A home that helps

At Friendship Haven, a new Memory Center is ready for residents

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Kennedy Irwing, 4, doesn't know quite what to make of all the activity around her Thursday afternoon as she stands with her mom, caregiver Jessica Irwing, during the ribbon cutting for the Journeys at Friendship Haven. Unit director Allison Zuspan, cuts the ribbon as Friendship Haven President/CEO Julie Thorson, holds onto the end at right. The first residents of the memory care center will move in Tuesday.

The nails have all been pounded in, all the paint applied, the furniture moved in and the beds made up and ready for residents at the Journeys at Friendship Haven memory center at Friendship Haven.

After a grand opening and ribbon cutting Thursday evening, the new building, which is designed for the needs of residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, is now open.

Friendship Haven President/CEO Julie Thorson, spoke about how the center was designed from the ground up to meet the needs of residents with the help of Unit Director Allison Zuspann.

“We said dream big,” Thorson said. “Work with your team and dream big. They came up with great ideas.”

She also credited the many who made the center possible.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Molly Morris, who works in the Arbor Lane Neighborhood at Friendship Haven, looks over one of the activity centers in the Journeys at Friendship Haven unit during the grand opening and ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon.

“This happened because of partnerships,” she said. “Because of all of you and everyone who supports everything Friendship Haven does.”

The Rev. Jennifer Owen, who’s the chaplain for Friendship Haven, blessed the center.

“We thank the many hands and hearts who have worked to make this home a reality,” she said. “God, let those who enter here know your love and peace. Peace to this home and all who enter here.”

Shannon Strickler, with LeadingAge Iowa, spoke about care for those suffering from memory impairment.

“Memory support services are a critical issue today,” she said. “In 30 years the need is expected to triple.”

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen Deb Zemke, of Knierim, tries out the recliner in one of the resident apartments at the Journeys at Friendship Haven grand opening and ribbon cutting Thursday afternoon.

She’s glad to see the center open.

“I want to recognize the board,” she said. “They not only recognized a need, but they’re bringing cutting edge delivery to Fort Dodge. Be proud of what you’re doing.”

State Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, talked about priorities.

“It’s not hard to see what Fort Dodge and Webster County’s priorities were when you walk into this facility,” he said. “There’s no debt against this structure. On behalf of the people in my district, I thank you on their behalf.”

State Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, complimented the new center.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen One of the activity areas, called the office, features a typewriter. The centers help residents connect with the past.

“What a wonderful facility and I offer my blessings for success,” he said. “I think others will build to follow this model.”

Friendship Haven Board of Directors Chairman Phil Gunderson spoke as well.

“Thank you,” he said. “This is such a great facility. As you look around, find some of the staff and ask them the hows and whys. Everything here, that’s all for a purpose.”

He stressed that they dreamed big when the center was first proposed.

“Every step of the way,” he said. “Friendship Haven has dreamed a noble dream. This evolved into how to best care for residents in a safe way for those who need it.”

He too gave credit to the staff, the donors, the residents and the community who supported the center and Jensen Builders Ltd., of Fort Dodge,, who performed the work along with their sub-contractors.

“They didn’t just put the lights up,” he said. “They made this a home.”

Denise Halverson, along with a group of Journeys team members, cut the purple ribbon.

“Most people’s lives have been touched by Alzheimer’s or dementia,” Halverson said. “It’s very personal. People were very giving. I thank everyone who have embraced the vision of this dream.”

After members of the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance cut a ribbon as well, Thorson spoke about the center’s philosophy and design.

“This is basically two households of private apartments,” she said. “There are no alarms, no medication carts. The drawers outside the rooms have space for the residents medications.”

Everything is planned to help the residents.

“We thought out each space,” she said. “In the art studio, those blank canvases will be filled with residents paintings.”

There are several of those areas in the building, each featuring a unique set of activities ranging from a wood shop area to one called the office that features a working typewriter.

“Many of our residents are looking for something from their past,” Thorson said. “They might find it at the general store or the office. It’s about meeting the residents where they are on their journey and not forcing them to where we are.”

She said that residents will be arriving soon.

“On Tuesday we will be welcoming 16 new residents,” she said. “The true meaning, the true beauty, of this will be seeing the residents’ faces when they walk into this home and feel comfortable and feel respected.”

Lacy Dencklau, who works in Friendship Haven’s Stone Heights Neighborhood, was impressed with the center and how it’s designed with the needs of the residents which includes a lack of windows in the common areas.

“If they see a window they tend to focus on going outside,” she said. “This helps keep them here.”

Molly Morris, who works in Friendship Haven’s Arbor Lane Neighborhood, was also impressed. She particularly liked the activity centers.

“I love it,” she said. “It’s gorgeous.”