Meet the NAVA Board

Steve Klotz, President Steve is a Validation Master and representative from the first Authorized Validation Organization (AVO) in the U.S., Country Meadows Retirement Communities in Hershey PA. He graduated from Lycoming College, B.A. in Religion, and Palmer Theological Seminary, M.Div. with a focus on Adult Education. After a fifteen year pastoral career, Steve served as a Chaplain and then Director of Chaplaincy with Country Meadows for seven years. He began his Validation training in 1999 under Naomi Feil and Vicki de Klerk, and received certification as a Validation Master from VTI in 2010. Since 2006, he has taught Validation full-time in that company’s facilities, as well as other nearby and distant organizations. Steve assisted with the formation of an AVO in Minneapolis MN, where he taught certification courses over four years. Email

Maureen Sirianni, Secretary Maureen is the Memory Support Coordinator for Country Meadows of South Hills located in Bridgeville, Pa. She has worked hands on with the elderly in the dementia care field for the past 16 years; her hands-on approach to elder care was the basis for her understanding and learning of the Validation Method. Maureen received her Validation Worker certification in 2005, her Validation Group Practitioner certification in 2007 along with her Validation Teacher certification that same year. She now teaches and mentors staff. Maureen has offered long distance consultation in New Hampshire to individuals who are caregivers. She has also given presentations at Mt. Lebanon Presbyterian Church, Prime Time Adult Day Care and Friendship Ridge Community located in Beaver County, Pa. Maureen has developed a brain fitness program for assisted living residents who live with mild to moderate dementia yet remain in Assisted Living. She also runs numerous Validation Groups at Country Meadows. Email

Carrie Gallahan Carrie Gallahan holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and a Masters in Liberal Studies with a focus on gerontology, both from Indiana University. Carrie provides interim services in the Senior Living Industry, including programming, training, and administrative support. She is currently acting as the Interim Administrator at an assisted living and memory care in Madison, Wisconsin.
She began her work in Validation in 2008 after a trip to Zurich to attend the European Validation Association annual meeting. This inspired her to become involved in the organizing efforts of the North American Validation Association. She is a certified validation worker and group practitioner, with plans to take teacher training in the near future. Email

Sandy Strathmeyer, Chair of the Membership Committee Sandy has over 25 years of experience working with mentally challenged adults in various settings, i.e. skilled nursing, assisted living, and vocational/rehabilitation centers in various capacities – administration, resource support, training and social work. She is a Certified Validation Teacher and has been practicing and teaching Validation to team members and family caregivers for 10 plus years. She had the privilege of studying directly under Naomi Feil, the developer of the Validation Method and has co-presented with her at various National Alzheimer’s conferences. Sandy is very actively involved with the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter in PA and been the Chairperson for the York, PA Memory Walk for the past 5 years. She has also been a support group facilitator for the past 19 years for the Alzheimer’s Association as well as a participant on their speaker’s bureau. Sandy has certification in dementia care from the Dementia Care Professionals of America, a branch of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, graduated with a BA from Shippensburg University with a major in Sociology and a Minor in Gerontology. She has been employed by Sunrise Senior Living since 2009. ). Email

Rita Altman, VTI Representative Rita Altman, R.N., M.S.N., C.M.V, is the National Director of Memory Care Services for Sunrise Senior Living where she uses the latest evidence-based research to design and oversee the implementation of Sunrise’s memory care and assisted living programs. She received her B.S.N. from The University of Pennsylvania, and her Master’s degree in Nursing Leadership and Management from The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Rita has more than 30 years of nursing experience which includes nursing education, staff development training, intergenerational programming, and management in childcare, adult day care, assisted living and skilled nursing settings. Rita is one of five Validation Masters worldwide, and studied under Naomi Feil, who developed the Validation Method. She has contributed to and authored articles for nursing and trade journals and has spoken on the topic of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias both nationally and internationally. She has also participated in or provided resource support in several televised media presentations including The Memory Loss Tapes for HBO’s Alzheimer’s Project. Rita volunteers her time to educate and advocate for improved dementia care services and quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s disease and their family caregivers. Email

Rosemary Golias, 2012 Conference Committee Co-Chairs Rosemary Golias, BS Ed, MA, CVT began her work in Senior Care as a hospital chaplain in St. Paul, Minnesota. In 2005, inspired by Naomi Feil’s book, The Validation Breakthrough, and what is possible for the elderly, she said: “I’m going to learn this and teach this.” She continues to learn and be deeply touched by the men and women she serves in her Validation practice. Through her commitment, Rosemary has spearheaded the Minnesota Validation movement that began with workshops and certification courses. And in February 2010, the Volunteers of America became the Authorized Validation Organization for Minnesota, and as well, for Ohio and Arizona. Email


Dave Nilson, Treasurer Dave Nilson has been in Long Term Care for 31 years, for the last 10 years with Volunteers of America. He graduated with an Education Degree from St. Cloud State University; started as a Therapeutic Recreation Aide Crystal Lake Nursing Home in 1980, becoming the Director 1984. In 1993, Dave served on committee that developed one of the first Memory Care Units in the Twin Cities and served as the Director of that unit at Crystal Lake until 2001. He became a Certified Dementia trainer through the MN Alzheimer’s Association in 1994 and served on the committee to bring the National ATRA (American Therapeutic Recreation Association) Annual Conference to Minneapolis in 1995. His organization received the MAHCF Quality of Life Awards in 1986 and 2000. Dave came to Volunteers of America in 2001 serving as the Therapeutic Recreation Director at Crystal Care Center and company Dementia trainer. In 2008, he became the Memory Care/TR consultant. During this time, he completed the CPI (Non-violent Crisis Prevention Intervention) trainer course. Dave worked with Rosemary Golias in bringing Naomi Feil to Minnesota for Validation workshops which were followed by offering certification classes in Validation. In 2010, he worked to have Volunteers of America become an Authorized Validation Organization (AVO). Dave serves as the AVO representative for Volunteers of America, one of 3 in the United States and one of 17 worldwide. Email