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Residents begin to move into Samaritan Summit Village

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As residents move into Samaritan Summit Village this week, they’re greeted with smiles from staff and some familiar surroundings.

Personal mementos serve as visual cues to help them recognize their rooms, and select staff members from previous places of residence made them feel more welcome.

“Just having a familiar face helps,” said Donald H. Branche, whose wife, Christiane, moved Wednesday to her room on the first floor of the skilled-nursing wing. “She recognizes them.”

Mr. Branche said he moved his wife to the complex for a fresh start. She had been at Samaritan Keep Home for nine years, as care for her multiple sclerosis became too much for Mr. Branche to do on his own. The move to Samaritan Summit Village doesn’t mean his involvement stops, as he will still visit his wife a few hours every day, seven days per week.

Mrs. Branche shares a semi-private room with Melba C. Gleason, who had been at Samaritan Keep Home for three years. Her son, George R., said he promised his mother to keep her in her Adams-area home for as long as he could. Mrs. Gleason’s regression from Alzheimer’s disease required more care outside of the home.

“It’s so beautiful here,” Mr. Gleason said as he put away his mother’s belongings in her closet. All of her personal possessions, including pictures, hats and cards, were placed throughout her room. “It’s so much quieter. They have a beautiful courtyard.”

Both Mr. Branche and Mr. Gleason said the move into Samaritan Summit Village went smoothly. Seven other Samaritan Keep Home residents relocated to the village complex Wednesday, and by early next week, a total 173 residents will have been moved in.

Anthony E. Joseph, Samaritan Health System director of long-term care, said staff and more than 100 volunteers will help relocate a total of 99 Mercy Care Center of Northern New York residents, 25 from Samaritan Keep Home, 46 from Whispering Pines and three from the community. Samaritan spokeswoman Krista A. Kittle said of those residents, 61 will move into the assisted-living wing and 112 will have skilled-nursing beds.

“We’ll gradually be admitting,” she said.

Samaritan Summit Village is a 230,000-square-foot complex with 168 skilled-nursing beds, 80 assisted-living beds and 40 enhanced-assisted-living beds. The $64 million project is at 22691 Summit Drive, off Washington Street on an 18-acre site donated by Washington Summit partners Michael E. Lundy and Dr. David P. Rechlin.

The project was a joint construction venture between Purcell Construction, Watertown, and Lecesse Construction, West Henrietta. Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, provided oversight of the project, and RLPS Architects, Lancaster, Pa., was the design firm. GYMO, Watertown, was the project engineer.

Both Mercy, 218 Stone St., and Whispering Pines, the Jefferson County-owned adult home on Coffeen Street, will close soon, and residents will relocate to Samaritan Summit Village or another facility of their choice. Samaritan has overseen Mercy for the past few years, and it also has managed Whispering Pines. Ms. Kittle said when Samaritan vacates Mercy, its officials will hand over the keys to either HCA/Genesis Inc., Mercy’s owner, or General Electric Capital Corp., which owns the mortgage on the building.

“The quality of life for these residents will vastly improve,” said James A. Nabywaniec, Jefferson County legislator and chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee.

He commended Samaritan for helping to build and strengthen partnerships with both the county and state Department of Health throughout the entire process.

“This has been a long time coming,” Mr. Nabywaniec said. “This goes back to the board of supervisors in the 1980s who had discussions about long-term views about Whispering Pines. To see it coming through, with us being a part of the Community Assisted Living Corp., to solve this community problem of bringing assisted living to the community is just such a huge thing. It’s great to see it become a reality finally.”

He said a closure plan is in place for Whispering Pines. The county may tear it down this fall, he said.

Donald C. Alexander, of Community Assisted Living Corp. and executive director of the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency, said it’s “wonderful” to have residents move into Samaritan Summit Village.

“It’s home-like; not institutional,” he said. “We had over the last 20-plus years been working through a lot of concepts, but I don’t think any of us could have envisioned the quality of the final place. It’s amazing. I think it’s something the community must be immensely proud of.”

Although Samaritan Summit Village residents originally weren’t supposed to move in before the facility’s operating certificate was awarded from the state Department of Health, Ms. Kittle said Samaritan worked with the department on a special exception to allow the nine former Samaritan Keep Home residents in Wednesday. She said the department is soon expected to conduct a final tour and issue the operating certificate.

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