YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Years of planning and months of work culminated March 14 with an open house at the Heritage Manor Rehabilitation & Retirement Community, as donors got the first look at the completed first phase.
Phase 1 – a $2.2 million investment – adds 12 private rooms to the skilled nursing center at 517 Gypsy Lane, each with their own bathroom, as well as a dedicated nurses station and family dining room.
The project aligns with the center’s goal of achieving a one resident, one room model, said Eric Murray, executive director of senior services for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. The project doesn’t expand the center’s bed count, rather moves it toward a model of having all private rooms.
“We’ve simply expanded our footprint,” he said.
Planning for the project has been ongoing for a number of years, and construction began in May, Murray said. The private living spaces model was actually born of a needs assessment conducted at the start of the planning, he said, but through the pandemic, Heritage Manor learned it was necessary for infection control.
“What was initially our preference, in terms of privacy, really became more of an infection control issue and a matter of life and death,” he said.
During the pandemic, Heritage Manor did “pretty well” with keeping infections under control, he said. In the early days, the center stopped putting multiple residents in one room and didn’t see its first positive diagnosis of COVID-19 until a year after vaccinations were rolled out, he said.
“We were able to go about 19 months before we had our first case of resident COVID,” he said. “The vaccinations greatly improved everybody’s chances of staying healthy and surviving it.”
The next phase of the expansion will provide each resident with their own private bathroom as well as living space, Murray said. Currently, 66 of the 72 rooms have their own private bathrooms. Heritage Manor houses 52 residents, he noted.
Gallery images include Eric Murray of the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, interior pictures of one of the new rooms, a room plaque, the Schwebel Family Foundation Wing sign, the expansion campaign wall, and renderings of the rehabilitation solarium and therapy gym areas.
Fundraising paid for more than half of the expansion. When the project started, it was important to the federation’s board for both the Jewish community and general community to support it, said Lisa Long, financial resources development director. So the federation went to donors in both communities to reach the $500,000 goal that the board set for the project.
“We were able to raise over $1.2 million,” Long said. “I think that given everything that was going on with COVID at that time, people were very passionate about making sure that our Valley’s most vulnerable were protected. And this was really a life-saving gift that people could give.”
The organization was shocked by how much it was able to raise for the project, Long allows.
“This community never ceases to amaze me how generous and how committed they are,” she said. “It just shows that we’re not just an agency of the Jewish Federation, but we’re an agency of the Valley and a trusted partner when it comes to health care.”
Plaques posted outside each room bear the name of the donating family or organization, as well as the names of individuals for whom the donations were made. Many of the names are in honor or memory of individuals who were cared for or who lived at Heritage Manor, Long said.
“So their legacies truly do live on,” she said.
The Schwebel Family Foundation donated more than $250,000 and the new wing was named in honor of Paul Schwebel, who died in 2020. Schwebel served as treasurer, executive vice president and president of the Schwebel Baking Co., which was founded by his grandparents Joseph and Dora Schwebel.
Members of the Schwebel family were on hand for the open house, including sisters Samie and Alyson Winick, granddaughters of Joseph and Dora Schwebel.
The Schwebel family saw the donation as an investment in the community, as well as in the safety and security of people coming to Heritage Manor, said Samie Winick. That includes nursing residents and rehab patients.
“We were really thrilled to be a part of this,” Winick said. “We were here when it was more or less a construction site, and the final product is really beautiful.”
The second phase of the project is underway and will see the rehabilitation space expanded to about 1,600-square-feet, Murray said. The rehab center will also have a dedicated room to practice “home-going skills,” so patients can demonstrate to their therapists they can safely return home.
“Our goal is to make sure when they discharge home that they stay home and they’re safe,” he said.
Murray expects phase two will be completed in May. The general contractor is the DeSalvo Construction Co. of Hubbard.
The organization is still evaluating how to best proceed with phase three, which will fully renovate the interior of Heritage Manor, move away from double-occupancy rooms and renovate current so-called “Jack and Jill bathrooms,” where two residents share one bathroom. The federation hopes to begin phase three in the spring and wrap it up by the fall, he said.
The entire expansion project is projected to cost some $3.5 million.
After all three phases of the project are complete, the center expects the Schwebel Family Foundation Wing will be eventually designated more for its rehab patients, said Nancy Wagner chairwoman of the Human Services Board, Youngstown Area Jewish Federation. Once that happens and the skilled care residents are moved into their own rooms, “we probably will need extra staff because it’s a different kind of nursing for rehab,” Wagner said.
“We have always been very fortunate to have great staff,” Wagner said. “We have a number of RNs and LPNs, so we have high level staff.”
Under federal legislation proposed under the Biden Administration, senior care centers will be expected to offer private rooms for residents and maintain a minimum staffing pattern, Wagner said. Heritage Manor has had some “nice hires lately,” she said. “So we’re really feeling very fortunate about that.”
Heritage Manor employs about 105 and is always hiring nurses and state tested nursing assistants, or STNAs, Murray said. Heritage Manor provides a career path forward, that even if someone starts as an STNA, “There’s opportunities and we have some scholarships available when someone becomes a nurse if they want to pursue becoming an RN [registered nurse],” he said.
“We’re being more aggressive in our approach,” he said. “We’ve hired a recruiter to help us form some partnerships in the community.”
Pictured at top: Lisa Long, financial resource development director for the Youngstown Area Jewish Federation, outside the Schwebel Family Foundation Wing with Samie and Alyson Winick of the Schwebel family.