CHRC dedication: ‘Neighbors taking care of neighbors’

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — Talk about a made-to-order day.

The weather was perfect for the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center’s grand opening September 5 with a blue sky, sunshine, and warm temperatures but not too hot.

The tables under a large tent on the north lawn were filled with people who came for the dedication ceremony and to tour the new $11 million facility on Park Drive.

The new nursing home has room for 70 people all together in the skilled nursing unit, the rehabilitation unit, the Community Based Residential Facility (CBRF) for residents with Alzheimer’s disease, and in the assisted living apartments.

The skilled nursing portion of the facility has 28 long-term beds as well as 12-short term beds for those recovering from a knee or hip surgery, for example.

The CBRF has 14 rooms, two that are double, for a total of 16.

The facility also features 12 assisted living apartments, two of which are double, for a total of 14 occupants.

The new CHRC replaces the old 52-bed facility on University Avenue that would have been both expensive and difficult to remodel to meet the current standards for nursing homes.

Jill Gengler, administrator of the Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center, said the community owed the new facility to the CHRC board of directors.

“I have to start with the board of directors. I have worked for other companies, and it is a pleasure to work for people who only have the interests of the community at heart. They want to do what is best for our residents … everyone who lives and works here really appreciates a board of directors who wants the best for all of us,” she said.

Allen Stai serves as the president of the CHRC board of directors. Del Gunderson serves as the vice president. Board members are Dale Rostamo, Mary Ellen Mathews, and Donna Johnson.

The board of directors and administration also relied on Larry Lester, senior manager of nursing home consulting at Wipfli LLC.

“He showed us a dream. He laid out a map. With some more than gentle prodding, he got an organization of our size to take some really big steps,” Gengler said.

David Kimball of Architectural Design Group also is appreciated for his patience, she said.

“He worked with us for a little over six years. We’ve been down several different paths. He has demonstrated I don’t know how many different options for us to consider. He has been with us on this journey. This is what he drew. And this is what we have today,” Gengler said.

“Designing and dreaming a project like is one thing. Paying for it is quite another. That in itself is a miracle,” she continued.

“We were able to partner with Ag Star and the United States Department of Agriculture Office of Rural Development … because of them, we were able to get the money to do this,” Gengler said.

Applying for the money was a confusing and time-consuming process, and without help from Ag Star and USDA, the project would not have happened, she said.

Community

Gengler also acknowledged community members who had donated to the project, including those with bricks on the patio and those whose names are listed just inside the door of the new facility for donating their shares of stock in Area Nursing Home.  The volunteers of the capital campaign committee worked very hard to raise money, too, and to raise awareness about the project, Gengler said.

The program for the dedication ceremony listed the following people as members of the fund-raising committee: Andrea Menard; Ron Peterson; Pat Eggert; Del Gunderson; Sue Hill; Judy Horn; Mary Ellen Mathews; Dale Rostamo; Alaine Sonnenberg; Allen Stai; Kathy Tape; Mona Thorson; Bill Tice; Kris Tice.

Gengler acknowledged as well the Village of Colfax and Don and Marcia Henderson.

CHRC purchased about 20 acres from the Hendersons, and the Colfax Village Board subsequently annexed the property.

And then there is the general contractor.

“The group that has been especially patient with this group of novices — especially me — is Market and Johnson. I cannot say enough good things about them. You can see their fine work and their attention to detail,” Gengler said.

Friends and family

Gengler acknowledged the CHRC residents and their families as the reason why the community needed a new facility.

“This is why we did this. You are why we come to work every day. It’s what everybody here works for … we are so proud to be able to give them (a new facility). They deserve it,” Gengler said.

The staff at CHRC is deserving of recognition as well.

“I saved the best for last. Our staff … I need to thank their families, and mine, for allowing this team to dedicate their time and energy to this project over the past months. They have picked up the slack at home. They have given up their vacations. They have postponed many things so their family members could be here to get everybody moved and to have the time and energy to pull this off,” Gengler said.

“This group of staff is a family,” she continued. “It’s hard to describe what has been the strongest thread in the fiber of this facility … they really are neighbors taking care of neighbors, and that’s something you don’t find everywhere … they pulled it off. They stepped up to do it with enthusiasm and grace.”

Scott Gunnufson, village president, said he was honored to be able to represent the village at the CHRC grand opening.

“The tenants of this facility have always been the backbone of our community. They have inspired our young, they have promoted our businesses, and they have offered endless hours of community service. Now is the time that we finally give back (to them) with a first-class facility … this celebration spotlights an opportunity for growth that this community needed and can be proud of,” Gunnufson said.

Financing

John Monson of Ag Star Financial Services also was delighted to have had a hand in building the new CHRC.

“We are proud to be able to help communities develop facilities like this. It is tough to watch your relatives in facilities where there are rooms with two people, where you can’t fit in the bathroom with a walker or a wheelchair. Many of them are veterans … This project matters … It’s a big honor for Ag Star to be part of this,” Monson said.

Lori Wells of USDA Rural Development remarked about the community’s enthusiasm for the project.

“When I pulled into the parking lot, it was easy to feel the excitement … you can’t help but smile,” she said.

“One of the things that is cool about working in Rural Development in a day and age when we are dealing with sequester and no farm bill and dealing with all kinds of things … it’s fun to know that we really do make a difference. All of us at Rural Development live in small communities just like Colfax. What we do matters. Many of us have elderly parents. It is exciting to help communities make an investment. And it is an investment. I love the ‘moving forward’ that was on the (capital campaign) folders … this truly has been a great adventure,” Wells said.

Steve Rasmussen, chair of the Dunn County Board, said he was delighted with the new nursing home at Colfax.

“What a fabulous facility. I think of this as being emblematic of the community as a whole,” he said, noting that Dunn County also will soon be opening a new nursing home.

Rasmussen recognized Gary Stene, former village president and current county board supervisor, for his enthusiasm for the community of Colfax.

The new nursing home at Colfax “is a demonstration of the community’s belief that we are all in this together. A belief that we have an obligation to take care of our own. We are here because generations before us were not afraid to do what was hard, to do what was needed when success was uncertain, to do what it took to keep the dream alive of a better life for our children and grandchildren,” Rasmussen said.

David Kimball of Architectural Design Group, presented the dedication plaque.

“It was an honor and privilege to be part of this entire process … it was a lot of fun. It’s a great group and a great community, and I enjoyed every step of the way,” Kimball said.

The Colfax Health and Rehabilitation Center project received two loans through the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Community Facilities Program that totaled more than $11 million.

Ag Star Financial provided the Community Facilities Guaranteed Loan in the amount of $2.5 million.