A Passion
for Service

Meet our Board of Trustees

National Lutheran Communities & Services’ (NLCS) board members come from many professional backgrounds, bringing a deep bank of talent and experience to the challenges of senior living in a changing world. The NLCS Board of Trustees and each respective community’s board share the same goals: to serve future needs, expand services and remain true to our historic mission. Their stewardship has helped achieve the organization’s tremendous financial strength, growing assets to $170 million.

The National Lutheran Communities & Services Board of Trustees is made up of volunteers, including members from the supporting Synods (Delaware-Maryland, Virginia and Metropolitan Washington, D.C.) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Their past success and new long-term goals are a testament to the volunteers’ dedication, as is the organization’s strong financial position.

The Rev. John Wertz, Jr.


Rev. Wertz, M.Div. is called to be the director for evangelical mission and an assistant to the bishop of the Virginia Synod. He serves on the Board of Trustees as the designee of the Bishop of the Virginia Synod, ELCA.

In his ministry with the Virginia Synod, Rev. Wertz supports congregations who are seeking to strengthen their overall health and vitality. He consults with congregations on planning and stewardship, and he also oversees new ministry starts for the Synod.

Prior to joining the Virginia Synod staff, Rev. Wertz served as the pastor of St. Michael Lutheran Church in Blacksburg, Virginia (2004-2018) and as the pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Walterboro, South Carolina (1997-2004). He graduated from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina in 1997.

Donna Duss, MSN, RN

Immediate Past Chair
Donna Duss joined the NLCS Board of Trustees in 2014. She is a registered nurse, masters-prepared through Pace University in New York as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in Gerontology. As founder and owner of Duss Healthcare Consulting, LLC, Donna applies her experiences as a director of health care services, director of nursing and staff educator to serve as a clinical, regulatory and management consultant and professional coach to providers of senior services.

Her professional passions are the promotion of person-centered and person-directed living across the care continuum and the refinement of Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement within health care services. She also finds great joy in helping individuals and communities express and experience their mission, vision, and guiding values in the midst of day-to-day operational realities.

Donna has over 27 years’ experience serving on not-for-profit Life Plan Community boards. In addition to serving as chair of the NLCS Board of Trustees, she also serves as vice chair of the Shell Point Retirement Community Board in Fort Myers, Florida. She is an ordained elder and active member at The National Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C.

John E. Handley

Vice Chair
Mr. Handley is the chief financial officer of several start-up and growth phase technology businesses, including FastEdge and DirecTech, and has served as a telecommunications technology consultant to federal government agencies. Prior to graduate school, Mr. Handley spent ten years in the restaurant industry.

Mr. Handley serves on the Board of Directors of Net Medical Xpress services, a telemedicine provider based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is also the author of “Telebomb: The Truth Behind the $500 Billion Telecom Bust and What the Industry Must Do to Recover.”

Mr. Handley has served many volunteer positions within the Virginia and Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synods of the Evangelic Lutheran Church in America. He has been treasurer and stewardship chair at his current congregation, Resurrection Evangelical Lutheran Church, Arlington, Virginia. He served as treasurer of the Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod from 2007 to 2015 and was the bishop’s representative and board treasurer for Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp and Retreat Center from 2008 to 2015, where he continues to serve on its finance committee.

Cornell P. Abod

Cornell P. Abod serves on National Lutheran Communities & Services Board of Trustees and as a member of the Joint Finance Committee. Mr. Abod, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in private practice, owns and operates C.P. Abod & Co. LLC, a tax and accounting firm, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland, as well as Beacon Investment Advisors LLC, a registered investment advisory firm, also located in Gaithersburg.

Prior to entering private practice in 1997, Mr. Abod served as a financial accounting director with Adventist HealthCare in Rockville, Maryland, and was with Ernst & Young’s financial statement audit group in Washington, D.C. for five years. Mr. Abod received his B.S. in accounting from the University of Maryland, College Park.

Michael Heller

Board Member
Coming Soon

Rachel Carlson

Board Member
Dr. Rachel A. Carlson, Ed.D, PA-C  is currently an Accreditation Director with the Accreditation Review Commission on the Education of PAs and works from home in Winchester, Virginia. She was previously Board Chair with the The Village at Orchard Board of Directors serving as a board member since 2015.   

Dr. Carlson is a published and collaborative author of the Lange Q & A for the Physician Assistant. She previously served as the Director for Advanced Practice Providers with Valley Health and Program Director for Shenandoah University both in Winchester, VA and Chair of the Virginia PA Advisory Board. She works clinically as a PA with Valley Health Urgent Care.  

Dr. Carlson has extensive volunteer experience with her church association, youth sports teams, and also gives her time to serve medical the underserved populations in the Winchester area while actively raising three children. 

Dr. Carlson received her Ed.D. from Nova Southeastern University, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; M.S.B.S. from The University of Toledo; and B.S. in Environmental Resource Management, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania. 

Rev. Scott Maxwell

Board Member
Coming Soon

Susan Dailey

Board Member
Ms. Susan Dailey, a resident at The Village at Orchard Ridge from its inception, joined the NLCS Board of Trustees in January 2020 and has served on the Strategic Planning Committee and the Succession Planning Committee.

She brings entrepreneurial business development expertise from start-up to public offering. She was responsible for development and opening of franchise locations across the U.S. and ultimately in Europe covering the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands. In 1984 alone, her department opened 147 U.S. locations.

During her 18 years as director of Volunteer Services at Reston Hospital, she developed a senior “over 50” affinity membership group that grew to 1000 members in two years’ time. She also served as president of the volunteer management division of the Healthcare Council of the National Capital Area as well as president of the Virginia Society of Directors of Healthcare Volunteer Services. Her earlier experience in health care involved practice management in the ophthalmology field operating seminars, feasibility studies and marketing consulting.

At Orchard Ridge, Ms. Dailey has served as president of the Residents; Association, chair of Health and Wellness Committee, and she developed and currently manages the fast-growing Village Specialty Shoppe whose profits support the Winchester Benevolent Fund for Orchard Ridge.

Other charitable causes close to her heart are Bless the Children, for which she has raised funds and taken medical mission trips, and the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, whose jewelry and textiles she has imported and sold to support the education of their children and sustainability of the Amazon rain forest.

Ms. Dailey received a Bachelor of Arts degree from George Mason University and earned her CAVS (Certified Administrator of Volunteer Services) through the American Hospital Association, while also chairing their national Retail Operations Committee and annual conference educational track. Most recently she was recognized as Orchard Ridge’s 2021 nominee for Volunteer of the Year for the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

The Rev. Lisa M. Leber

Board Member
The Rev. Lisa M. Leber began her call at First Lutheran in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in August 2013. She is grateful to minister to, with and among people who love good liturgy and music, have a heart for social ministry, and are warm and welcoming to all!

Pastor Leber is a native of Central Pennsylvania and a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, Marshall-Wythe School of Law (College of William and Mary) and the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg. She served as associate pastor at St. James Lutheran Church in Gettysburg, from 1995 until 2000 and calls to specialized ministry at two Lutheran social ministry organizations between 2000 and 2013.

Pastor Leber is the dean of the West Cumberland Conference and currently serves on the boards of the Lutheran Camping Corporation of Central Pennsylvania, which she chairs, Safe Harbour, a nonprofit providing services to the homeless in Cumberland County, for which she serves as treasurer, and National Lutheran Communities & Services.

The Rev. Anne Dwiggins

Board Member
Reverend Anne Dwiggins has served in varied positions at the Synod and Churchwide level, including various council and committee appointments and as Pastor of St. Stephen Lutheran Church for over fifteen years. She is an involved member of the community, whose commitment to giving back is a great fit for NLCS’ dedication to service. One of her most recent involvements includes serving as Coordinator for the Christ Lutheran Church Food Pantry. In her spare time, Anne enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and traveling.

Dr. Tommie L. Robinson, Jr., Ph.D.

Board Member
Dr. Tommie Robinson is the director of the Scottish Rite Center for Childhood Language Disorders in the Hearing and Speech Center at Children’s National Health System, and is an associate professor of pediatrics at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. He joined the NLCS Board in January 2013 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in attending to those with special needs from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

Dr. Robinson’s accomplishments are many, and he is widely acclaimed for his work in speech and language disorders, having served as president of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the District of Columbia Speech-Language-Hearing Association; Thomas A. Crowe Alumni Award from The University of Mississippi, School of Applied Sciences; Establishment of the Tommie L. Robinson Jr. Excellence Award by the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) Chapter in the Department of Communicative Disorders at the University of Mississippi; and other distinguished awards and recognitions. He is an adjunct professor at Howard University, University of the District of Columbia among other schools and universities. Dr. Robinson has served, and continues to serve on various boards, presented and lectured nationally and internationally, and is a published author.

Dr. Robinson holds a B.A. in communicative disorders from The University of Mississippi, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in speech-language pathology from Howard University.

Thomas Whiteford

Board Member
Mr. Thomas Whiteford focuses on real estate, business, commercial, employment and insurance related litigation matters. He represents national and local clients in negotiations and litigation involving land use disputes, real estate, riparian rights and construction defects. He also handles litigation involving cemeteries and funeral homes. He regularly advises a range of companies, particularly real estate developers, commercial lessors, cemeteries and providers of funeral services, with regard to potential litigation and other business-related decisions. Mr. Whiteford is also experienced in the representation of licensed medical professionals before a range of governing bodies both in hearings and on appeal.

Cyndi Walters

President and Chief Executive Officer, NLCS

Cyndi Walters was named president and chief executive officer (CEO) of National Lutheran Communities and Services (NLCS) in May 2021, assuming the position full time in August 2021. Prior to this role, she served as chief operating officer (COO) since 2016.

Cyndi has served at NLCS in varying capacities for nine years, first as a consultant before joining as chief operating officer in 2016. Cumulatively, she has over 30 years of experience in the senior living industry including a strong background in strategically growing and diversifying the organization and an enhanced focus on operating as a senior-living system and leveraging its benefits and efficiencies. Prior to joining NLCS, she provided project management and advisory services to senior living organizations through Walters Advisors, LLC. She has also served in a leadership role at Presbyterian Senior Living in Dillsburg, Pennsylvania, and during her 19 years at KPMG (a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services), spent significant time as a partner and leader of their National Senior Living Advisory Practice.

As president and CEO, Cyndi’s focus is strategically growing and furthering NLCS’ mission to honor, inspire and support choice and opportunity in partnership with older adults. Cyndi is an advocate for “aging with choice,” which means supporting older adults in making their own choices in aging, whether it means moving to a senior living community or brining in supportive services to their home. She is also an advocate for team members across the organization and leads a team dedicated to ensuring NLCS remains a Great Place to Work® and an employer of choice for those who have a heart to serve older adults.

Cyndi is a native of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, area and holds a Bachelor of Science degree from York College of Pennsylvania.