Latham, NY – Valerie Johnson, Administrator at The Village, a Heritage skilled nursing and rehabilitation community in Gerry, NY, was recognized in December as a graduate of the seventh class of the IGNITE Leadership Academy with LeadingAge New York.

During graduation held during a special online ceremony on December 2, twenty rising stars in the aging and disabilities services field, including Johnson, were recognized for completing this year long leadership development program.

Johnson, a 26-year Heritage employee, has grown with the company throughout her career. Heritage President and CEO, Lisa Haglund, shared, “Leaders like Valerie are the greatest assets of Heritage, especially as we have battled the COVID-19 pandemic. Her dedicated history with Heritage, and passion to serve our greatest generation, our seniors, is commendable. She embraces the Heritage mission to promote Hope, Dignity, and Purposeful Living to all those entrusted to our care, leading the staff at The Village with grace, love, and appreciation, as they continue to provide our residents with the same close-knit sense of community and compassionate care that Heritage has always been known for.”

Johnson began her career with Heritage in January 1995 as a unit secretary. She recalls, “While I was a unit secretary, I found myself following the social workers around. I really liked what they were doing and the interactions they were able to have with the residents. This confirmed my decision to go back to school to continue on with my career.” She went on to attend SUNY Fredonia, while she continued to work as an occasional Heritage employee, graduated in 1997 with her Bachelor’s degree, and returned to full time at Heritage as an administrative assistant. Johnson soon accepted the position of a social worker at Heritage Village and became the Director of Social Work nine years later. She replaced her long-time mentor, Irene Terreberry, and later became the Heritage Village Assistant Administrator. During that time, she also became a Certified Dementia Capable Care Counselor through CPI. In 2018, Johnson applied for her Nursing Home Administrator License and passed the exam, becoming the Administrator of The Village Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation in Gerry, NY, where she remains today.

She shared, “My LeadingAge IGNITE Leadership Academy experience definitely exceeded my expectations. I had heard great things from other graduates, but I didn’t realize how special this academy was until my first session when I met the group, the coaches, the design team, and was assigned to my team. The networking opportunities are endless and the lessons we learned, and how we learned them, were priceless. I use them daily, while we work as a team each day to support our residents and staff, especially during this difficult and unprecedented time. I am truly honored to be a graduate of the LeadingAge IGNITE Leadership Academy Class of 2020.”

The IGNITE Leadership Academy was established in 2013 through the dedication of a number of LeadingAge New York members who had attended the national LeadingAge Leadership Academy. They felt strongly that this valuable program was needed to inspire, nurture, and empower leaders from New York’s non-profit sector as they continuously strive to improve the exemplary care, services and housing provided to the state’s large aging population. The program explores key leadership concepts and skills such as values-based leadership appreciative inquiry, emotional intelligence, and many other topics designed for personal leadership development and transformation, all of which have taken on renewed importance in the field during the COVID-19 pandemic. Session themes focused on developing one’s own unique leadership style, leading change and innovation, collaborations and partnerships, and managing one’s energy and priorities for maximum performance. A key component of the IGNITE Leadership Academy is the Leaders in Residence, during which the fellow learns from other experienced leaders in the field.

LeadingAge New York is the only statewide organization representing the entire continuum of not-for-profit, mission-driven, and public continuing care, including senior housing, nursing home, adult care facility, continuing care retirement community, assisted living, home care, and adult day care, and community services providers. LeadingAge New York represents over 400 organizations, including Heritage, dedicated to expanding the world of possibilities for aging.

Heritage Ministries was founded as the Orphanage and Homes of the Free Methodist Church in 1886 and has grown from its original campus in Gerry, NY, to six locations in New York with additional affiliations in the states of Washington, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. As a not-for-profit provider of senior care and housing, Heritage is a leader in the industry, employing approximately 1,500 team members, and serving over 2,500 individuals annually. With locations in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Washington, Heritage and its affiliates provide rehabilitation and skilled nursing services, independent retirement housing, memory care, and assisted living. In addition, childcare is provided at two campuses, allowing for intergenerational programs. For more information on Heritage Ministries, please visit