From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 5 - May 2, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Sublette Center directors (back row, right to left) David Doorn, Ken Lake, Barb Pollard, Dawanna Adams, Mike Smith, and (front row, right to left) Linda Hayward, Debby Wood, Edna Shilling and Joanne Bohannon. (Not pictured are Ann Evenson and Lara Lundberg)
A community within our community
Part 1 in a series
by Rhonda Swain

A community within our community

Where in Sublette County could you go to see the Intermountain Pedigree Stage Stop Sled Dog Raceís Doggie Fashion Show? To congratulate Ruth Hardy on her 100th birthday? To play bingo, sing, cook or create crafts?

What entity in the county boasts a staff of more than 60 people, with a payroll of over $1 million? And what building has facilities for ill or injured patients, both long- and short-term?

All of the above can be found in one central location Ė at the Sublette Center, a community within our community.

According to its mission statement, part of the Sublette Centerís mission is to "provide high-quality health care and housing services to our elderly population ... provide long-term care, rehabilitation, home health and independent living housing services through a system that preserves the dignity of each individual ... The residents of the Sublette Center are the pride of the community. It is part of the Sublette Center commitment to represent the history of Sublette County."

The centerís history is quite impressive, and so are the figures that go along with it.

In the late1970s, the retirement center was merely the dream of a group of people led by Dr. Howard Smith. In 1978, Smith, Hugh Reed, Bob Thompson, Frank Fear, Bob Tanner, Ann Gayle, James Noble, Sally Swift, Nellie Rogers, Bert Reinow, Mary Pape and Lois Strobel had a vision of a single facility to provide more than one level of care for community members, and thus they became founders of what is now the Sublette Center, a private non-profit corporation.

Their dream became a reality after tireless work by those board members when, according to former Board Member Jim Noble, the Retirement Center of Sublette County was dedicated on March 14, 1982.

Noble and another former board member, Paul Hagenstein, recalled some of the trials, tribulations and exaltations in the construction of the center.

"John Sulenta dug the material out so we could backfill the foundation," Noble said, "and then the culvert by the LDS Church plugged up and backed the water up into the foundation holes."

Noble also offered somewhat of a construction and financing timeline for the center. Prior to construction, "We had our first donation from an anonymous donor, she gave us our first $200,000. ... Then we put in footings, foundation and backfill ... owed John Sulenta $26,000 and when I went to pay him, he said ĎI want a receipt and Iím donating thisí.

"The timing was perfect and very appreciated," Noble said. "There were lots of material and equipment donations as we went along."

The center has 501C3 tax-exempt non-profit status, which means people can use donations to the center as an automatic tax write-off.

When the center moved into its first phase of construction, the board went to the Farm Home Administration (FMHA) for a $1-million loan for the nursing wing and support facility. A First Security Bank loan for $600,000 went to build the apartments, while the north end nursing wing was funded by another $750,000 FMHA loan.

Noble said an " anonymous donor paid for the biggest part of rehab center, the same one (donor) that started us out.

"All of the yard and landscaping was donated by Sally Swift," Noble said.

All the exterior maintenance Ė close to $50,000 or $60,000 per year Ė all the shrubbery, sidewalks, lawn mowing ... everything is donated by that same unsung donor, Noble said.

When the facility was re-roofed, the board again went to FMHA to borrow the $250,000 needed for the project.

Hagenstein commended the centerís various board members and current Director David Doorn.

"We have had a very dedicated board over the years ... had some real struggles in the 10 years prior to when I went off (the board), with administrators and everything else ... But Dave is doing a good job for us as far as Iím concerned," he said.

Hagenstein said the center "has problems ... a big problem is being able to find help ... and with the big debt, we canít compete with higher wages. But basically the staff is dedicated and doing a great job."

Over the years, the center has seen many changes implemented, a name change from Retirement Center of Sublette County to the Sublette Center being one of the most noticeable (to clarify confusion over it being a Sublette County facility). Originally, the facility featured apartments for those who were able to care for themselves, assisted living apartments for those who needed some help, and the medical wing. The assisted living (board and care) apartments have given way to Sublette Center Home Health, a recent addition to the centerís team of services. The center also offers physical, speech, occupational, restorative and recreational therapy onsite.

Right now, remodeling in the form of combining two board and care rooms to make an apartment is taking place; they have currently created four more apartments.

Doorn said they would like to be able to expand and add some low-income housing; at this time they have the space but no funds for such an undertaking, though.

The center is valuable to the community for many reasons. During the last 12 months, it employed 65 people per pay period, according to the Doorn. Its total payroll, including benefits, was $1.3 million, resulting in a $5,200,000 value to Sublette County, assuming that every dollar in wages and benefits turns over four times in the local economy. The center spent almost $340,000 with 75 local vendors during the past year.

Although those numbers are impressive, the center has a wish list with some no-nonsense items. Their nurse call and wandering system is more than 10 years old and needs to be updated. To increase efficiencies for the staff and provide better services for the residents, the center would like to purchase a modern paging system, at a cost of $33,000.

The medical wing currently is a 60-bed skilled nursing facility, and the majority of those beds are manually operated. To decrease the risk of patient and employee injury, and increase the residentsí sense of independence, personnel would like to acquire 45 electric beds that can be positioned low to the floor to reduce risk and facilitate ease in getting in and out of bed. Total cost for the proposed beds is$58,500.

Because the only way to transfer wheelchair-bound patients is with the centerís 32-foot bus, another thing on the centerís wish list in a small van with a wheelchair lift. The van could also be used to transport patients, in non-emergent situations, to the hospital, making it more economical for center residents. The approximate cost for such a van is $26,000.

With limited closet space, and nightstands and dressers falling into disrepair, the center wishes to purchase 30 wardrobes and 50 nightstands at a cost of $18,000 ($350/wardrobe and $250/ nightstand).

One more wish-list item is a maintenance building. According to Noble, the ground is prepared, and it would take from $100,000 to $150,00 to construct the much-needed building.

Doorn said that personnel at the center is currently in the process of coming up with more structured fund-raising, and has already started an endowment fund, where donated funds go into an account, with only the interest used for Sublette Center improvement.

Hagenstein gave a very apt description of the center when he said: " Itís a very special place ... One of the most unique in the state.

It can be a stepping off place for people who have been in the hospital, but canít take care of themselves, before they go home ... Many residents have started in the apartments, and wind up in the medical wing," he said.

This aspect is part of the dream of that original board: to provide long-term care on more than one level, all in one retirement community within the county.

Noble said that original board "had a philosophical goal Ė to provide the best care and to give our elderly pioneers from Sublette County and surrounding counties the chance to live out their lives in dignity and pride.

"We owe our youth the right to learn and live and respect this community and live their lives here if they choose and we owe the elderly, after all theyíve done, the right to live and die in dignity," Noble said.

And the dream of those retirement center pioneers? Noble feels the current staff is "very much living up to our dream. Under Davidís leadership, theyíre doing a wonderful job, and Linda (Hayward in the nursing wing) is doing so well ... It is a dream come true ... Those who have gone on would not believe what is there today," he concluded.

Sublette Center Facts

Long-term Care

Residents served the past 12 months.......... 65

Number of days of care provided.................15,000

Number of meals served............................... 45,000

Funding sources:
55 percent Medicaid
10 percent Medicare
35 percent private
(The center is not funded by Sublette County.)

Home-health Care

Home-health patients served the past year...... 55
Number of in-home visits by nurses................ 650
Number of therapy visits................................... 300
Number of in-home visits by home-health....... 950
Total visits....................................................... 1,900
Ages of patients served........... 6 months through 90-plus years

Funding sources:
5 percent Medicaid
90 percent Medicare
5 percent private
(The center is not funded by Sublette County.)

Independent Living Apartments

Number of apartments.................................................... 31
Number of potential renters on waiting list.................... 40

Funding sources: 100 percent private
A waiting list of 30-plus

Photo credits:  Delsa Allen


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