By Becky Wiese
In today’s ever-changing business climate, where one day a store pops up and the next it’s gone, longevity and a history of quality and service are hard to come by. When a company bucks the trend and not only survives, but thrives, it makes you want to stop and take note: what is it that has brought about such success?
Heritage Operations Group, the parent organization of Evergreen Senior Living communities Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village, represents one of the longest running and most successful and thriving companies in the adult senior living and healthcare markets. With continued stability and commitment, that success has carried over from an initial need to help an aging population to the expansion of many different levels of care for seniors.
The company began in 1963 in Bloomington with the opening of Heritage Manor Nursing Home, now known as Heritage Health. It was the result of the collaboration of four local business leaders who saw a growing need for skilled nursing care for older adults — the “nursing home” of the past.
As the needs and wants of senior adults expanded regarding residential options, most notably, the need for assisted and supportive living communities, Heritage was at the forefront to provide options. As the population aged, senior adults and their families found that, while they did not yet need full nursing care, having some assistance with the tasks of daily life along with a community of active, able seniors was very appealing. Heritage filled the gap between independent living and skilled nursing care.
Heritage Operations Group was the first to bring assisted and supportive living to Illinois. In fact, the very first supportive living community was a Heritage community located in Beardstown, which is still up and running today.
For more than 50 years, Heritage has been a leader in caring for seniors by anticipating their needs and providing quality care with compassion and integrity. They provide all types of senior living and care options: RESTORE Therapy, independent living apartments, assisted and supportive living, skilled nursing facilities (Heritage Health), and Alzheimer’s/dementia (Legacy Care). Customer service is part of the daily routine at all Heritage communities, and employees are motivated to create and preserve a friendly and respectful environment.
Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village make up Evergreen Senior Living
Two of Heritage’s premiere communities for assisted and supportive living include Evergreen Place, on the corner of Adelaide and Gregory, and Evergreen Village, just off Raab Road near Prairieland Elementary School, both in Normal. Both communities are owned in partnership with Advocate BroMenn.
While the long-term, skilled nursing, rehab, and dementia care facilities focus on medical care, the assisted and supportive living community focuses more on hospitality needs. “We provide activities, meal options, and community space for an active, older adult,” explains Joyce Benton, Director of Evergreen Place.
The available services and amenities are very similar at both locations; in fact, the only real difference is apartment and payment options. Evergreen Place, for example, offers assisted living for adults age 55 or older who will use private sources (including long-term care insurance and VA benefits) to pay for the services they receive. Five different apartment sizes are available at Evergreen Place, allowing residents to choose the space that best fits their needs and wishes. These include studio and studio deluxe, one-bedroom and one-bedroom deluxe, and a two-bedroom option.
Benton adds, “Evergreen Place was built in 2001, and was remodeled three years ago. Residents bring their own furniture and items that mean something to them — whatever they need to help their apartment feel like home.”
Evergreen Village, which opened in 2007, is the only supportive living community in Mclean County. For those who may not be able to afford the full cost of assisted living, supportive living offers financial assistance through Medicaid supplementation. Residents may also use private pay sources to pay for the services they receive, just like at Evergreen Place. Residents of Evergreen Village, who must be at least 65 years of age or older, can choose between a studio or one-bedroom apartment. VA benefits can also be applied to the cost of care at both locations.
Kris Loudenback, Director of Evergreen Village, says, “Both Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village personalize care to what each resident wants and needs.” There are three broad levels of assistance — minimum level of assistance, moderate level of assistance, extensive level of assistance — depending on how many services the resident needs.”
“The levels of assistance are broad, and most importantly, are all-inclusive — we don’t add charges based on each service — everything is included with our fees,” Benton adds. Loudenback estimates that approximately 80 precent of residents are at a moderate level of assistance, meaning they enjoy services such as housekeeping once a week, laundry service for linens, three restaurant-style meals every day, medication reminders, personal care assistance, and transportation services.
The goal is to provide the best quality of care by focusing completely on what the resident needs and wants in terms of care and assistance.
Darla Heath, Community Relations Liaison at Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village, adds that the various levels of care enable them to provide individualized services for each person. “I think the fact that we are very focused on the individual needs of each resident is another factor in our longevity. We know how to take care of people, and we deliver on what we say we are going to do.”
Going along with the theme of longevity, Loudenback shares that, “not only is our staff from the community, but they are long-time employees. Our wellness coordinator has been with Heritage for more than 35 years!”
“We are also very family oriented,” adds Chris Fuss, Community Relations Coordinator at both Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village.
“We know our residents — their likes, dislikes, and family. We don’t consider them to be ‘clients’ or a ‘job’ — they are our extended family and friends.”
Another positive sign of longevity in a community is connection. This is certainly true of the residents at the two Evergreen Senior Living locations in Normal. Each site offers multiple common areas that serve as an extension of a resident’s apartment that allows, and even encourages, comfortable interactions with friends and family. “There is a true sense of community — we often see residents gathering in the café, talking over coffee,” says Heath.
Residents will often share their experiences with friends who do not live at Evergreen, and through this interaction, these friends will often move to the same location, creating a family within a family atmosphere. People who knew each other during their careers or through church or their neighborhood end up being close again.
Loudenback shares, “The sense of community is very fun. One new resident just found that a former school mate also lives here — they’ve enjoyed reconnecting after many years.”
Resident activities take place both inside and outside the walls of their homes. A full activity schedule offers things to do virtually every day of the week. “Residents are encouraged to maintain their independence and identity,” Heath explains. “Many have their own cars to get where they want to go, or they can use our transportation service to go wherever they need to go in the community, or they can stay on-site and stay engaged without leaving home.”
Family interactions are also very important and encouraged. “We love family involvement at programs and activities,” says Benton. Guests can share meals at any time, using the private dining area if desired. “We want family interactions to be just as if the resident were at their former home — we don’t want people to feel like they are alone here.”
The community connections go beyond relationships between residents and their friends and family. Both Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village have long-standing connections to other organizations within the larger community. “Students from Illinois State University, Heartland, or Wesleyan often come to volunteer,” says Heath.
Since Evergreen Village is right next to Prairieland Elementary School, they have multiple events throughout the school year that provide opportunities for interaction between the residents and students. One favorite is the Age-to-Age program, which pairs a 5th grade student with a resident, and once a month the two come together to talk and share stories.
A prime example of a connection between an internal activity and an external partner was when students from the Paul Mitchell Beauty School came to Evergreen Village to do hair and makeup for residents who participated in the annual fashion show.
“We have a lot of connections with other organizations in the community,” says Loudenback. “Connections that deepen our roots within our community, making us feel part of something valuable that has been around for a long time and will continue to be around in the future.”
Looking to the future for your family — your own heritage at Heritage
When older adults and their family members start thinking about senior living options, they often have a lot of questions. “The process of gathering information usually starts with a phone call,” says Fuss. “The next step is to come in for a tour to see the community and the activities, have lunch, interact with current residents, and take advantage of the opportunity to ask more questions.”
The Evergreen teams want residents and their families to know they’ve chosen the best living arrangement, so they encourage families to “shop around” at different communities in the area. The Shopper’s Tool, created and offered by Evergreen Senior Living, helps families stay organized and compare the different components of living and healthcare needs, such as payment structure, expertise, apartment design, enrichment opportunities, pricing information, meal options, and overall general experience.
Once a decision is made, the team at either community are happy to help with making the next step of establishing new roots. Evergreen Place and Evergreen Village represent the qualities that make Heritage Operations Group one of the most successful providers of senior care communities in the state. Their heritage of longevity; high standard of care; and established, experienced caregivers combine to provide a comfortable, enjoyable, and engaging lifestyle for senior adults.
Feature photos courtesty of Redcorn Studios.
For more information, contact Evergreen Place or Evergreen Village at 309-834-2603 or visit us online at www.EvergreenSLC.com.