Mentoring for future leadership a focus at Providence Life Services

In recognition of National Mentoring Month, Providence celebrates the opportunity to pair the experienced staff at PLS with the next generation of leaders.

Many Providence staff members have been a part of this ministry for a long time. We recognize how valuable that experience is, so we encourage our community managers to share their knowledge through internships and mentorships.

We have encouraged these valuable relationships at many of our communities: at Royal Park Place and Royal Atrium in Zeeland, Michigan; at Providence Healthcare & Rehabilitation Centers in Palos Heights and Downers Grove, Illinois; and even in our corporate office in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Man in center holds an award honoring him for mentoring, as two young men stand on each side

Jeff Zylstra (center), named LeadingAge Michigan “Outstanding Mentor of the Year,” has worked successfully mentoring Evan Geels (left) and Shawn Phillips (right).

At Royal Park Place and Royal Atrium Inn, Jeff Zylstra has been community manager for 25 years.He has gained valuable insight along the way – and now he has teamed up with Evan Geels, a Trinity Christian College alum and former Providence intern, to share that knowledge.

Evan is the new community manager at Royal Atrium Inn, while Jeff has remained in his role at Royal Park Place and is serving as mentor to Evan — as well as to Shawn Phillips, the community manager at nearby Emerald Meadows in Grand Rapids.

In February, Jeff was nominated for the LeadingAge Michigan Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award — and he was selected as a winner. LeadingAge Michigan recognized him at the Gala of their annual conference.

“Jeff has made a lasting impact on the lives of both the residents he humbly serves and also the colleagues with whom he works,” Evan Geels says, on the mentoring received from Jeff Zylstra.

“Jeff has made a lasting impact on the lives of both the residents he humbly serves and also the colleagues with whom he works,” Evan said. “Now, through his mentorship and guidance, he is sharing his passion and commitment with the emerging generation of senior care leaders.”

Jeff shares credit for his recent award with his fellow employees.

“I’m surrounded by a lot of good people — there are so many great team members and department heads here,” Jeff said. “(Winning the award) is an honor, but something  I need to share.”

It isn’t just Royal Atrium Inn that sees the benefit of a mentor relationship; Providence seeks to inspire the industry’s future leaders with mentorships at many of our communities.

A young man celebrates mentoring, sitting at a table with a laptop and file.

Tom Vander Velde began an internship at Saratoga Grove under the mentoring of Deji Adegoye, and now works as Associate Marketing Manager at the PLS Corporate Office.

Tom Vander Velde started his career at Providence with a three-month internship in marketing for Providence. Soon after, he was hired to work full time at Downers Grove, under the mentorship of Executive Director Deji Adegoye. Tom spent much of his time learning from the marketing team, which prepared him for his current role: Associate Marketing Manager at the corporate office.

Mark Vanderzee spent time working under the guidance of Megan Tengerstrom in Palos Heights. He worked with each department manager and their staff, learning every person’s role in the community and doing hands-on work in every department.

A young woman sits and mentors a young man behind a desk

Megan Tengerstrom spent months mentoring Mark Vanderzee at Providence Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Palos Heights.

“It is important for him to continuously look for ways to improve processes and patient care, but also to be familiar with each employees’ workload, and look for ways we can improve there, too,” Megan said.

In addition to that training, he also learned the administrator role directly from Megan. Recently, Mark got the chance to put what he has learned into action. Megan was promoted to Vice President of Operations, overseeing the skilled nursing services at all Providence communities, and Mark is now serving as the administrator at Palos Heights.

“I appreciate that we are growing our own leaders, who are truly dedicated to the mission of Providence Life Services,” says Megan Tengerstrom, on mentoring.

“I appreciate that we are growing our own leaders, who are truly dedicated to the mission of Providence Life Services,” Megan said. “Mark is a great person, and he has a caring spirit. He is going to be a great administrator.”

A young woman sits behind a desk reflecting on the mentoring she has received at Providence

Carolyn Van Drunen is completing her internship in the accounting department at Providence, and has enjoyed the mentoring she has received from various staff.

Development of future leaders continues through Providence’s internship program. Providence has been working with a number of interns from Trinity Christian College — including Mark, Evan, and current intern Carolyn Van Drunen.

Carolyn, a junior at Trinity Christian College, knew about Providence through her accounting professor. She applied and started working at Providence in May. She’s spent her time working with and learning from the accounting department staff. “I’ve learned a lot, and enjoyed getting to know everyone,” she says.

In the future, Providence has plans to expand the internship program to other schools and other roles in the organization, to continue developing, encouraging, and inspiring the future leaders in our industry.

For more information on opportunities at Providence Life Services, click here, or go to