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Rice Foundation launches $2 million campaign for Rice Care Center in Willmar, Minn.

Crews with Corner Stone Construction Services install siding Thursday to the exterior of the new facility at Rice Care Center on Willmar Avenue Southwest. Rice Health Foundation has launched a $2 million capital campaign for the renovation and expansion project at the center, the city-owned hospital’s long-term care and nursing facility. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR — Rice Health Foundation launched a $2 million capital campaign Thursday for the renovation and expansion project at Rice Care Center, Rice Memorial Hospital’s long-term care and nursing facility located on Willmar Avenue Southwest.

The project is part of a multi-phase construction plan that began in 2010. The first two phases included construction of Therapy Suites, a 23-bed, short-term care and rehabilitation facility located on the same campus as the center.

Therapy Suites celebrated its one-year anniversary in August 2012 and has been awarded a national Citation of Merit from Environments for Aging. The final three phases will cost $6 million. The plan includes extensive renovation and expansion of Rice Care Center.

The center, formerly known as Christian Nursing Home, was built in the mid-1960s and has seen no major renovations since.

David Anfinson, Rice Hospital Board chairman, said the hospital bought the center in 1994 and began providing a continuum of care for the elderly through Rice Care Center because it fit the hospital’s mission and met a community need.

“Even though our staff has been challenged over the years with providing care in an obsolete facility, they have remained committed and passionate about giving each resident the best possible care,’’ he said to Rice Care Center and hospital staff, residents and family members, and others gathered at Therapy Suites on Thursday afternoon.

Anfinson said years of discussion and planning on a financially feasible way to improve the center have paid off. He said the center will transition from the old institutional-style delivery of long-term care to the neighborhood, community-style delivery model.

“With collaboration and support from our stakeholders, we will not only improve the facility, we will also improve the way we deliver care to the elderly,’’ he said.

Using feedback from residents, potential residents, care providers, and the community, Rice did a comprehensive market and facility assessment of the center. And while it was revealed that the quality of care is second to none, the facility itself was lacking and obsolete, according to officials.

The new facility will feature all private rooms with private showers and toilets. There will be 46 single-occupancy rooms, plus two double-occupancy rooms to accommodate couples. All rooms will have up-to-date safety features for staff and residents, including an overhead lift system.

In addition, rooms will be located in “neighborhoods” with separate entrances for privacy and convenience. Neighborhoods will have gathering spaces for social activities and private events and a beautiful garden to enjoy the outdoors.

Michael Schramm, Rice Hospital chief executive, said the board wanted “an environment that our residents, our patients, our families can feel comfortable in as we provide high-quality services and care to all of you.’’

Perhaps no one is more excited than the residents themselves.

Alvina Woltjer has been a resident at Rice Care Center for the past 2½ years. She has shared a double room during that time and is looking forward to having a room to herself.

“Everyone is excited about the changes,” she said, “especially the private bathrooms.”

Currently, Rice Care Center has 25 semi-private rooms with up to four residents sharing a bathroom, and everyone sharing two shower rooms and two bathing rooms.

Troy Barrick, Rice Care Center and Therapy Suites administrator, said the center was built during a different time and era.

“Today, seniors and their families are looking for a long-term care facility that feels more like home and less like a hospital,’’ he said.

Schramm said philanthropy has always been a big part of supporting Rice and he said Rice will seek community support in bringing the project to reality.

To date, Rice Health Foundation is halfway to meeting its $2 million goal. It has already received $1 million in gifts, grants and commitments from Rice executives and directors, Foundation stakeholders, and private donors, according to officials.

Philanthropic support will help reduce the amount of debt Rice Hospital will incur to meet this community need. The reduced debt will make the project economically feasible and free up resources for other health and wellness programs offered locally.

The highlight of the event was a presentation by MaryAnn Doyle, president of Bremer Bank of Willmar, of a $100,000 check from the Otto Bremer Foundation.

For more information, or to make a donation to the project, visit the Rice Health Foundation’s web site at or call 320-231-4141.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150