From Sanctuary to Community: Building on Tradition

For more than 100 years, the simple wooden building on what is now Brandon Avenue in Roanoke was a house of worship. In two rows of pews fronted by a raised pulpit, Lutherans and Moravians bowed their heads in prayer and took part in the Lord’s Supper.

Today, the Old Zion Church building is gone and in its place is Brandon Oaks, an award-winning Lifecare community opened in 1993. Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, which lies opposite, opened in 2003, replacing the old Health Center at Brandon Oaks.

In the 1980s, the VLH family expanded into a new location with the addition of Luther Crest (in New Market), a community providing rent-subsidized apartment living and supportive services. Virginia Lutheran Homes now serves about 550 residents in our two locations.
1896 -1966
The Beginning
For more than 100 years, the simple wooden building on what is now Brandon Avenue in Roanoke was a house of worship. In two rows of pews fronted by a raised pulpit, Lutherans and Moravians bowed their heads in prayer and took part in the Lord's Supper.

In 1897, the congregation moved and the Old Zion Church was decommissioned. After serving for a time as a storehouse and later falling into ruin, the building and its land were donated to Virginia Lutheran Homes by landowner Colonel Browns family.
1966 - 1973
Building The Foundation
foundation.jpgIn 1966, The Virginia Synod of the Lutheran Church in America granted permission to build a home for the elderly in Roanoke, named Virginia Synod Lutheran Homes.

Almost five years passed before ground was broken for the Health Center, with it opening in 1973. During that time, a location had to be found, architectural plans drawn up and financial support secured from individuals and congregations of the Virginia Synod. 
1980 - 2003
A Growth Period
In the 1980's, the VLH family expanded into a new location with the addition of Luther Crest in New Market, a community to provide rent-subsidized apartment living and supportive services.

Brandon Oaks, an award-winning Lifecare community opened in 1993 on the site of the Old Zion Church building. In 2003 Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center opened across from Brandon Oaks, replacing the former Brandon Oaks Health Center.

Our Chaplaincy Program: Providing Compassionate, Spiritual Care

The Chaplaincy Program at Virginia Lutheran Homes is an essential part of our holistic approach to resident care and comfort. Through the program, we offer the services of two full-time chaplains to residents and their families. Pastor Keith Olivier is an ordained pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and serves under a Letter of Call of the Synod Council of the Virginia Synod, ELCA.
GettyImages-77894845-2.jpgAt Brandon Oaks and the Brandon Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, chaplaincy services include weekly Vesper worship for Independent and Assisted Living residents and daily morning chapel on weekdays. Sunday afternoon worship at the Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and Holy Communion is offered in all levels of care. Also provided are hospital visits, Bible study, prayer gatherings, help with end-of-life issues and grief counseling.

The chaplains work with other employees of Brandon Oaks on interdisciplinary teams to meet the full range of resident needs. They also stay in touch with local clergy to keep them informed on church members who live at Brandon Oaks.

At Luther Crest, the chaplaincy program offers residents a monthly morning Bible study and afternoon worship service with Holy Communion and one-on-one meetings with a chaplain.

Our dream for the future is a fully endowed Chaplaincy Program to serve the residents of Brandon Oaks and Luther Crest. If you’d like to help with a gift to the Chaplaincy Endowment Fund, please donate online or contact us.
Virginia Lutheran Homes, Inc., is a social ministry organization of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. As such, we maintain partnerships and close ties to the following groups and organizations:
Virginia Lutheran Homes is a partner in the Virginia Synod’s United Lutheran Appeal. Contact us for more information about the appeal.

We are also affiliated with Lutheran Services of America, the largest social ministry agency in the United States.

Our Management - The People Who Guide VLH

neff_30px_rt.jpgHeather L. Neff, MHA
President & CEO  
Virginia Lutheran Homes, Inc.

Heather has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Juniata College and a Master of Health Policy and Administration from Penn State University. With more than 15 years of experience in the field of senior health care, Ms. Neff is a dynamic, mission-driven leader with a focus on person-centered care and organizational sustainability. Most recently she served as CEO of Waveny Care Network, which operates a portfolio of residence complexes, health clinics and related services in New Canaan, Connecticut.

Gary Ventola PIC.jpgGary Ventola, MBA, MS
Chief Financial Officer

Gary joined VLH in March 2020 as Chief Financial Officer. Mr. Ventola has 15 years of financial and senior management experience in the Continuing Care Retirement industry. Most recently, Mr. Ventola served as Chief Financial Officer for Terrace Communities, in Manchester Vermont, where he directed the financial operation of seven senior retirement communities. Prior to 2019, he was Chief Financial Officer for St. Andrew’s Resources for Seniors System, a not for profit system of twenty-three senior retirement communities including three Continuing Care Retirement Communities; based in St, Louis Missouri since 2016. From 2006 until 2016 Mr. Ventola served as Senior VP of Finance/Assistant CFO for Charlotte, North Carolina based Senior Living Communities, where he directed the financial operations for twelve senior retirement communities, seven of which were Continuing Care Retirement Communities.


Mr.  Ventola is a graduate of Virginia Tech with Bachelor’s degrees in Accounting and Finance (1991). He has earned Masters degrees from Indiana Wesleyan (MBA, 2003), University Of Connecticut (Accountancy, 2013), and Wake Forest University (Healthcare Law, 2019).

_P3A8498 web.jpg 

 Brian Ard
 Director of Human Resources


CharlesDowns_web-731x1024.jpgCharles Downs, Jr.
Corporate Counsel

Charles joined VLH in February 2020. Charles is a seasoned attorney who has practiced law in Virginia for over 20 years. Over the years, Charles has focused his practice on health law and the representation of health care providers and institutions in various legal matters.

Most recently, Charles was a partner at the Roanoke office of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, an AMLaw100 law firm with offices across the United States.


Julee Goodman
Director of Development

Julee joined Virginia Lutheran Homes in August of 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from Marshall University. Julee brings with her 15 years of experience in the development, fundraising and program management sectors. Most recently, Julee served as the Vice President of Development for Center in the Square in Downtown Roanoke. During her time there, Julee managed all the fundraising campaigns and was a part of the team that raised $30 million in a capital to renovate Center in the Square, planned numerous events and developed educational programming and partnered with numerous other non-profit organizations to further the mission of Center in the Square. Julee looks to use her unique experiences with non-profits and wealth of knowledge to further the mission and goals of Virginia Lutheran Homes. 

Virginia Lutheran Homes, Inc. Board of Trustees

Rev. James Armentrout

George N. Arthur

Dr. R. Allen Blackwood, Jr.

Daniel P. Kahill

Dr. Marie L. Malinchak

Dianne B. Martin

Nancy K. Overstreet

Barbara L. Phelps

John Douglas Price

Rev. K. David Skole

Joseph H. Trost

Bishop Robert F. Humphrey