Bishop Hills sold, to be a non-profit care facility

Assisted living facility opened 17 years ago

By BETH ALTENA

New owners of Bishop Hills—Pictured, front, are Tom and Marsha Nobel, who will take over operations at Bishop Hills Elder Care Community at the first of the year. Also pictured is Jeff Havemeier, Rotarians Ramona Hinton, Jim Bodenner and Floyd Havemeier, Rockford Ambulance Manager Matt McConnen and Kent County Commissioner Roger Morgan, also of Rockford Ambulance. The group met to talk about the Rockford community with Tom and Marsha.

Recognized by the State of Michigan for the seventh straight year in a row as an assisted living facility with perfect reviews (see related story) Bishop Hills Elder Care Community has proven itself as an exemplary facility. Now, with new ownership taking place January 1, 2013, the facility will be one where residents can know they will be able to stay even if their financial resources become depleted. The facility, owned mainly by local Rotarians Jim and Sue Bodenner, changes hands the first of the year to Baruch Senior Ministries.

New owners Tom and Marsha Nobel had a get-together at Herman’s Boy November 27 to talk with the Bodenners and representatives from Rockford Ambulance, which provides services to residents at Bishop Hills. Tom said there are two parts to the Baruch Senior Ministries, for-profit and non-profit facilities. He said he would love if all of their 11 assisted living homes could be non-profit, but the for-profit ones allow his organization to fund the non-profit facilities.

The Bodenners said the sale of Bishop Hills will allow Sue to be more involved in her husband’s humanitarian work around the world bringing water filters to communities where lack of clean water is a health issue. Jim Bodenner said it is very emotional for the couple to say goodbye to this portion of their lives but are thrilled by the prospects of the new ownership. Jim said it isn’t often that residents have had to leave due to lack of financial resources, but said it is a fear every resident lives with. According to a study released by National Public Radio recently, most people are more afraid of running out of money before they die than of dying itself.

Marsha Nobel said that her husband came to this calling through a background in accounting, and said the transformation of his life to this point is clearly a “God-led thing.” Tom was formerly a director of Hospice where he saw first hand the importance of end-of-life care. “I had a man come into my office once with a ten dollar bill,” recounted Tom. “He said it was the one-year anniversary of the passing of his wife. There was no way he could pay the cost of the services Hospice provided, but wanted me to know how important that care was to his family.”

The Nobels said Baruch Senior Ministries typically looks for smaller communities where there aren’t lots of options for assisted living. Those communities, including Rockford, tend to see their seniors forced to leave the communities to access assisted living, which adds to the stress and burden of moving from their own homes to a facility.

The Nobels said Bishop Hills is exactly the type of high-quality facility they are proud to offer. When they heard it may be available for purchase it was an easy decision to make. So confident they are of the quality of care the organization provides that Tom’s own mother lived in one of the homes the last two years of her life. “The roles switched when we went in as the kids,” Marsha described. She said the staff there didn’t realize Tom was the president and founder of the company, which gave them a unique opportunity to see the care in action. She did say his mother was proud to tell the staff of Tom position, but she said she didn’t think they really believed it.

Roger Morgan and Matt McConnon were also pleased with meeting the new owners of the facility where they are often involved, either as responders to medical calls or as transporters of residents to doctor or hospital visits. Morgan said the Nobels can be confident the community offers “big-time services for a small town.” He noted that Rockford Ambulance was among the first of a smaller EMS business to receive national accreditation back in 1994. He recalled the team charged with evaluating his company were considerably over-prepared, being used to scrutinizing much larger organizations than the rural Rockford Ambulance. “They showed up with their regular staff and were pretty much done in one day. Then they didn’t know what to do with the rest of the time they thought they’d be working,” he shared.

Tom said he has already seen advantages to working in a small town. Independent Bank, with whom he worked to receive financing, is a great example. He said the advantages of operating a home in a smaller community, as well as doing business in one, include the fact that it is neighbors helping neighbors and people know each other.

Tom said he looks forward to the future, and plans to form an advisory committee to help facilitate the workings of the home. He looks forward to being able to help meet the needs of those who run out of funds. “Up to this point, the alternative is to discharge them and let the state take care of them, which is not the most attractive situation.” Morgan agreed, stating, “This will be a great resource to our community.”

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