise ships and yachts, in hotels and breweries. But, with that line of work, the customers are always changing. There’s no chance to develop relationships with regulars, to connect on a deeper level.
In mid-September, Rihm became Ardenwoods’ new food and beverage director, managing both front-of-house and back-of-house staff and ensuring dining services run smoothly and safely, delivering meals of the highest quality. He said he’s thrilled to take on this new role for many reasons. For one, though it may be different than his most recent job, where he managed a brewery, that’s exactly the kind of change he had been looking for.
“My favorite part is that I get to serve the same people all the time and really impact people’s lives, instead of just their evenings or week while on vacation,” he said. “And all the residents have been wonderful to me. They’ve been so welcoming and engaging, and I’ve felt welcomed in like a member of the family.”
In addition to meeting and developing personal connections with the residents and other staff members, Rihm said he’s fallen in love with the mountains in the few short months he’s lived in the area.
“Ardenwoods is such a beautiful place, with such a sense of community,” he explained. “I moved here for the mountains and all the outdoor recreation opportunities. My fiancée and I love to hike and get outdoors, so we’ve traveled through the area a number of times and visited places like Lake Jocassee [in Upstate South Carolina] and hiked all over the area.”
In addition to the scenery, he added, the region is not all that far from his home state of Indiana, making it relatively easy to drive home and see family — or easier than it was when he lived in Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, anyway.
When asked about his goals as Ardenwoods’ new food and beverage director, he said he aspires to provide each resident with an elevated dining experience, to continue improving food quality and service, and to always look for ways to improve the quality of life for his new, extended “family” in whatever ways possible.
“Honestly, customer service has always been a big passion of mine,” he said. “I really enjoy working with people. It’s important to me to have work that allows me to be social, so that’s what brought me to Ardenwoods. I just want the residents to know that I’m always here to engage with them — that they’re more than welcome to approach me, and that I always greatly enjoy hearing their stories. Being part of this community is my favorite part of the position.”
When Rihm isn’t on-site at Ardenwoods, he’s likely to be found in the Blue Ridge Mountains, hiking a scenic ridge, kayaking, hunting or fishing. He’s also passionate about volunteering, and, being new to the area, he’s interested in finding the right organization to dedicate his spare time.
Christy Hull fell in love with Ardenwoods the moment she arrived on campus. Arriving to work each day surrounded by 48 acres of lush woodlands, overlooking sweeping mountain views, the new human resources director calls her job “a dream.”
“I’m serious!” Hull reiterated, laughing. “I’m a sap when it comes to this. I had no idea I was going to like working here so much, but I fell in love with everything from the start — with the residents, the other employees, my boss, the beautiful mountain location. It’s the honest truth.”
Though Hull is new to her role as the head of HR, she’s not new to Ardenwoods entirely. After moving to the area from Atlanta, she worked as a staffing coordinator for the community’s home healthcare vendor, working on campus to help facilitate any care that residents may need.
More than four years later, when the HR position at Ardenwoods opened up, Hull jumped at the chance to officially join the team.
“It’s exciting for me, because I get to do orientations for all the new employees — and I also get to see them on the job and check in on a regular basis,” she explained. “I like having those connections with people and to see them helping others, and to be able to help myself too.”
Since starting her new role on Aug. 15, Hull said she’s learned so much, both about the job and about the community, and she’s excited to continue learning more each day.
“I’m settling in now, and I have a great team around me who are so helpful,” she said. “There’s a really good support system at Ardenwoods, and I’m incredibly happy to be here.”
In addition to working alongside the rest of the staff, “what I love about this job is seeing the residents in a different capacity than before,” Hull continued. “I even get to help out with events — like [in October], we [had] a murder mystery party, and we all [helped] out in some capacity. Everyone gets to have fun with the activities, even if it’s not part of our official job descriptions. I love being around the residents as much as I can.”
When asked if she hopes to live at Ardenwoods one day in the future, Hull gave an enthusiastic “absolutely!”
“Honestly, it’s kind of a joke we have around here,” she continued. “We’re always asking [Executive Director] Pam Pate: ‘When can we put our names on the list?’”
In her spare time, Hull enjoys theater, film and music — her favorite movie is 1967’s “The Graduate.” She has a psychology degree from Wofford College and a 21-year-old son in Georgia, who is now in college himself.
If you see Christy on your next walk around Ardenwoods, don’t hesitate to say hello!