The newest Saint Anne Communities facility drew over 200 people from Huntington and many other surrounding areas for its grand opening July 20. Tours of the new building were available, followed by refreshments, entertainment and a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Steve Kimmel, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce of Huntington County, cut the ribbon, describing the new home as “an absolutely top-notch facility.”
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, a strong proponent of the project, blessed the facility back in May while it was still under construction. He said it would be a “place of caring, faith and love,” and talked about how the residents and staff would care for each other.
Kathy Retzios, the head of marketing and public relations for Saint Anne Communities, said the new facility serves two purposes: providing needed services to the Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters, and allowing the diocesan institution to expand its mission into Huntington County. “We’re bringing our experience, and we’re helping the sisters out; the sisters are also opening it up to the community, so all the benefits that are given to them, residents from the community receive as well,” she said.
The Our Lady of Victory Missionary Sisters decided in 2014 that they needed to find a partner to help with their health care, as the ages of many of them ranged from 80 to 101 years old. According to current president of the order, Sister Mary Jo Nelson, they began negotiations with Saint Anne Communities in 2015 to create the partnership they have today.
“We’ve never been in the health care business, but we have certainly attended to people and ministered with people who were very vulnerable, oppressed … so I think there’s a spirit, there’s a connection in spirit,” Sister Nelson said of their common goals.
“One way to describe partnership is creating something together that neither can do alone,” she said in her speech during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. The Victory Noll sisters were no longer able to handle their own health care, a service that Saint Anne now provides. In return, the sisters help Saint Anne minister to the Huntington community by providing space for the new building.
“Saint Anne’s has really focused on a couple of very simple things over the years: taking care of people, treating people with dignity, respect and the love and care that they deserve as elders,” David Deffenbaugh, chief operating officer of Saint Anne said. “We are so excited to be able to do that on a broader scale.”
The new building consists of 60 new rooms, 40 of which are studio apartments. Each floor has its own dining room, spa room and laundry room where residents can do their own laundry or get assistance if needed. The facility contains a fitness center that provides occupational, physical and speech therapy for residents and community members with a doctor’s script.
This new building is connected to the original building that the sisters operated, forming a courtyard that the residents can use at any time. Additionally, the original chapel and cafeteria will be used by residents. Pastoral care is available and Mass is celebrated daily.
“We fit our roles into your lifestyle, not you into ours,” Retzios said. “This is a place where people actually live. They’re doing activities; they’re coming and going. This facility is unique because we have the beautiful grounds, so if we get somebody that’s a little more active — this is a resort setting.”
Over the last couple of weeks the first residents, all of whom are Victory Noll sisters, have moved into the new facility. As of July 20, a total of 14 sisters were living there, leaving 26 open beds for anyone in the Huntington community.
“God has blessed us with gifts to share with a partner in Saint Anne Communities, so that together we can begin a new ministry, a new service, for the city of Huntington,” Sister Nelson said in her remarks.
Sister Valeria Foltz, 97, a new resident of Saint Anne Victory Noll, is still sewing. She had towels, pillows, aprons and many other items for sale at the event to raise money for the activity fund at the community. She selected a room that is both close to the chapel and overlooks the St. Joseph building, where she used to live. “So far I love it, because it’s like fairyland: You go down the hall, the lights all go on,” Sister Foltz said about the new facility and the automatic lights in the hallway. “I love my room because I’ve got a recliner and a bed, and they let me have my sewing machine in there.”
The sisters look forward to this new community allowing their work to continue into the future.
“It means that our work will go on, that even though we’ve lost many sisters. The new facility will train new teachers, new catechists, and that work will go on,” Sister Millicent Peaslee, another new resident, said.
“It’s a step into the future, and the future is our collaboration with a whole network of people, not just trying to do whatever we do on our own,” Sister Nelson said. “This is a step toward opening our campus. We have the Victory Noll Center, and now this is another group, another entity here. They can really serve a variety of people, a variety of needs, in a beautiful space.”
Sister Nelson hopes that this is only the beginning of opening up and developing the Victory Noll Center. The sisters recently sold a portion of their land to ACRES Land Trust, which will help develop it into walking paths that anyone in the facility can use — while still preserving the forests and fields.
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