Bethesda Home embarks on new renovation

Staff reporter

For more than 100 years, the Goessel community of 550 people has supported and encouraged the development and growth of Bethesda Home.

Today that support is stronger than ever.

Currently the long-term care unit is raising funds to support the addition of a chapel/activities room, expanded kitchen area, an additional storage area, the relocation of the laundry facilities, and remodeling of residents' rooms.

As motorists travel west on Main Street, it is plain to see that a new addition on the south side is beginning to take shape.

According to Linda Peters, chief executive officer/administrator, plans for the expansion were made with much deliberation and thought.

"The overall feeling of the Goessel community is that the current building is in good shape and we should use what we have instead of building new," she said.

The main building was constructed in 1969, and was designed after most nursing home facilities at that time with long corridors in a sterile, hospital-like environment.

During the past 40 years, the concept of resident care has changed from institutional to individual with the creation of neighborhoods.

"Building Community and Changing Lives" is the name of the capital campaign for the new construction and renovation project.

The initial project estimate was $1.55 million but, as with most construction plans, the project is expected to cost closer to $2.1 million, said Eric Schrag, director of marketing, development, and independent living.

The campaign began in April 2007, with construction beginning in February. Bethesda recently was awarded a matching grant from the Mabee Foundation of McPherson for $225,000.

To date, there has been $1.7 million pledged. Donations have come via Kansas Department of Housing tax credits, cash donations, and pledges from the Goessel community, surrounding area, employees, families of residents, and others who are connected to the Goessel community.

Support from the three area Mennonite churches also has made this project possible.

"The focus of the project is to create a home environment and make areas more inviting for the community to use," Peters said.

Since there is no restaurant in town, a coffee bar is among the plans where Goessel residents can come to the facility for coffee and conversation.

Internet access also will be made available to the public.

Resident room remodeling will include indoor courtyards.

Architect Wally Schultz of Goessel started the design process but died unexpectedly before the project began. Officials then sought an architect firm that could take Schultz's concept and follow through with the project.

Peters said Schwerdt Design Group Inc. of Topeka was the logical choice. There were a few minor alterations but she and the board believe the spirit of the project has remained intact.

Preferred Builders Inc. of Hesston was hired as the general contractor.

Unpredictable Kansas weather has slowed down the work but officials are hoping the new addition will be completed by fall 2009.

Individual room remodeling and improvements in the residential portion of the facility will be completed in-house.

There are three rooms that are nearly remodeled. Residents will be moved into the new rooms with the old rooms then being remodeled. The process will continue until all rooms have new Sheetrock, ceilings, and carpet.

There are 55 rooms with all but two being private. When the process is completed, there will only be private rooms available for residents in the long-term care unit.

Also with the addition of the chapel/activities room, a new front entrance will be created with the current entrance being transformed into a gazebo-type setting.

About the facilities

Bethesda Home is a 57-bed facility that boasts a 98 percent occupancy rating. The majority of residents are from Goessel and Newton but there are some from other areas who like the small-town and small-facility atmosphere.

The home has 100 employees, with 60 being full-time, making Bethesda the largest employer in town.

Bethesda also boasts long tenure of its employees with many working decades at the facility.

Ten assisted living units were added in 1989 to provide an option to older residents who are not in need of long-term care but require some assistance in daily living.

In 1997, Bethesda began its largest, volunteer-driven capital campaign (at that time) of $1,025,000 to fund a special care unit, physical therapy facility expansion and equipment, bond reduction, an endowment fund, and room renovations.

The 12-room, special care unit for Alzheimer's residents opened in 2000 — debt-free.

There also are 29 independent living units plus space for an additional 11 duplexes that could be built in the Emma Creek Meadows Retirement Village.

Adult day care, hospice care, intravenous therapy, occupational therapy, outpatient therapy, respite care, and speech language therapy also are offered.

A little bit of history

The Mennonite Bethesda Society, Inc., was established in 1899 by Dr. Peter Richert and several groups of Mennonites who were concerned about quality health care for the elderly.

Bethesda was the first Mennonite health care facility west of the Mississippi River, and continues to be the oldest such facility west of the Mississippi.

In 1928, a hospital was added to the nursing home facility, and became known as Bethesda Hospital and Home. A new hospital was built in 1973, but was closed in 1983 and those hospital rooms were converted for the long-term care unit.

The Mennonite Bethesda Society Endowment Foundation, Inc., has been established with current assets of more than $500,000 and continues to grow. The goal is to accumulate a $4 million endowment to fund the ever-increasing $290,000 annual shortfall incurred by providing care to Medicaid residents.

Bethesda's mission continues to be a community formed by the spirit of Christianity "to fulfill the lives of adults with special needs in a place that is home."

The not-for-profit organization continues to treasure every person, listen with the heart, foster choice, creativity, and playfulness, develop servant leaders who seek supervision and foster excellence, be accountable, change unjust practices and negotiate conflicts, and the necessary health care and nutrition for the elderly and disabled.

"We're not as focused on the bottom line because we are a not-for-profit organization," Peter said.

Even though Bethesda doesn't have some of the amenities that larger facilities may have, people like the individualized care in the rural setting.

"We've been told that we don't have a fancy facility but we provide fancy care," Schrag said.

As Bethesda Home poises itself for the next century of providing health care needs to residents, community leaders are appreciative to the Mennonite Bethesda Society for choosing Goessel as its home.

"The facility is a tremendous asset to the community," Goessel Mayor Peggy Jay said. "The community is behind this project. We'll be excited to see it when it's done."