Michael D. Shmerling, Founder and Board Chair
A native of Nashville, he began his career 41 years ago as a Certified Public Accountant (now “Inactive”) with the Nashville office of Ernst & Young, formerly Ernst & Ernst CPAs. Mr. Shmerling has founded or co-founded multiple businesses since leaving the practice of public accounting, four (4) of which were ultimately sold to publicly traded (NYSE or NASD) companies. Following the sale of Background America, Inc. to Kroll Inc, in 1998, he joined Kroll – eventually serving as a member of the Board, EVP, Chief Operating Officer of Kroll Inc.; and subsequently a Senior Advisor to Marsh Inc., following the sale of Kroll to Marsh. He currently serves as Chairman of private equity firm Clearbrook Holdings Corp, formerly known as XMi Holdings.
He has received numerous Nashville Business Journal Future 50 – as well as INC. 500 Awards for companies in which he was involved. In addition to this recognition, he received the Tennessee Society of CPAs – Outstanding CPA in Business and Industry Award in 1999. In 2007, he was awarded both the Tennessee Society of CPA’s; and the American Institute of CPA’s Public Service Award. In 2009, he received Community Nashville’s Human Relations Award.
Mr. Shmerling currently serves as Founder and Board Chair of not for profit, Abe’s Garden Community. In addition, he serves on the Nashville Public Television Board and United Way of Metropolitan Nashville. He currently serves on two public company boards; Renasant Bank (“NASD – RNST”), and HealthStream Inc. (“NASD – HSTM”).
Susannah Dwyer, BSCHons/RPT/L, Chief Executive Officer
Susannah brings to the organization more than 25 years of leadership experience in senior living, home health, outpatient rehabilitation, and private duty home care. As a catalyst and change agent, she is known for driving long-term results and relationships. The highly accomplished industry leader who grew up in the North of England is credited with growing and leading one of the most successful home health sales teams in the United States. Susannah’s executive-level experience provides insight and perspective to lead the high-performing team at Abe’s Garden Community.
Susannah received a Bachelor of Science in Physiotherapy from Salford University, England, and has a certification from Vanderbilt School of Business’s Managing with Strategic Intent Program.
Chris Coelho, MMHC, Chief Operating Officer
Chris oversees the day-to-day operations, spearheads our continuous quality improvement initiatives and evaluates research opportunities for the organization. He joined the team in 2015 and served as Interim Executive Director for 15 months prior to being appointed COO.
As part of the administrator’s licensure process, Chris worked in all areas of a senior living community. He holds a master’s degree in Management of Healthcare from Vanderbilt University. His experience includes conducting research and quality improvement projects in long-term care communities and hospitals, while also developing quality improvement systems in assisted living. He has co-authored five peer-reviewed papers on topics ranging from management of quality improvement in assisted living communities to monitoring pain and geriatric syndromes for discharged hospital patients.
Chris Bowater, Executive Chef
Chris joined the Abe’s Garden Community team as the Sous Chef in November 2019. Since then, his role has grown into overseeing Culinary Services as Executive Chef. Chris began working in the restaurant industry at the age of 15 as a dishwasher and busboy, then served as the Kitchen Manager of Pie in the Sky Pizza for two years. He continued to hone his skills at the upscale Germantown restaurant, Silo, where he served as Sous Chef for two years before becoming the Executive Chef. He is a certified ServSafe® Manager and focuses on cooking from scratch using fresh ingredients.
Donna W. Coleman, Senior Director of Marketing and Development
Donna Coleman has been a charitable gift planner since 1993. Prior to joining Abe’s Garden Community, she worked at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices for 23 years, and served as the Vice President of Charitable Gift Planning during her last six years there, leading a team of six fundraisers across 14 locations, consistently raising $2M+ each year. Donna’s focus is on building relationships with those who are interested in deepening their connection to the Abe’s Garden Community mission through philanthropic support.
Angela Farmer, Senior Director of Human Resources firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela brings over 20 years of human resources experience to Abe’s Garden Community, including 17 years in the healthcare industry. During those years, she worked in the areas of radiology management, hospice and specialty pharmacy. She has a Bachelor of Science degree from Middle Tennessee State University, and earned Certified Professional designation from the Society of Human Resource Management. Her career has spanned all aspects of HR, with strengths in leadership development, performance management and employee relations.
Donna Finto-Burks, Senior Director of Clinical Care
Prior to joining Abe’s Garden Community, Donna was director of nursing at The Meadows, where she supervised assisted living and skilled nursing operations. She achieved the title of Nurse Practitioner upon earning a Master of Science in Nursing from Vanderbilt University.
Judy Shmerling Given, Senior Director of Campus Development email@example.com
Daughter of Abe Shmerling, after whom Abe’s Garden Community is named, Judy worked with her brother Michael to found the organization in memory of their father. Judy helps families determine which programs and services at Abe’s Garden Community best meet their needs and lends support through the transition process. She also identifies unmet needs of families impacted by Alzheimer’s disease to develop new community-based programs.
Judy brings her experience as a Clinical Professional Counselor and business owner, as well as 22+ years working as a clinician, expressive arts therapist and administrator in special education and private practice. She has been working at Abe’s Garden Community since 2008.
Samantha Hamilton, Business Office Manager firstname.lastname@example.org
Samantha Hamilton was first introduced to Abe’s Garden Community (then called Park Manor) in 2001 when she was a private caregiver for an independent living resident. She was soon after hired full-time, and over her tenure, has consistently developed, serving in various roles across nearly every department, including home care, assisted living, housekeeping, and concierge services.
Samantha currently excels in the position of Business Office Manager. Among her many responsibilities in this role, she handles accounting duties and manages transportation, hair salon services and front desk staff. Her experience at Abe’s Garden Community and time dedicated to our residents have established her as a great asset to our organization.
Bob Himes, Senior Director of Finance
Bob oversees Abe’s Garden Community’s accounting and financial reporting. He has over 30 years of financial management experience, including serving as XMI’s Controller for almost 15 years. His previous roles include public accounting and Controller for numerous other private industry companies. He is a Certified Public Accountant and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Louisiana State University.
Jacob Pursell, Senior Director of Facility Management
Jacob joined the Abe’s Garden Community team in 2008, when he was hired as a maintenance technician. His role expanded to Director of Maintenance in 2018. In this role, he is responsible for facility management of the entire campus. His Journeyman Electrician and HVAC Technician certifications and repair skills are valuable as he ensures the Abe’s Garden Community performs at optimum functionality.
Kylie Stratton, Senior Director of Home Care email@example.com
Kylie manages our in-home care offering Abe’s Garden At Home. Kylie comes to Abe’s Garden Community with nearly 15 years of industry experience, most recently as Regional Operations Manager at Accredited Home Care in California. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Health Science with an option in Health Services Administration from California State University, Chico (CSUC).
Beverly Theis, Senior Director of Resident and Family Support
Beverly has a Master’s Degree in Social Work at University of Maryland, with a specialization in aging. Her career has involved working with older adults in health care, mental health, skilled nursing and community settings. Prior to Abe’s Garden Community, she worked at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Cardiology and Thoracic care.