SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Hearthside Assisted Living, the only state-licensed home for the aged in Chippewa County, will mark its 10th anniversary on Oct. 18 and the community is invited to join the celebration.
The staff invites the community to come share in the success of Hearthside during a celebration from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday at the facility, which is located at 1501 6th Ave. in Sault Ste. Marie. There will be tours, food, music and a short presentation, “Hearthside Assisted Living – Then and Now.”
Hearthside was started 10 years ago when the previous owners of the facility formerly known as Sunset Manor were preparing to close it. The non-profit group Superior Health Support Systems took over operation and kept the 25 residents from having to move out of the facility on New Year’s Eve.
“They would have had nowhere to go as of that night,” said Rosemary Blashill RN, an SHSS board member. “There were no other assisted living facilities in the Sault, so they would have had to leave their hometown and possibly go downstate.”
Blashill said a group of local health department staffers decided to do what they could to not only keep the doors open, but, as a non-profit entity, keep a percentage of the beds available for low-income residents who couldn’t afford rates at most other assisted living facilities. Together, she, Chris Lundquist, Laura Aikens, Tracey Holt and Dr. James Terrian formed the SHSS board that brought Hearthside Assisted Living to fruition. They were assisted by local attorney Farrell Elliott, who volunteered his legal services as the clock ticked through the holidays.
The former owners agreed to transfer the facility to SHSS as a tax write-off, and SHSS agreed to pay $90,000 to the city of Sault Ste. Marie for back taxes. SHSS secured financing through mBank, assisted by current mBank representative Dave Thomas and former Sault resident Steve Peacock, completing the deal at the close of business on Dec. 31 and narrowly averting a shut down.
Next came $1.5 million in repairs and upgrades. The construction did not come easy, however. There were delays as plans were solidified and changes were made.
“All of the clients were moved into one wing while construction was going on in the other wing,” said Blashill. “The staff was tremendous, putting up with many obstacles during this time. Also, many volunteers from the community came to help: fixing meals, cleaning, doing office work, and even enticing perspective clients to come live with us. We owe so much to our staff and volunteers.”
Blashill noted that Jaclyn Carnahan, an employee for the company that owned Sunset Manor, agreed to stay on and become an SHSS employee, which helped ease the transition.
“She provided much education for us all in knowing how to run the facility, and she also provided the continuity for success in our new adventure,” she said.
The attention to detail from the staff shows. Sault Ste. Marie City Commissioner Pat Shimmens, whose father was a resident at Hearthside, said, “They are wonderful people who treat the residents like a parent, grandparent or another beloved person in their lives. They provide quality care with a personal touch. I knew Dad was safe and loved.”
“As Rosemary noted, there were a lot of volunteers who stepped up at the beginning and allowed us to keep the doors at Hearthside open,” said Tracey Holt, board president. “There were many setbacks and delays. We give the staff a lot of credit; without them, Hearthside would not exist. They really stepped up to the plate and went above and beyond to keep the organization going.”
Today, Hearthside has 50 residents and 30 staffers. It provides three meals per day, snacks, and assistance with personal care, medical needs, housekeeping, laundry, transportation to appointments and activities, and much more. The non-profit organization is the only state-licensed facility in Chippewa County – and as such, is subject to regular state inspections — and the only one that accepts Medicaid and Social Security payments.
To find out more, visit the Hearthside Facebook page, or call 906-635-6911.