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About Northwoods Partners

Since its beginning in 2001, Northwoods Partners (NP) has evaluated and supported clients and their caregivers to help them to remain living independently in their own homes for as long as possible. In 2004, a program was started to provide transportation for older adults to medical appointments and for errands. In 2008, NP developed an exercise program that enhances the quality of life for older adults and helps reduce falls.

NP was recruited in 2010 to participate in a New York University research program to educate and enable patients with Alzheimer’s disease to remain living longer at home. In 2012 the Northwoods Memory Care program was created in response to a growing community need. In 2014, NP began partnering with other community health care providers to create more effective and efficient care for families dealing with types of dementia such as memory loss.

Mission, Vision, & Values

Provide resources that promote independence and healthy aging

A community where people are able to age with dignity

Compassion, Relationships, Dignity, Respect, Independence, Volunteerism

Funded by Grants and Gifts

Northwoods Partners is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that is funded by grants and support from Arrowhead Area Agency on Aging, Dept. of Health and Human Services, Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital, Essentia Health, Lake Country Power, Medica Foundation, Northland Foundation, United Way of Northeastern MN, Victory Fund, and by generous donations from businesses and individuals.

Board Of Directors

  • Rae Bentz
    Attorney, Defenbaugh Law Office
  • Christine (Chris) Braun
    Retired, Counselor, Vermilion CC
  • Heather Fitzgerald
    Vice President, Community Lender, Highland Bank
  • Richard Flesvig
    Retired, Banker
  • Sheila Gruba
    Retired, Minnesota Department of Revenue
  • Evelyn Kuzma
    Relationship Banker, Highland Bank
  • Walt Leino
    Retired, Physician
  • Dave Nichols
    Retired, Information Technology
  • Kathy Nieman
    Retired, Psychometrist
  • Wendy Norcross
    Retired, Hopkins School District
  • Caroline Owens
    Retired, Certified Public Accountant
  • Abby Sirek
    Clinical Pharmacist, Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital
  • Sid Thomson
    Retired, Fed Ex Corporation
  • Mary Zupancich
    Retired, Director of Public Relations


Lisa Porthan

Executive Director | Caregiver Consultant

I fell in love with Ely after working as a camp counselor and taking kids into the BWCA during my summer breaks from college. After I graduated from the University of Minnesota I was given an opportunity to work in Ely.

I feel so blessed to have created a wonderful life here. I met my husband Brett when I moved to Ely. We have two great kids, Adam and Lauren.

I am able to use my education and passion for making whatever positive difference I can in the lives of those I serve. I feel so fortunate to live in this  beautiful community filled with so many good people. 

Northwoods Partners changes lives everyday, including mine!

Candy Schindele

Operations Manager | Programs Manager

I was born and raised in New Prague, Minnesota and am a graduate of Normandale Community College and Winona State University.

Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”  He must have been talking about working for Northwoods Partners.  When I was offered a position at NP in 2014, I never would have guessed how rewarding my career with NP would be.

Interacting with our clients and volunteers every day brings such joy to my life. Our communities’ older adults are invaluable sources of vast knowledge, skills, and talents and I am blessed to support them with the assistance of 80+ amazing volunteers.

My husband John; of 30+ years, and I have created a comfortable life for ourselves here in Ely. We enjoy our little cabin on the lake and all that comes with it.  I love waking up to loon calls and spending my summers kayaking and swimming. Our passions include motorcycling and traveling around the nation to attend 80's Hair Band concerts. One of our proudest active travel accomplishments is completing the Minnesota State Parks and Trails Passport Club and Hiking Club, not just once, but twice.