Meet the Staff at Oaks at Pooler

Oaks at Pooler is staffed with professionally-trained caregivers, selected for their knowledge, compassion, and understanding of residents’ needs.

Nicole Hodges - Executive Director

Nicole Hodges Executive Director

I was blessed to be born into a family of healthcare workers. As a young child, my mother was the administrator of a skilled nursing community and would often bring me to work with her. It was during that time, as I passed out ice and played games with the residents that my passion for senior care began. Once I became a nurse, I was able to gain experience and hone my skills in various medical environments, including hospitals, skilled nursing and home health. While I found my role in those environments fulfilling, my long-term goal was to obtain a position with assisted living management. I was thrilled when I came on board with Oaks Senior Living as the Assisted Living Wellness Director at the Oaks at Braselton. In that position, I learned the importance of person-centered care and the value of giving every resident purpose through programming and intergenerational interaction.

I had the opportunity to help with the opening of The Oaks at Pooler in 2016. This area has always felt like home to me so I was thrilled to be able to relocate and join the Pooler family. My hope is that all who walk through our doors have that same exact feeling of coming home. God blessed me with opportunities to care for people in all stages of life and I believe that every person has a right to make their own choices and live with dignity and respect. As the Executive Director at the Oaks at Pooler, I intend to carry out the mission of the Oaks by creating a community that enables our residents to live every day with such rights.

When not at work, my husband, Jay, and I stay very busy raising our four sons. We are a very musical family and also enjoy studying the bible together and spending time outdoors.

Garrett Slemmons - Community Relations Director

Garrett Slemmons Community Relations Director

After spending most of our lives in Chicago, my wife and I decided we were tired of the cold and it was time for a change and moved South. It took us a few months to get used to the “slow” pace, but we could not be happier with our new home and the warm weather. We are blessed with two amazing little ones who always keep us on our toes.

I spent the first 10 years of my professional career working at a non-profit school serving children and adults on the autism spectrum in the Chicago land area. I started as a teacher and had the good fortune to work in various aspects of the organization, eventually becoming VP of Community Relations. In working with the autism population, I have seen how truly gifted these individuals are and the amazing achievements they can accomplish given an opportunity, support, and come creativity. I believe that all people are entitled to respect, dignity, and a chance to live their life to the fullest extent possible.

I am incredibly excited that I have the opportunity to join the Oaks family. I bring with me a passion for helping and empowering people to be as independent as possible. My goal is to help our residents enjoy each day in a safe, supportive, and engaging environment.

In my free time, you can find me pushing a two child stroller, hanging out at the beach, reading, on the golf course, or watching my beloved Chicago Cubs.

Julie King - Assisted Living Wellness Director

Julie King Assisted Living Wellness Director


I was born and raised in a small town in New Jersey, with an amazing, close knit family. I moved to Southeast Georgia four years ago, and couldn’t be happier. I particularly enjoy the warm climate, and true southern hospitality. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been very passionate about health, wellness, and helping others. Before becoming a nurse, I worked as a massage therapist for a well-respected holistic chiropractic practice.

I began my senior living career as a nurse in a Long-Term Care/Rehabilitation/Memory Care facility. Throughout that experience, my compassion, love, and empathy for seniors quickly grew. This passion continued to grow, after accepting a position as Director of Assisted Living at an Assisted Living/Independent Living community, where I could take on a more administrative role.

I am truly blessed to have been so warmly welcomed in to the Oaks family, and to be able to serve the residents, and their families, as the Assisted Living Wellness Director. I am committed to incorporating all dimensions of wellness, and look forward to being a part of this vital, and thriving community.

Robert Prior - Horizons Wellness Director

Robert Prior Horizons Wellness Director


I have been serving in the nursing field since 2003. I’ve worked in mental health and assisted living in the state of Florida, prior to relocating to Georgia with my wife Kate. We have six children and one grandchild who we love spending time with.

I enjoy fishing, reading, gardening, cooking and I am very passionate about music. I do organic vertical gardening so I can get a lot of food from a small space. I also grow all my own blueberries, figs, pears, plums, and grapes. We buy very few vegetables, we grow almost everything that we need!

I love being part of the Oaks at Pooler team and working with the growing elderly population. Elders deserve our care, and I love the feeling of appreciation I receive from the people I help. It is one of the things that keeps me going as a nurse. My sincere hope is to make a positive difference in each resident’s life!

Willa J Ellington – Lifestyle Director

Willa J Ellington Lifestyle Director

I was born and raised in Bainbridge, the best little town in Georgia. I have the most amazing family and friends that anyone could ask for. My greatest accomplishment in life will always be being ‘Cliff’s’ mom. My son Cliff and his wife Shaina are currently serving in the United States Navy, and they are stationed in Yokosuka, Japan. They blessed me with my grandson ‘CJ’ and he means everything to me.

In my family, there are five sets of twins. I am the middle child of three siblings and I was born nine minutes before my twin brother Willie. I think I got the best out of life growing up in a large southern family. It taught me the importance of being family-oriented, giving the best of what southern hospitality offers, having spiritual strength and faith, and many other lessons that have guided me in life.

I have always had the desire to care for and nurture others, and because of that I am majoring in psychology at Georgia Southern, formerly Armstrong State College in Savannah, Ga. My career experience includes Mental Health, Marketing, Medical Assisting, and Social Work. I started my assisted living career in January 2017, and I couldn’t have made a better decision. I am more than over-joyed and thankful to now be a part of the Oaks Family.

I enjoy the wonderful smiles, love, and family atmosphere that we have here. I’m looking forward to making many wonderful memories with my residents and their family members. There is no better place to be than here at Oaks at Pooler with my Precious Gems and Rare Flowers.

Lauren Eckert – Horizons Lifestyle Director

Lauren Eckert Horizons Lifestyle Director


I was born and raised in Maryland. Throughout my whole life I have always wanted to work in the medical field, specifically nursing. I worked in an internal medicine /surgical office for 3.5 years and decided nursing was not going to be the best fit for me. I wanted to be more hands on with my patients and really get to know them. I decided at the age of 26 to go back to school to pursue a degree in Recreational Therapy. I packed my bags and my dog Cody and January 1, 2014 moved to Pooler. I graduated from Georgia Southern in 2016 and I’m proud to be able to say Lauren Eckert, CTRS.

While in school I worked as an assistant activity coordinator for an assisted living community in Savannah. I knew immediately that I wanted to work in geriatrics’, especially in memory care. My grandfather passed away from Alzheimer’s and my father has the beginning stages of it so I knew when a job opened up in memory care at Oaks at Pooler it would be perfect for me. Being able to see and make someone smile and laugh when they think they have lost hope due to not remembering things or other elements is truly an amazing feeling.

I love sports especially swimming, lacrosse and football. On my free time I love to watch movies, read books and travel. My passion in life is to help people. One of my favorite quotes is “it is not how much you do, but how much love you put in the doing”.

Sherri Long – Business Office Manager

Sherri Long Business Office Manager


I was born and raised in the charming city of Savannah, Georgia. I’ve been married for 20 years, and have two beautiful daughters. I graduated from Armstrong Atlantic State University with a Bachelors of Health Science, with a concentration in Health Administration in 1997. I graduated with Honors from Savannah Technical College with an Associates of Business Management and a Technical Certificate in Human Resource Management in May of 2016. My professional experience includes 13 years in Employee Benefits, where I was an Account/Marketing Manager for two well-known and respected insurance agencies in Savannah. In my free time I enjoy spending time at the beach and on the water, reading, listening to music, watching football and being with my family and two dogs, Rocky and Willow.

Earl Jones – Food Service Director

Earl Jones Food Service Director


Born and raised on the Gulf Coast in Mobile, AL, Earl started cooking around the age of 12, watching his father’s mother and his own mother cooking Sunday dinner. Most of the meals were prepared using fresh grown vegetables from his uncle’s gardens such as collard greens, purple eye peas, okra, corn and watermelon, Earl started his cooking career after receiving his Culinary Arts degree from Bishop State Community College where he got his professional training under Chef Herman Packer and Chef Henry Douglas. He worked at some of Mobile’s finest country clubs and Retirement communities. Gaining more than 15 years in the hospitality industry. I started with Thompson Hospitality as the Sous Chef in 2007 and worked for them until 2008 when he relocated to Macon, GA to become the Chef Manager at the Carlyle Place. He returned to Savannah, GA in 2009 to become the Executive Chef for Thompson Hospitality at Savannah State University. My passion for food has driven me to get back into Senior Living facilities, to be able to care for Seniors because of my parents who has become of age.

Matt Spence “Spence” – Maintenance Director

Matt Spence “Spence” Maintenance Director


I am a Georgia native, born and raised near Pooler.  I began my career in assisted living when I was 18 years old as a part-time painter and later advanced to a Maintenance Director.  Being able to make a positive impact on the lives of others is a privilege that I take very seriously and genuinely enjoy.  I love getting to know them and hearing their stories- there is much wisdom to be gained! 

I am married to a wonderful woman and we have 5 daughters, who have taught me a great deal about listening and having patience.  I love to spend my free time with my family and friends.  I have a geeky side and am a Star Wars movie buff and comic book fan. 

I feel very blessed to be a part of the Oaks’ family and look forward to serving our residents for many years to come.