Editor’s Note: We are profiling the McKnight’s 2020 Women of Distinction honorees daily through the program’s July 28 online awards ceremony. To learn more about this digital celebration, the Forum the next day (which offers three free continuing education credits July 29) and the program in general, visit mcknightswomenofdistinction.com.

Wendy Nowokunski’s more than two decades of senior living experience include leadership roles at Benchmark Senior Living and Newton Senior Living before she co-founded Burlington, MA-based Northbridge Companies, where she is president. She also founded the company’s Northbridge Advisory Services subsidiary, which helps senior living clients across the country achieve their desired business outcomes.

Today, Northbridge Companies, which has been named multiple times to The Commonwealth Institute’s list of Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts, has more than 1,500 employees who serve residents and their families at 15 communities in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. More than 80% of the senior management team at the organization is female, and Nowokunski mentors many of them. A substantial portion of Northbridge’s top talent is cultivated internally, and more than 70% of the company’s overall workforce is female.

Nowokunski is a member of Argentum’s Women in Leadership committee and a former board member for the Massachusetts Assisted Living Association. She is a frequent speaker at the MIT Center for Real Estate.

Individually and organizationally, Nowokunski has supported dozens of local and national charities since Northbridge’s inception. One of them is the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund. In a notable 2017 effort, Nowokunski and Northbridge CEO Jim Coughlin, supported by employees, residents and families, pedaled 350 miles from Northbridge’s northernmost Maine community to its southernmost Massachusetts community to raise more than $50,000 for the organization.

Nowokunski is the co-founder and current board member of the One Angel Foundation, a nonprofit that provides resources for housing, water and educational and health needs to help underprivileged children worldwide. The foundation was formed in memory of Nowokunski’s niece, Jenna, to honor her values of social responsibility and support for those in need.

Nowokunski’s love of art also has made an impact on the company. She grew up helping run her family’s arts and crafts store and personally enjoys creating charcoal drawings. After founding Northbridge, she worked to employ or bring in professional artists to teach residents via an “artists in residence” program. Her father, an accomplished painter, has been among the Northbridge community residents enjoying it.

In fact, Nowokunski is perhaps best described by words she had installed to decorate a company training center wall: “Live well, love life — with integrity, compassion & respect.”

The McKnight’s Women of Distinction program is jointly administered by McKnight’s Senior Living and McKnight’s Long-Term Care News. The program’s Diamond sponsor is PointClickCare. Silver sponsors are OnShift and PharMerica, and the Signature sponsor is Acadia Pharmaceuticals.