About Our Team

Advena is a family-owned company dedicated to the vision that each person has value and is able to learn and grow throughout life. Whether living in our communities or working in them, we are committed to the notion that the customer is always right, and that even in a heavily regulated environment, we must make “home” a real thing. We do this through the pursuit of person-centered care, the preservation of autonomy, and participative decision-making throughout the organization.

Willie Novotny, President and CEO, Advena Group - Kansas Healthcare Agency Staffing & Living Communities (Kansas nursing homes, assisted living, skilled nursing & more)

Willie Novotny, Owner and CEO


I took a part-time position as a Certified Nurse Assistant over 20 years ago while I was in school, and it has turned into the most exciting career I could have imagined. I have met some amazing people, been a part of some fascinating changes in the industry, and had the opportunity to learn from some big wins and some even bigger mistakes.

I consider myself a work in progress and understand that everyone else is too. I look forward to getting out of bed every day to help our staff work on problems and find solutions that will make us successful. Our team offers many years of experience, systems and solutions, but even more important, we bring a positive, supportive attitude and energy. We work hard to ensure each person living in our communities gets to live how they want to, on their own schedule, and is able to maintain those special daily pleasures, rituals and traditions that make them who they are.

Michelle Novotny, Executive Vice President, Advena Group - Kansas Healthcare Agency Staffing & Living Communities (Kansas nursing homes, assisted living, skilled nursing & more)

Michelle Novotny, Owner and Chief Operating Officer 


I grew up in a very small town in northeastern Kansas, where most of our neighbors were older. As a kid, I would go to their houses often, usually just for some stories and to visit, but also to see if they needed anything. That’s what you do in a small town — you take care of each other.

As I grew up, that feeling of wanting to take care of others only grew stronger. I started college in pursuit of a different career, but as I progressed through school, in the back of my mind I always had that desire to make a difference and take care of people. I decided to change my path and pursue a career in nursing. While preparing for nursing school, I became a nurse aide, landed a job as a Certified Nurse Assistant in a local nursing home and fell in love. I fell in love with the elders I cared for and the people I worked with who shared that same passion for others. Now, I’m fortunate enough to be able to share my passion with others, and I have the honor of being able to meet so many more people in our communities, elders and caregivers, all of whom teach me just as much as I teach them.

Matt Ruhnke

Matt Ruhnke, Chief Administrative Officer


I worked in restaurant and food service from the time I was 15 for almost 20 years. I went to college for hotel and restaurant management, and I fell in love with the pace and excitement of running a restaurant. I thought I loved the food and the challenge, but what I found is that I truly loved the people and providing hospitality. Customer service is an act, but hospitality is how you make someone feel — not just for your customers, but for your employees as well. I really enjoy getting to know people from all walks of life and understand their story. I value our company in that everyone can be themselves and not only be appreciated for that, but also encouraged to grow in who we are as professionals as well as people.

Doug Frihart

Doug Frihart, Vice President of Operations


During college, I worked in three medical environments as a support worker or direct caregiver. After completing my degree, I knew I wanted to continue working in healthcare settings but was more interested in management than in clinical positions. My parents – both educators – instilled in me a respect for educational administrators who remained grounded in serving students and teachers, rather than ruled by budgets and meetings. I became committed to bringing that perspective to my career as a leader.

I had the good fortune of responding to a blind ad for a healthcare management training program that introduced me to long-term care. I found I loved working with elders, their families and those who serve them. I was lucky to be mentored by others who believed in person-centered approaches decades before anyone thought about giving that label to serving elders. I love doing that work. Now, among my other responsibilities, I am a mentor to my colleagues – both in our communities and at the home office – and remain connected to the work each of us do to better serve those who make our communities their homes.

Glenn Blacklock, Regional Director of Operations


I was raised to value hard work. If something needed to be done, you did it. If you didn’t know how, you figured it out. I also was taught that if someone needed help, you helped them. I made my way into college and then accidentally became a nursing home administrator. An appetite for hard work, a “dig in and figure it out” attitude, and a “help those who need help” mentality were essential to my survival in the long-term care world.

In trying to figure out a better way to provide long-term care, I was blessed to be involved in the early stages of the culture change world. I learned from the best. My passion for creating good lives for those in nursing homes and assisted living environments continued to grow. I am blessed to be able to continue to learn each day from great caregivers and, of course, from so many amazing elders who willingly share their wisdom with me.

Courtney Kabot, Regional Director of Communications and Marketing


For many years I woke up at 2 AM to anchor the morning news, then report on health stories of hope and healing. As I shared those inspirational stories, I began to realize that maybe there was more I could be doing to make a difference too. I liked that healthcare was always changing and innovating, and I enjoyed feeling part of that during reporting. So it was only natural that I started volunteering at the hospital on a weekly basis. My role was to provide companionship to seniors. Sometimes we played Uno or looked through magazines. Other times I listened to very personal stories of their lives that put everything in my own life into perspective. It didn’t take long to understand the value in connecting with an older generation.

Marketing senior living became the perfect fit for me. As a storyteller by trade, I enjoy crafting messages and generating content that is creative and compelling. My focus is on developing successful strategies to drive brand awareness and cultivate meaningful relationships in the community. Through the use of various platforms, I can feature the individuals who’ve made it their life’s work to care for the elderly, and the residents who have chosen Advena Living to call home.

Nicole Lickteig

Nicole Lickteig, Regional Business Office Manager

I grew up in a small community where everyone knew everyone else and cared about each other’s well-being.  I remember the first time I went into a nursing community to visit my Great Grandma.  She passed away when I was 7 and it affected me greatly.  My whole life I have taken on a “mothering” role for everyone around me.  I love giving back, and helping people figure things out.  I took a job many years ago managing a Business Office in a Senior Community, and even though I tried other career paths, I just couldn’t stay away.  As a Business Office Manager I get to help people navigate the very complex payment processes and make sure they or their loved ones are able to afford to stay with us in our communities.  As a Regional Business Office Manager I get the opportunity to impact a great number of people and share my experience and passion for this business.  I love my career and my heart is full.

Ashley Reddig, Regional Director of Nursing


I’m excited to be back with Advena Living as the Regional Director of Nursing. I enjoy working with different communities and learning how the buildings operate, while being able to utilize my skills as a DON. I like sharing my knowledge with the clinical teams about what to do and what not to do. And I’m always eager to learn new regulations and guidelines.

My career in nursing started in 2006 as a CNA. I then worked my way to LPN and RN. The majority of my career has been in long term care. I ventured to a career in pediatrics for a short period and was drawn back to LTC. I feel like LTC is my calling in life because I truly enjoy working with this clientele.

Outside of work I love spending time with my Great Pyrenes rescue dog and reading a good suspense novel.

Jamie Spillman, Regional Director of Support Services


I remember visiting my great-grandmother who unfortunately was past the point of being able to care for herself. I will never forget watching my aunt rub my Maw-maw’s favorite lotion into her hands and brushing her hair as she talked about her day. You see, Maw-maw was always very well put together, and my aunt didn’t do these things out of a sense of duty, but because she understood these things were important to her.

A display of kindness such as this has nothing to do with education, wealth or status in life. Instead, it is a mindset that I am excited to help cultivate and establish in our communities.

The fundamentals of our HR team are to assist those who assist others. Our company is built on the care of people, and that care includes the employees. I believe the support system we are building helps drive high-quality care. I offer support by looking for quality caregivers, writing policy and procedures, and helping others to appreciate their value on our team. It may seem like a simple thing, but I find it rewarding to assist them.

LaKeisha Frierson-Carter, Regional Director of Nursing


I have always enjoyed helping others and loved listening to the stories “of the good ol’ days” told to me by my Grandma, whom I spent many summers with in Oklahoma. My career goal was to be an attorney and I actually took a few law classes. However, God’s plan was for me to be a nurse.

I started out as a CNA in 1997 and over the span of 19 years became an RN. I have spent much of my career in Long Term Care, specifically with the dementia population. I veered off and experienced nurse life in an LTAC for about 6 months after receiving my AND. I didn’t get the joy I do in Long Term Care. I absolutely love “my people” and they are all special to me in their own ways..

I enjoy leading others to give individualized person-centered care while adhering to the regulations simultaneously. I learn as I lead, and I believe each day is an opportunity for me to grow. This position allows me the best of both worlds. I eventually intend to return to the classroom and obtain a doctorate in Psyche, as we at Advena Living know this population is underserved. I couldn’t see myself doing or being anything else. Caring, serving and nursing is all part of who I am.

Jennifer Buckley, Director of Staffing and Client Relations


I am the oldest of seven, so I had to help take care of my brothers and sisters and keep track of everything we had going on while my mom was in nursing school. Having to be more responsible at a young age has really helped me as an adult personally and professionally. Growing up in a big family has shown me that things run a lot more smoothly and are less stressful when you are organized.

I have worked in several positions during the growth of our company, and being the Staffing Director is my favorite. I have always been an introvert, and this has really helped me get out of my comfort zone. I have great relationships with our clients and staff, and I look forward to helping our company continue to provide the best care to our community members, clients and staff.

Kaitlyn Nault, Director of Business Development and Talent Recruiting


I’ve always had a fighting spirit. Becoming an aunt to twins with disabilities has really opened my eyes to the healthcare industry and made me want to be involved with the growth and challenges that healthcare has. I have worked in Business Sales for the past 10 years and I’ve learned that building relationships and trust is invaluable. The one thing that has remained constant in my career journey is my desire and joy I get out of helping others.

I’m married with four kids who keep me on my toes. Family is very important to me, so joining a family-owned company that has those family values is a blessing. Being a part of this team and this amazing culture is exciting. I’m happy to be here and be a part of the change while establishing lifelong relationships within the community.

Austin Case

Austin Case, Controller


In high school, we did not have many options for people interested in a career path in business. During my senior year, our computer/tech teacher told me I could take an accounting class independently, and while taking this course I knew this was for me. Once I got to college and had unlimited options, accounting was still something I wanted to pursue. I was able to take a few introductory courses on the topic, but it wasn’t until I was in the School of Business at Emporia State that I was able to fall in love with accounting. My journey in this field has brought me to Advena, a company that was more interested in my personal values and beliefs than my experience level. The future is very promising here, and I look forward to being a part of the process.

Shannon Osborne

Shannon Osborne, Payroll Coordinator


As a late bloomer in life, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do, but have always been drawn to numbers. In my youth, I loved to play with a calculator and see how numbers worked together. I spent hours just running calculations to see what they would become for fun. As a young adult, I enrolled in the Job Corps Program in Manhattan, KS. During that time, I became a part of the Student Mentor program, where I would work with new students to show them the ropes and how the system worked, as a student resident. This experience allowed me to become more comfortable with meeting people from all walks of life and helped me develop successful working relationships. After approximately a year, I felt like I had reached my personal goal at Job Corps and it was my time to move on to the next step in life. I began working in several roles in accounting and even dabbled in customer service at a call center.

At Advena, I look forward to coming into work every day to manage the payroll process, from the hours people work to transferring our payroll system into the carefully calculated paycheck employees receive. From my call center days, I can help employees identify payroll issues and discuss the best course of action for resolution. I enjoy the culture here at Advena, where I get to let my guard down, be myself, and work in a comfortable environment, where others have an opportunity to see the real me.

Thomas Brown, IT Network Manager 


Service to others is important to me in both my personal life and in my career. Following my service in the United States Army, I entered the field of Information Technology where I have worked for most of my career. I chose an early retirement from our local school district after serving as the Technology Support Manager for 19 years. 

I learned about the culture change and resident centered care movement over 10 years ago through connections that my wife and I established with some of those now here at Advena Living. It is the value of those relationships, the commitment of the staff, along with the supportive and positive environment that exists here that made this an easy next step for me.

I look forward to continuing my life of service here at Advena Living along with like-minded individuals where we support each other and grow both personally and professionally.

Pamela Gallegos

Pamela Gallegos, Office Manager


After raising a family & helping my husband start and operate many different businesses I knew it was time for a change. When we became empty-nesters in 2019 I started looking for my ‘next job’ in which I could meet new people, learn new things & expand my knowledge & skills. I have always been drawn to the medical fields & when I started my job search I looked exclusively along that field. I was lucky enough to get an interview. When I walked into the interview of the entire office of 9 and saw how they interacted with each other, I knew I had found the right place to learn & grow. I have a great supportive cast of characters here at Advena!

Sommer McCormick, Business Support Specialist


I’m an Army veteran and worked in human relations and operations while enlisted. Joining Advena Living was a natural fit for me because of my combined administrative background and caregiving skills. I’m most excited to help provide the support the company needs. My ability to adapt and move forward through challenges will be an asset to the team.

I’m married with three teenagers, and have lived in Kansas for over ten years. Depending on the season, I like to hike, kayak and fish, and unwind by playing video games. 


Porter Novotny, Vice President of Mood Enhancement, Advena Living Communities (Kansas nursing homes, assisted living, skilled nursing & more)

Porter Novotny, Vice President of Mood Enhancement

I had a rough start in life as a rescue dog, and it took me a few tries to find the perfect family. When I was finally adopted by my “forever family,” I felt so loved and safe and was finally able to relax and be myself. My mom started taking me to work with her in nursing homes when I was 6 months old, and I was able to meet so many people and get so much love. It really made me feel good to know that they loved seeing me as much as I loved seeing them. I decided I wanted to spend my life making others happy the way I was happy, so I became a Licensed Professional Therapy Dog through the CARES program in Concordia, Kan. Now I get to go to work with Mom whenever I want and help bring joy and comfort to people in all our communities!