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Meet Our Staff
Karen Van Gorden, CDP, Executive Director
Karen brings a youthful vitality and enthusiasm, along with maturity and a dedicated sense of purpose, to her position as Executive Director.
Born and raised in Smithfield, RI, Karen is the mother of two active sons, 11 and 16 years of age. Whenever she’s not assisting families with the important details and considerations of quality senior living, she can be found at an ice rink or traveling with her family for a hockey tournament. She also enjoys her time as the President, raising money for Smithfield High School Hockey Booster Club.
Pamela Tetreault, Business Office Manager
Joseph Barreiro, Food Service Director
Chef Barreiro comes to The Highlands with an impressive resume that includes tours as a head chef, kitchen supervisor, and food service director at some of southern New England’s most well respected dining and food service establishments. These include more than 20 years creating delicious menus and enhancing the resident dining experience at several assisted living communities in the region.
Joe’s skills and creativity as a chef are eclipsed only by the work ethic and integrity he brings to his position. His vast experience and organizational skills are evidenced in the numerous charitable fundraising events he has participated in and the various cooking competitions he has won, including winner of the Iron Chef title in Kentucky in 2008.
A former semi-pro soccer player and premier club coach, Joe still plays the game competitively. We, too, are proud and privileged to have him as a member of our team.
Chloe Mete, Director of Marketing
Ernie Parfitt, Director of Maintenance
Ernie was born and raised in Pawtucket, RI. He was influenced at a very young age to respect his elders and admire their accomplishments. His beloved grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when he was eight, so Ernie feels especially close to the mission here at The Highlands.
He has fond memories of visiting his grandfather on weekends, first at home and, eventually, in a nursing home. Like his father and father before him, Ernie is a hands-on, can-do kind of man. Ernie can fix just about anything and enjoys doing so!
Ernie worked in the maintenance department for HallKeen Management for over four years when he jumped at the opportunity to transfer to The Highlands. His skills, knowledge and dedication to our residents are invaluable. If your television remote is not working, Ernie will fix it. If you need a picture hung, Ernie will hang it. In short, he can do it all and is happy to do it.
Michael Rivers, Activity Director
New to our community, Michael is originally from Boston, MA. He moved to Rhode Island when he got engaged. Michael has eight and a half years of experience working in the Assisted Living industry. He is passionate about working with the residents and is also a Certified Dementia Practitioner. He enjoys activities with memory care and traditional residents.
When Michael is not working in the Community, you can find him volunteering for the Boston Debate League. As an Alumni of the League, Michael loves coaching and judging middle school and high school policy debate.
Valerie Alexander, CDP, Memory Care Director
Valerie, a Certified Dementia Practitioner and Montessori Dementia Care Professional, comes to us with over 5 years experience working with the Geriatric Community both in long term care and assisted living settings. While working as an activity assistant, she discovered a passion for working with the memory care residents and truly enjoys connecting with each and every resident she meets.
Valerie is a creative person and when she is not working enjoys cooking, baking, antiquing and crocheting. She is a newlywed and loves spending time with her husband visiting vintage book stores or seeing movies. Valerie loves to try new things. Whether it’s a restaurant or white water rafting, she is always up for a challenge or new adventure!
Highlands Vaccinated Employees: 100%
last updated 12.17.2021