Four women have been chosen as the third class of Spirit Award winners as part of the 2024 McKnight’s Women of Distinction program.

The Spirit Award recognizes inspirational caregiving deeds and other noble gestures by women at any level of a long-term care organization who have demonstrated acts of bravery, courage, perseverance, dedication or determination.

“These Spirit Award winners remind us of the passion and dedication that so many working in skilled nursing, senior living and home care bring to their personal and professional lives every day. Their employers, colleagues, families and friends are fortunate to know them, and we’re pleased to be able to introduce them to even more people,” McKnight’s Editorial Director John O’Connor said.

The 2024 McKnight’s Women of Distinction Spirit Award winners:

  • Carol Gordon, Resident Care Associate, The Village at Willow Crossings, Benchmark Senior Living, Waltham, MA

Carol Gordon has a talent for forming connections. Colleagues said that in her work she has shown a knack for hearing and understanding residents, helping each feel comfortable and at home. She is especially known for her devotion to caring for people who have memory loss, and for possessing the skills, heart and intuition to make sure each resident is truly heard and cared for, according to co-workers. “Carol is an exceptional person,” one colleague said. “She sees herself as each resident’s granddaughter.” Her impact is far-reaching, according to her co-workers — she is a gifted staff educator and a model caregiver. No matter how busy she is, she always will find time to sit, talk, sing or simply spend time with each resident.

  • Danuta Jurgowska, Registered Nurse, Preakness Healthcare Center, Wayne, NJ

Danuta Jurgowska’s career as a registered nurse spans three decades and has been marked by exceptional care for both residents and her co-workers. Immigrating from Poland after the end of the Cold War, Jurgowska strived to achieve an education in nursing that would be recognized in the United States while she still was working and caring for three children. She turned down multiple promotions throughout her career, always remaining dedicated to hands-on care. “Danuta’s spirit of caregiving expands to all aspects of her life,” her nominator said. Perhaps nothing was greater proof of that than the overwhelming response to the recent announcement of her retirement, when a celebration of her career drew four times as many guests as expected. In retirement, she will focus boundless caring energy on her grandchildren.

  • Janet Simpson, Vice President of Network Operations, WesleyLife, Johnston, IA

Janet Simpson has been a steady presence at WesleyLife for more than 20 years. Not even her battle with breast cancer in 2021 could keep her away: her experience with the disease was chronicled on the organization’s blog. After chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction and treatments to bolster her immune system, Simpson is now cancer-free, and she is regarded as a go-to resource in the greater community for women who recently have received a similar diagnosis or are going through treatment. Colleagues said that whenever anyone would praise her dedication, she would downplay it, saying, “We all have challenges, and people don’t stop counting on me just because I have cancer.”

  • Christine Slater, Caregiver, HomeWell Care Services, Worthington, OH

Since 2013, Christine Slater has worked in a variety of roles, ranging from care supervisor to care manager, at HomeWell Care Services. Although she was an effective leader in those positions, she had a strong desire to return to her fulfilling work as a caregiver. From comforting a client displaced by Hurricane Ian to working multiple shifts in a 16-hour day, her commitment to quality care does not stop when she is off the clock. “Christine is caring, patient and compassionate, even in the most challenging situations with clients,” her nominator said. “She embodies the qualities that we would all seek in a caregiver for our own loved ones or even for ourselves. She delivers on every aspect of quality care with trusted and reliable expertise, prioritizing peace of  mind for all entrusted to our care.”

Additional awards announced

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction awards program was judged by a national, independent panel of judges.

Previously announced were 15 Rising Stars, women who are either aged fewer than 40 years or have fewer than 15 years of experience in the senior living, skilled nursing or home care fields; 16 Veteran VIPs, women who have more than 15 years of experience and have made an impact on the senior living, skilled nursing or home care fields, typically at a level lower than vice president or its equivalent; and 24 Hall of Honor inductees, women who are at a level equivalent to vice president or higher and who have had a significant effect on their organization or industry.

The 2024 program, as in years past, also will bestow a Lifetime Achievement Award; the recipient of that award will be announced soon.

In-person celebration set for May 14

All of this year’s honorees will be celebrated Tuesday, May 14, during an in-person cocktail reception, dinner and awards presentation at the JW Marriott in Chicago. The presentation of awards will be preceded by the fifth annual McKnight’s Women of Distinction Forum, offering educational sessions featuring industry thought leaders discussing important topics. All events are open to the entire long-term care industry, family members and friends of winners, and anyone else interested in attending.

For more information and to register for either or both events, visit Those with questions about the events should contact Anna Naumoski, senior event manager at the parent company of the McKnight’s brands, Haymarket Media, at [email protected].

Keep up to date with McKnight’s Women of Distinction news on the McKnight’s Home Care website. See a list of previously honored women by year and category on the McKnight’s Home Care website or an alphabetical list by category at (click on “Past Honorees” at the top of the page).

Healthcare Services Group is the Platinum sponsor of this year’s event. PointClickCare is the Gold sponsor. PharMerica is the Silver sponsor. Additional sponsors include HER Stories, Curana Health, DirecTV for Business, ShiftKey and Sentrics.