New Holland Home Facility Is Special

July 12, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — While a good deal of the nation undertakes a long debate about how to care for retirees and the elderly, the 110-year-old Holland Home community seems to be showing one way to deal with those concerns.

More than 100 residents are getting to know each other this month as new neighbors in the second stage of the not-for-profit independent living community’s third metro area site.

The facility — better known as Breton Terrace — has 81 dwelling units ranging from 840 to 1,600 square feet. All told, the facility has 180,000 square feet of floor space.

Breton Terrace is part of Holland Home’s Breton Woods campus and, in fact, it has a recreational center — the Breton Woods Community Center — that will serve not only the Terrace’s residents but also retirees who live in the 60 neighboring houses that comprise Breton Homes.

Breton Woods is one of three communities that Holland Home operates in Grand Rapids. The others are the Fulton Campus and the Raybrook Campus.   

Staffers have a tendency, for convenience’s sake, to speak of the units in Breton Terrace as apartments and the houses in Breton Homes as condominium dwellings.

But LouAnn Shawver, director of business development, says neither expression is technically accurate.

She grants that Terrace units are designed to be apartment-like and are informally called apartments, but one must buy into Breton Terrace in much the same manner as a condominium. The same applies, she said, to the dwellings comprising Breton Homes.

The similarity to condos also lies in the fact that after paying the up-front entrance fee to membership in the community — analogous to paying for a house — residents thereafter pay a regular monthly fee. That fee covers building maintenance and grounds care and, in the winter, snow-blowing and salt-spreading.

Holland Home even does windows.

But even if the arrangement looks like a condo and sounds like a condo, Shawver explains that as a retirement community, the community falls under laws that differ substantially from condominium statutes.

For one thing, she explained, there’s Holland Home’s Benevolent Care Endowment that plays a critical part in a resident’s membership.

The endowment begins to come into play when a resident reaches the point in age that he or she begins to require professional care.

Shawver explained to the Business Journal that should a resident in either Breton Homes or Breton Terrace die, part of his or her equity in the property will revert to his or her estate.

On the other hand, should the resident require long-term nursing care or treatment for Alzheimer’s disease — and Shawver explains that Holland Home is one of the few facilities that specializes in differentiating that disorder’s several stages — his or her equity helps finance the resident’s continued treatment.

“And there’s no further cost to the estate or the children,” Shawver said.

She explained that should the cost of care exhaust the resident’s equity, Holland Home then obtains whatever reimbursement for skilled care that is available from governmental sources, while financing the remainder of the care’s costs from the endowment.

The impulse to provide that level of care — which continues as long as the resident requires it — is what has animated Holland Home ever since its was founded in 1892 by Third Reformed Church of Grand Rapids.

The author of the idea to provide for the aged and feeble was the parish’s pastor, the Rev. Adrian Kriekard.

What now is Holland Home originally was organized as the Holland Union Benevolent Association, which then, as now, relied heavily on others’ contributions.

One such contributor, Shawver said, is Bob Israels — owner of Israels Designs For Living — who executed the Terrace’s interior and exterior design at no cost, and who served, without compensation, as general manager of the project. Israels currently chairs the Holland Home board.

Shawver said Holland Home likewise is grateful for the support that Helen and Rich DeVos have tendered to sustain the endowment.

Shawver says Holland Home’s heritage occasionally leads to chuckles. “People will ask me, ‘Do I have to be a Hollander to get into Holland Home?’ or ‘Do I have to be a member of the Reformed Church?’

“The answer is ‘No,’” she said. “Holland Home is Christian-based, but non-denominational. And, no, you don’t have to be Dutch.”

Currently, she said, the institution cares for 1,200 residents, making it West Michigan’s largest single provider of health-care services for the elderly.

And by virtue of employing 850 people, Shawver said Holland Home also happens to be the 18th largest employer in West Michigan.

The institution’s communities provide a spectrum of care ranging from independent living to residential living, skilled nursing, Alzheimer’s care, home care, rehabilitation care and hospice care.

Shawver said Holland Home also sponsors a series of monthly wellness lectures focused on residents’ concerns. Topics have ranged from massage therapy to “Laughing — The Best Way to Live.”

Such lectures take place in the community center that also has a modest movie theater, a convenience store, a computer room, a library and office spaces that are available for lease.

There’s a fitness center with an indoor pool in which residents can work out, plus a café and a salon.

Too, the center has private dining rooms for family gatherings and offers catering services for such gatherings.

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