BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – It was full-on party at The Kensington in Fort Madison Thursday evening.
The management and staff at the assisted living center were on hand to welcome more than 300 visitors at a Business After Hours held in conjunction with the Fort Madison Chamber of Commerce, to celebrate the facility’s 30th anniversary.
One of the special guests in the building was the original director Jayne Clairmont, who chatted with residents and other former administrators including Lynn Hoyer, Rachel Benda, Linda Larkin and current administrator Leia Morrison.
Clairmont said she is very impressed with how the facility has progressed over time. She was director for 19 months from 1988 to 1990.
“It’s just got warmth and that’s what I wanted,” she said. “The residents are well-cared for and the leadership has done things as they should have. Memory Care has become a more prominent focus and aging and they’ve done just a wonderful job. What I’m motivated about is how well the people are cared for. If that’s done right then the environment is the support to great care. But you’ve got to have great staff taking care of great people.”
Clairmont said when the company first took over the property she was overwhelmed at the work that would need to be done to convert it to a residential care facility.
“What I thought about when I work first walked into this building and we had tile everywhere – I was just thinking ‘How am I going to make this residential’. Hospitals are very hard to renovate. It was lot to bite off because it was so big, it was a massive undertaking.”
The facility prior to 1988 was owned by the Fort Madison Community Hospital. Clairmont said the hospital had budgeted about $300,000 to bring the building down, but they ended up selling to the company for $1. She said the only thing she added to the building at the time was the atrium off the dining room.
She said the original open house 30 years ago had 4,000 guests come through.
“People were lined up all the way around the street and we had enough food for every single person. Lynn told me at that time I wasn’t local and she said I had no idea how big that was going to be. She was right.”
Hoyer said she doesn’t know of anyone who remembers every person’s name in the facility, but she said Clairmont had been reciting names from 30 years ago.
Morrison said she was impressed with the number of people that had come through to see the facility, which was at about 200 at 5 p.m. The open house ran until 7 p.m.
She said the core values of the company and the facility are what keeps the community interested and supportive.
“I think the one thing that has traveled throughout time here has been the one core value of the company and that’s treating people like family,” she said. “That culture has been constant and we will continue to carry that on. The company is really focused on caring for everyone that not only works here, but lives here. We focus hard to make sure we have a lot of options and opportunities for people that want to live here.”
Morrison is just closing in on her first full year with The Kensington, but said she can see some of the history that has taken place over three decades.
“It’s great we get to offer some history here. Each floor has history on it and the majority of the people who live here, work here and visit here have some piece of history here. Whether they were born here or had loved one’s born here and that’s nice too,” she said.
“I think it’s nice the community has this interest and I think that a lot of people want to come in and see how the facility has changed,” Morrison said.