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‘I was not giving up!’

Longtime Well-Spring team member makes history by becoming first female executive director

In May 1993, Misti Ridenour came to Well-Spring to interview for a job. But no one was home.

Not in our Garden Homes, Apartments and Villas. … not even in the Human Resources offices. You see, Well-Spring had not yet opened or welcomed its first residents. After much searching, she eventually found the first employees in a makeshift office. She had persisted and didn’t give up until she found the people she had come to see.

It wasn’t the first time she had persisted.

In working toward a master’s degree in Sociology, Misti focused her thesis and studies in Gerontology as much as possible. At the time, Gerontology was new, and a degree in the field was not something yet offered. Even so, Misti knew she wanted to work with older adults.

“Growing up, I had many interactions with seniors, and I found that they had so much to teach us!” she remembers. “I just love hearing their stories and believe we can learn so much from each other. When other kids were playing together, I was often interacting with the adults.”

Misti’s father is a Methodist minister who studied at Duke Divinity School. So as Misti was growing up, the Ridenours had ties to the area. While Misti spent her early years in Burlington, she mainly grew up in western Maryland and West Virginia. When she began looking for graduate schools, she researched areas where she knew she might want to stay after graduation. And she remembered that her family always liked central North Carolina and its pleasant climate – and that, just maybe, her parents might want to retire there one day. With that in mind, UNCG then became a top choice. Her careful and intuitive planning worked out well – Misti’s parents and younger brothers and their families eventually relocated here, too!

And just like that, a position had become available at the soon-to-open Well-Spring. Misti was originally hired as a part-time social worker. “There were no computers yet in Health Care,” she recalled. “I was taking policies home to type up because the state was coming to license us on June 15, and it needed to get done.”

A few years later, Misti obtained the necessary licensure to position herself for a new opportunity and was promoted to Nursing Home Administrator. Over time, her path continued at Well-Spring, most recently as Director of Health Services.

This past June, Misti became the first woman to be Executive Director of Well-Spring’s flagship life plan community in Greensboro. “My work is a mission and a calling, and I am honored to have this opportunity. I truly love Well-Spring and the services that we provide and continue to evolve, so that we touch even more lives.”

Many Well-Spring residents – and colleagues – are familiar with Misti’s canine companion, Ribbon, who has been part of Misti’s life since spring 2021. Ribbon comes to work with Misti on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and loves making new friends with residents, team members and visitors.

Misti loves animals. Specifically, ones that cluck. Misti’s chicken-raising days started when a neighbor’s flock often ignored the property lines and came to visit. And roost!

“They make a lot of noise when they lay eggs,” Misti says, “and it was my father who first realized what the noise was and told me to look for eggs. It was like an Easter egg hunt every morning.” After meeting those chickens, she knew when she next house-hunted, she wanted space for more animals of her own. Now, several years later, she has seven chickens, all of which have names and produce very fine eggs. “I just love to watch them, how they scratch, and take dirt baths. It’s very relaxing.”

Misti’s quite handy around the house, too. When not tending her farm, she enjoys being hands-on with house needs. She’s built a deck with her father and brother and even tackled roofing. “I have two brothers, but when Dad needed help, I was the helper,” Misti recalls. Just like with her day job, she’s not afraid to try to learn things This is why she also enjoys being a preceptor and training future nursing home administrators.

“I really enjoy learning,” Misti says, “so when I have students, I’m not just seeing them learn, I’m refreshing my skills and sometimes learning new things, as well.”

“I was not giving up!” Misti says of her first adventurous day here on campus. And Well-Spring is grateful she hasn’t, while looking forward to Misti leading the Well-Spring community to even greater heights and successes.

Todd Dumke, Director of Dining Services

Culinary curiosity as a youngster launches chef on path that leads to Well-Spring

By Ann Davis-Rowe

For Todd Dumke, Well-Spring’s new Director of Dining Services, a career in cooking got off to an inauspicious start.

One of Todd’s earliest recipes – written when he was about 6 or 7 and living in Ohio – was for eggs. Two eggs. In a pot. In their shells. No water. This recipe was about as successful as you can imagine. Picture black smoke billowing about the kitchen.

Todd’s culinary talents grew by leaps and bounds, however, and he is now Well-Spring’s new Director of Dining Services, the first new person in that role in over 26 years.  

But first he had to learn – and gain the tremendous experience that has now landed him his coveted role at Well-Spring.

After a move to the Triangle and his parents’ separation, Todd began cooking “out of self-defense” while his hard-working mother also put herself through going back to school. By 17, he was living back in Ohio with his father, and he had his first kitchen job – like so many others do – as a dishwasher. He loved watching the cooks, how they almost danced around each other in the busy kitchen, all while wielding knives and hot pans. There would be a rail full of tickets, life would be frantic, and then all would be calm after the experts efficiently fed their happy guests.

Todd started college and soon realized he wanted something different than the traditional educational path. His father said, “Find something you love and find someone to pay you to do it.” Until he decided what that was, Todd joined the Ohio National Guard as an infantryman. There, he moved toward a dual associates degree in culinary arts and hotel restaurant management from Owens College in Toledo. A year into his degree, someone retired from the mess in his unit, and he put in a request to transfer into the kitchen.

“I traded in my machine gun for a spoon.”

Todd served in the Ohio National Guard for eight years, and then life brought him back to North Carolina. Here, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in culinary management from the Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham – nearly 20 years after earning his dual associates. His diverse career background includes country clubs, private clubs, fine and casual dining and collegiate food service – most recently at Duke University. This diverse background has given him plenty of training in French and Italian cooking, and some of Todd’s favorite cuisines include Southwestern, Cajun/Creole and Southern regional.

When working at the four-star Siena Hotel and Carolina Inn, both in Chapel Hill, during the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, Todd became especially focused on local and seasonal produce. He had always helped with the family garden growing up, so he had a special affinity for the freshest ingredients. While purchasing for the inn, he was approached by the woman running a local produce distribution company. Many local farmers had taken advantage of government grants to stop growing tobacco and start growing food, but there wasn’t a good way for them to get this food to consumers. Eastern Carolina Organics filled that gap, and Todd was so interested by what this one-woman shop was doing, he became their operations manager for seven years, helping to grow it – and their farmers’ – success exponentially. His day-to-day work with ECO sometimes included building coolers and running forklifts. Sometimes, he could even multi-task by studying lines for church skits while driving delivery trucks.

Todd and his wife, Laura, are searching for the perfect plot of land on which to build their own garden here in the Triad. They share a love of gardening and landscaping, as well as traveling and taking in live concerts (fun fact: Todd has attended well over 150 concerts of all types in his life). Todd and Laura were planning their wedding when COVID hit, so they went ahead and had a much smaller celebration to make things official. They share their home with a 13-year-old – or a senior citizen, depending on how you look at it – beagle, Clyde.

And as of May, Todd is overseeing and growing Well-Spring’s already renowned dining program.

Chef Todd said the more he learned about Well•Spring, the more interested he was in coming to work here. And luckily for Well-Spring, he has learned a trick or two since those eggs in elementary school. He’s already begun showing those tricks off here in all our dining venues. His passion for local produce and seasonal cooking is leading to new partnerships and new opportunities.

We can’t wait to see what he cooks up next!