Who We Are

Executive Director

Jeanette Jeffrey

Jeanette Jeffrey was named Executive Director in January 2023, following the retirement of Karen Wright who provided 11 years of dedicated service. The year prior, Jeanette served as the vice president of HomePorts’ board of directors.

As a professor of public health for over 30 years, Jeanette’s research focused on stress, depression and suicide among older adults and farmers. Her initial move to Chestertown in 2022 was to serve as the Rural Health Care Transformation Health Educator with University of Maryland Shore Medical Center Chestertown. Jeanette also serves as Alumni Career Fellow for The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health where she provides career counseling to Master of Public Health students on a part-time basis.

Jeanette’s educational credentials include a Bachelor of Science degree in Community Health from Towson University, a Master of Science degree in Education and a certificate in Teaching in Higher Education from The Johns Hopkins University, a Master of Public Health and a certificate in Humanitarian Assistance from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a certificate in International Health: Clinical and Community Care from the University of Arizona, and a Master Certified Health Education Specialist certification through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.

Board of Directors

Gale Drenning, President

Gale is originally from Germantown, a small town in Wisconsin, and is the last surviving of three children. She is a rabid Packer fan and proud to be a Cheesehead!

As a registered nurse by profession, Gale recently retired and is exploring new ways to utilize her nursing background. She attended college in Milwaukee, Madison and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.

She and husband Jim moved from Annapolis 4 ½ years ago and love living in Chestertown. Gale recently ventured into acting and was excited and gratified to be cast in The Laramie Project at The Garfield. She loves gardening, cooking, and entertaining, which she and her husband do often. Jim is a native of the area and is mostly retired from the commercial fire protection industry. He loves to sing and is a member of the Chester River Chorale, the Chester Chamber Singers, and River Voices. Jim is also a techie – very adept at computers – and is a wonderful help to those who do not have the technical gene. Jim also serves as a volunteer for HomePorts. They have a 14-year-old Malti-poo (dog) named Gracie who they love like a daughter!

Gale is proud to be involved in HomePorts, contributing all that she can to the already amazing work that is being done by the organization. She is eager, energetic, and full of ideas. Her friends say that she has a great sense of humor and doesn’t take herself too seriously. She is not afraid of hard work and looks forward to helping build HomePorts back to its original robust organization.

John Murphy, Vice President

John Murphy spent most of his career taking care of patients directly and promoting health and wellness among populations of people. After finishing his residency in Internal Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, John joined the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as part of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS). He then completed a Preventive Medicine Residency with CDC and spent a total of 6 years there. Much of the work there was related to researching the causes of and preventing transmission of AIDS.

John left CDC in 1991 to practice at the VA Medical Center in Atlanta and ended up practicing in the VA for the rest of his career. For most of that time, he practiced and managed physicians delivering Primary Care services at the Asheville, NC VA Medical Center and then the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. In each of these 3 facilities, he held academic appointments with the affiliated medical school (Emory, Duke, and Penn) and actively trained medical students and residents.

Throughout his career, John was very interested in using computers and information systems to improve the practice of medicine and augment the ability of health care providers to connect with their patients. He spent more and more of my time helping his organization in Philadelphia to develop their informatics capabilities and eventually became board certified in Clinical Informatics. When he joined the New Orleans VA in 2016, John was the Chief of Clinical Informatics as they built and opened a brand new $1.2 billion facility. Subsequently, he took a position with VA Central Office in Washington DC in the Office of Connected Care. Their mission was to develop capabilities for delivering virtual care, including Telehealth. John joined this group just before the COVID pandemic hit, so their work was very important in delivering healthcare during the pandemic.

Merrilyn Williams, Treasurer

Merrilyn Willams moved to Chestertown last fall to be close to her three sons and their families. She grew up inNorth Carolina, went to college in Virginia and moved to Connecticut where she raised her family. In Connecticut, Merrilyn worked in the school system, was on the board of the local YMCA, was president of the Friends of the Library and served as treasurer for the high school scholarship organization before going to massage therapy school. She worked in Hartford Hospital providing massage for patients and staff, was part of the medical massage training program there as well as an instructor of pregnancy and newborn massage for parents. Merrilyn and her husband retired to the mountains of North Carolina where they enjoyed gardening, kayaking and beekeeping. Presently, Merrilyn is a volunteer at Eastern Neck Wildlife Refuge and is thoroughly enjoying living in Chestertown and all that it offers.

Michael S. Conner, Secretary

Mike Connor retired in April of 2021 with more than 40 combined years of experience in the legal and health care professions. He established his elder law and estate planning practice in May of 2001 in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. The practice focused on providing effective, affordable legal services that assisted aging adults and their families plan for the future. He emphasized to prospective clients that it was essential to prepare for elder law and estate planning issues before a crisis arises. His firm offered legal counseling in the areas of wills, trusts, estate planning, special needs trusts, estate administration, and long-term care matters, including Medicaid planning.

Before starting his solo law practice, Mike was Executive Director of Trinity Health Care Alliance, a joint venture of Doylestown, Grand View and North Penn Hospitals in the suburbs of Philadelphia, a position that utilized his extensive background in the hospital and healthcare management field. Prior to that position, Mike formerly worked for two Philadelphia law firms representing business clients in the areas of employment and labor relations. Before entering law school, from 1974 to 1994 Mike served as the chief human resources executive at North Penn Hospital in Lansdale, PA, Mercer Medical Center in Trenton, NJ, and Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood, PA.

Mike earned his Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D.) degree, with honors, at Temple University School of Law where he had also earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

Since his retirement, Mike and his wife, Joanne, (and our adopted dogs, Maggie and Skylar) have moved to Chestertown, Maryland.

Denise Groppe

Denise A Groppe, COTA, CAPS and her husband relocated to Chestertown from Northern Virginia where they lived, and raised their three daughters, for over 25 years. Denise began a second career in 2012 as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA) with a strong interest in the role Occupational Therapists have in assisting people to successfully “age-in-place.” Recently, she obtained a certification as an Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) through the National Association of Home Builders.

In addition to working as a COTA in Continuing Care Retirement communities, Denise worked for a major health care system in Northern Virginia, INOVA. She worked with families in the process of becoming eligible and accepted into a dual eligible, Medicare and Medicaid, managed health care program, Programs of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE).

Shortly after relocating to Chestertown, Denise accepted the newly created position of Program Coordinator with Rebuilding Together Kent County (RTKC) where she worked closely with the RTKC Executive Director and Board of Directors in managing the completion of the many requests for home repairs for Kent County residents.

Denise looks forward to continuing to use her experience in the fields of Occupational Therapy and managed health care to assist the residents of Kent County in successfully aging in place through the many services offered by HomePorts. As a volunteer, Denise has already taken on the role of Volunteer Coordinator for HomePorts, assisting members with the services they require by making sure there is a volunteer pool to meet the needs of membership.

Susan Eddy

Susan has lived in Chestertown for 25 years and served as a volunteer and board member with Voices for Quality Care, an organization advocating for nursing home residents and their families.  She retired from work as a field supervisor with Westat, a survey research company which gathered statistical data for government studies. Prior to that she worked as an editor-writer and newspaper reporter in Massachusetts.  She holds a M.A. in Communications from American University. Susan sings with the Chester River Chorale and a women’s barbershop group.

Susan Higgs

Susan Higgs has been with Upper Shore Aging, Inc. for 18 years, holding several positions with our agency including Senior Care Program Case Manager for Kent County, Senior Care Program Manager for Kent, and Caroline Counties in which she was part of the State of Maryland Department of Aging Team to rewrite the Senior Care Program Manual, Waiver Case Manager and Money follows the Person coordinator.

Recently she held the position of Director of Community Services in which she oversaw the daily functions of 6 different programs for the agency.
As the current Project Director for the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program for Kent County for the agency, Susan assists local organizations by providing support and recognition for their older volunteer staff. She also assists the agency in its Outreach Services for 3 counties.

Prior to working with the Department of Aging, she worked for Building Owners and Managers International Association (BOMA International) in Washington D.C. Her position with BOMA was the Vice President of Marketing and Membership Services.

She came to us with a background in Behavioral Psychology from the University of Maryland and Theology from the University of the South.

Susan belongs to the service organizations of Chestertown Lions Club and Chestertown Chapter Order of the Eastern Star. She previously held a position on the Board of Directors for Rebuilding Together Kent County.

Lee Hunley

Olythea “Lee” Hunley was born and raised in the Kent County, Maryland Community of Coleman’s Corner, graduated from Henry Highland Garnet High School, and attended Bowie State University for two years.  She worked as an Instructional Assistant for Kent County Public Schools for 23 years as well as Chesterfield County, South Carolina Public Schools for 5 years.  Lee also worked with the Bell Telephone Company of Philadelphia, PA for 13 years.

Lee is an active member in numerous rolls in her church including choir member, usher, Lay Servant, Worship Committee secretary, Administrative Council chairperson, Membership Committee member.  She is also an active member of the Chestertown Lions Club, Kent County  Commission on Aging, Kent County Retired School Personnel, and HomePorts Board of Directors.

Lee says, “I like working with HomePorts because this organization serves the Senior Citizens of Kent County.  As a caregiver for an elderly family member myself,  I understand first hand the needs of seniors and appreciate the services offered by HomePorts as a way for them to remain comfortably in their homes during a time when familiarity is so important to their well being.  Serving with HomePorts gives me an opportunity to accomplish something useful in our county for the people who need the kind of help that HomePorts offer.”

CB Lovell

CB has been a resident of Kent County since 2005 and lives in Kennedyville with her husband, Burr. Before retiring she was a Professor at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD and taught English.  In addition to her love of books, CB loves mothering, grandmothering, and being a good neighbor, good friend, and good citizen of our ever-shrinking world. Serving on the HomePorts Board is an opportunity to continue a life dedicated to service of others.

Erica Osterhout

YMCA Executive Director Erica credits her success to her multifaceted experience in the health and wellness field with over two decades of expertise ranging from the sciences of exercise via her degree, to group instruction, customer service, leadership, and beyond into community development. Noting that human connection is the link that bonds these advancements together, her appetite for making a meaningful impact on the lives of many has only grown. She believes that health has to be a relationship with yourself in mind, body and spirit, and that it has to be attainable for all of us.

Christoper Taylor

Christopher (Chris) Taylor, a long-time resident of Colorado, relocated to the Coventry Farms neighborhood in Chestertown in early 2021. He and his partner Donna selected Chestertown because it represented the half-way point between her family in Philadelphia and his family in Olney, Md. As this was during the COVID-19 shutdown, they like to say that “they bought a home they had never seen in a town they had never been before”.

Chris has been a licensed CPA for the last 30 years and has both a B.S. and an M.S. in accounting. He has worked with numerous small business clients (including his own businesses). He has also worked as a full-time accounting instructor at Regis University in Denver, where he mentored students and created an accounting club to help students learn about the profession and network with employers. In addition to working in his own accounting firm, Chris has had numerous financial management positions in corporations and governmental agencies. He retired from his CFO position last October at Dino Don, Inc., a manufacturer of anatomical dinosaurs for zoos and museums.

Having enjoyed working on the boards of several professional organizations, including the Institute of Management Accountants and the Colorado of Society of CPAs, Chris has been looking for volunteer board positions in the Chestertown area, specifically for ways to assist the senior population. The mission of helping people stay in their home as long as possible is something that both he and Donna are passionate about.

Muriel Cole, Ex Officio

Formerly Past-President of HomePorts, she has been a lifelong advocate for seniors. She has a graduate certificate in Gerontology from the University of Maryland and co-chairs the Kent County Commission on Aging. She has lived in Chestertown for 26 years.