Green House Blog

Portrait of a Green House Leader, Joyce Ebmeier

What Does it Mean to Lead Meaningful and Sustainable Change

The “Portrait of a Green House Leader” webinar series continues by highlighting the talents of Joyce Ebmeier, Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning for Tabitha Health Care Services in Lincoln, NE. Tabitha offers a continuum of services to elders, including the first Green House homes in Nebraska and the second built nationally. Joyce attributes her desire to work in elder care to her deep relationship with her grandmother and the wisdom she shared with her growing up. After graduating from the University of Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in Education, she pursued a career in teaching before beginning her career with Tabitha in 1981, where she served as the administrator of their nursing and rehabilitation center for fourteen years. Currently, as the Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning, she is responsible for directing the overall planning, monitoring, communication, and progress of Tabitha’s business and strategic plan.

Joyce (right) with her mother

Joyce was inspired to champion the development of Tabitha’s four Green House homes after listening to Dr. Thomas speak about The Green House vision in 2001. As an administrator of a traditional facility, she knew the opportunity to imagine a blank page, and create more of what she knew elder care could be through The Green House model was the next step in writing Tabitha’s future chapters. After sharing the vision, the board approved the development of one Green House home after half the initial funds were raised. Joyce identifies that engaging with a grant writer to help locate available funding sources and network with organizational leaders was a crucial strategy to raise the initial funds for the Martin house, their first Green House home to nine elders. After they demonstrated the success of the model through the Martin house, three more homes were built, with plans to purchase property and build four additional homes in the future.

From a cost perspective, Joyce states that their Green House homes are major contributors to the success of the

Construction of a Green House home on Tabitha's campus
Construction of the Good House

entire company. Specifically, adding Green House homes for long term care into Tabitha’s continuum of services provided an opportunity to expand their capacity for post acute short term rehabilitation in their legacy building. This balance of costs and revenues combined aids in the growth of Tabitha’s entire organization. Further, Joyce describes that the quality of care associated with their Green House homes has become a hallmark within the community that is a “magnet” for people seeking long term care. This high demand results in a reliable, sustainable census that is crucial for overall operational success.

However, Joyce notes that the true success or “magic” of The Green House model comes from the incredible people who live and work in the homes and the culture created to foster deep knowing relationships. “It’s the most important part of getting The Green House model correct. If you don’t have the right people and you don’t provide an environment which empowers them to do their work with the elders… if that doesn’t happen the most beautiful and perfectly designed houses are really a waste of time and money.” At Tabitha, recruiting extremely creative, great people has resulted in

Annual Green House carnival
Annual Green House carnival

unique teams in each home where people feel empowered to bring who they are into their work. This results in extraordinary events and celebrations, such as their annual Green House carnival, and quiet everyday moments of compassion, love, and joy in the homes that couldn’t occur in a traditional setting. For Joyce, when talking about her accomplishments in her career, she identifies working with The Green House Project as the one she’s most proud of, yet is continuously striving for success in providing the highest quality of care for elders. When thinking about her Green House legacy in the future, she hopes it reads “But as remarkable as the Green House model became, what came next from these pioneers in elder care was even better.”

Listen to this recorded webinar interview>>

3 words, "What makes Green House homes special?"

In May 2006, Tabitha opened Nebraska’s first—and the nation’s second—Green House® Project transforming the way care is delivered by departing from the traditional nursing home model and bringing long-term care into a home setting. We now have four Green House homes on our campus serving 45 Elders. One evening, the Green House family welcomed three newly trained shahbazim to the household during an evening punctuated with music, dancing, eating, champagne popping and a warmth that can only be felt when one is truly at home. This photo and that evening truly showed how Tabitha Green House homes offer love, family and home.


Tabitha Health Systems Honored by Leading Age for Excellence in the Workplace

Tabitha Health Care Services is honored to announce it was recently named the recipient of a national award from LeadingAge, one of the country’s foremost elder issues advocacy groups.

Among an elite list of distinguished winners from across the U.S., Tabitha was recognized for its innovative LIVE to Succeed company culture with LeadingAge’s 2012 Excellence in the Workplace Award.

“We’re humbled and grateful to again be named among the nation’s best Elder care service providers,” said Christie Hinrichs, Tabitha president and CEO. “Outstanding care for Elders begins with outstanding compassion, commitment and training, and we work to enhance those qualities in our Tabitha team each and every day.”

LIVE to Succeed, born in 2006 and spearheaded by then-COO Hinrichs, has transformed the organization with four simple, employee-focused objectives:

  • Love your job
  • Invite optimism
  • Vision success
  • Embrace the mission

Through ongoing employee education, appreciation events and other incentives designed to make Tabitha a great place to work, the organization commits substantial time and financial resources to support its culture, an investment that has paid off in the form of significantly lower employee turnover than the industry average, excellent regulatory rankings and, most importantly, Tabitha’s consistently positive clinical outcomes and family satisfaction feedback.


A longtime regional leader in Elder care, Tabitha offers the state’s only complete continuum of services to support aging individuals at every stage of the journey. As just the latest in a growing list of industry recognition, Tabitha’s most recent award supports the measurable success of the organization’s Christian-based mission, innovative approach and definitive status as the answer for Elder care in southeast Nebraska.

As a nonprofit organization serving 28 Nebraska counties, Tabitha’s love embraces a society where everyone is valued and empowered to live life to the fullest, with compassionate at-home support, innovative living communities, exceptional rehabilitation, health care and hospice services.

Celebrating Mary Valentine: Green House Life through her Granddaughter’s Eyes

Contribution by Ann Frohman, granddaughter of Mary Valentine

Mary Valentine was a tiny, elegant red-headed woman who surrounded herself with beauty.  She was a lady of fashion and style. She loved the opera, flowers, poetry, French Impressionist art, the warmth of a home surrounded by family and friends.  She was humble and appreciative of all life had given her, an eternal optimist, never sad or discouraged.  She made others at ease.  She was the nicest person I have ever known.

Mary, a register nurse, was married to Lyn Valentine, a medical doctor. He preceded her in death by some thirty years. After his death Mary worked at a nursing home.  Fiercely independent, she worked until she was seventy years old. By the time she entered a nursing home in her mid 90’s, she was well aware of what was in store.

When Mary entered the nursing home she was partially blind and very hard of hearing. Yet, her fragile body denied her age as she would speed around the halls and outside with a red walker leading the way.  She was social. Her mind and spirit were sharp and she enjoyed people.  Still, the nursing home was not where she wanted to be.

One time on a visit, Mary was sitting on her bed doing leg lifts.  At 97 years old, I asked why the effort?  She said she needed to keep her strength up to walk. This made sense as she had experienced several falls while there.  Surprisingly, she confided that she intended to get out of the nursing home and she knew she wouldn’t if she was unable to walk. 

As days went by, we watched the light that had shined so brightly all her life began to dim. She quit her leg lifts.  She spent much of her time sleeping because there was nowhere to go.  Fewer friends visited.  My daughter played violin in the hallway as there was no place in her room.  There was no piano for my other daughter. We were always in the hallway. Finally, I couldn’t take it.  I complained to management, not about her care, which was good, but about the facility design and nonsense rules.

I later learned that my complaint was a watershed moment.  The nursing home wanted to do more and be more.  When Mary was 98 years of age, she did in fact walk out of the nursing home- she moved across the street into the Green House.

Mary Valentine celebrating her 100th birthday

It was amazing how suddenly, her life mattered again.  Mary picked out colors to paint her room. She selected furniture and was excited to have a small table with two chairs, lace table cloth, a tea set and photo album and pictures displayed. The French Impressionist art returned.  She had her own closet and wanted nice clothes. After all, she planned for visitors who came from all over the country not just locally.  She really enjoyed sleeping in and still having breakfast, sitting by the fireplace and having meals at a large, beautiful table while chatting with the shahbazim. We visited often and strolled through the neighborhood.  My mother brought her dog all the time.  My daughter played violin for all. We spent Christmas day there two years in a row with violin, serving prime rib (from a blender) and laughter. It was magical. Mary smiled, and laughed.  She bragged on the violinist.

Our family got to know Thomas and Monica, her shahbazim. My grandmother told me she felt bad that Thomas’s dog always fancied her over the others. (Thomas thought that was odd as yes the dog loved her but he said Mary wouldn’t ever let the dog leave her lap!)  Monica once took a dress home to iron so that Mary would not be wrinkled. Every night she donned a soft floral gown and was tucked into bed. The year of 2006 belonged to Mary. Mary celebrated her 100th birthday with a margarita and cigarette on the porch of the home with family and friends.  My mother too connected with the Green House, the shahbazim, and the elders in a deeply almost spiritual way.  When Mary passed on, we grieved with the elders and shahbazim. 

We continued to visit the Green House until all the elders we knew passed on. My mother was attached to this home.  There was a memorial event in honor of Mary the next year with a statue in the garden at that Green House bearing a likeness of my mother’s dog.  The Green House enabled Mary to live some of the happiest days of her life. These also some of the happiest days of my life and that of my mother, as we knew that Grandmother was cared for — deeply cared for.

Special thanks to Ann Frohman and her family for continuing to keep Mary’s light shining bright!