Gifford and Project Independence merger official

Two organizations solidify commitment
to the care of area seniors

Dee Rollins and Linda Minsinger

Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins joins ribbons with Linda Minsinger, Executive Director of Gifford Retirement Community.

On September 30th, Project Independence and Gifford Retirement Community, part of Gifford Health Care in Randolph, officially merged in a ceremony and celebration held at the Barre-based adult day program.

The ribbon joining ceremony was attended by representatives from both organizations, participants and their families, dignitaries, and special guests, including Project Independence founder Lindsey Wade.

The merger comes after years of struggle for the independent adult care program, Vermont’s oldest, which faced flood recovery efforts in 2011 in addition to other facility issues and financial woes.

“It is very hard in these changing times in health care for a stand-alone nonprofit to make ends meet,” says Project Independence executive director Dee Rollins. “Merging with Gifford allows us to be off the island with more supports and resources so we can grow our services for our elders and caregivers. Gifford is the right and best partner Project Independence could imagine.”

While still responsible for their own bottom line and fundraising efforts, Project Independence now has the resources and backing of the financially stable Gifford to help maintain ongoing services.

Joe Woodin, Dee Rollins and Steve Koenemann

Gifford CEO Joe Woodin officially welcomes Project Independence to the Gifford family, shaking hands with board president Steve Koenemann and executive director Dee Rollins.

And the center is already experiencing the benefits of being part of a larger organization through savings in expenses and access to a wider range of resources.

For example, Project Independence is now able to utilize purchase point buying for a savings on supplies and groceries while also benefiting from the services of established Gifford departments such as billing, payroll, human resources, marketing, and others.

For Gifford, the merge is an opportunity to expand on its commitment to the region’s seniors. Already home to an award-winning nursing home and a successful adult day program located in Bethel, Gifford has a strong foundation in caring for the aging.

It’s a foundation they are building upon with the creation of a senior living community in Randolph Center. This new community will include a nursing home, assisted living and independent living units.

Construction on the campus began this past spring with work focusing on infrastructure and the building of a new Menig Extended Care facility, the 30-bed nursing home currently connected to the main hospital.

Current Menig residents are expected to transition to the new facility when construction is completed in the spring of 2015, a time that will also see the ground breaking of the first independent living facility.

Gifford’s Record of Success Continues for 15th Straight Year

Randolph hospital ‘makes’ budget, operating margin

Gifford 2014 budget

President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announce via video that Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.

In a feat that has not been replicated by any other hospital in Vermont, Gifford Medical Center announced that it has achieved its state-approved operating margin for the 15th straight year, by managing its expenses and the budget process.

In a “reality TV” video announcement sent to staff on Monday, November 3, President Joseph Woodin and CFO Jeff Hebert announced what auditors have confirmed – Gifford closed the books with a 3.2% margin for the 2014 fiscal year.

“This is all thanks to the hard work and dedication of our staff,” said Woodin. “Without their diligent focus, always trying to manage quality and costs, we would not be able to have accomplished this.”

An operating margin is the money the medical center makes above expenses – needed to reinvest in programs, staff and facilities. Sixteen years ago, Gifford ended the fiscal year with a negative 16% margin ($2.9 million loss), after having lost money 4 out of 5 years. At that time, the future of the hospital was uncertain, with some state officials even asking if the hospital should be closed.

Today, Gifford is known as one of the most successful and innovative hospital and health care organizations in New England. They are designated a CAH (Critical Access Hospital), as well as an FQHC (Federally Qualified Health Center); one of only three in the nation to carry that dual designation. They also operate a nursing home (Menig) that is rated one of the top 1% in U.S., and are currently constructing the first phase of a five-phase senior living community in Randolph Center, VT.

Consistently achieving the operating margin can be an indicator of an organization’s success. Despite record shortfalls in revenue for Vermont hospitals, including Gifford, Woodin noted the medical center was able to make up for revenue shortfalls through managing expenses and due to support from federal programs like 340B, a drug pricing program that in part generates revenue when Gifford patients fill non-generic, non-narcotic prescriptions at participating pharmacies.

“This news is exciting for Gifford and for the community,” said Woodin. “It is an indicator of Gifford’s health as a medical center, community organization, and employer. Primarily it means we’re stable, and we’re able to provide consistent care and services without facing cuts and uncertainty.”

The achievement is especially remarkable within the current economic climate and amid so many changes in health care, hospital officials also noted.

Putting locals to work in Randolph Center

Senior living community progressing

This article was published in Gifford’s Fall 2014 Update Community Newsletter.

Randolph senior living community

When Gifford conceptualized and received all necessary permits to construct a senior living facility in Randolph Center, it was certain that local people would benefit. The region’s seniors would have a local place for nursing home care, independent living, and one day assisted living.

What wasn’t necessarily known when the project went out to bid in the spring, however, was how many other locals might benefit.

Randolph senior living communityThe crew at W.B. Rogers Inc. is a prime example. The local excavation contractor bid for and won the job to do the site work for the first phase of the project.

The project is the biggest in manager Geoff Gilman’s time with the family business, even trumping the eight miles of Bethel roads the company rebuilt immediately following Tropical Storm Irene.

W.B. Rogers Inc. got its start more than 40 years ago in 1968. Today, three generations work with the company, along with plenty of others. With 16 employees, W.B. Rogers brought on extra staff to work on Gifford’s project, which began in May. “We’ve employed quite a few more people,” Gilman said.

“Everybody who works for us lives in Randolph or a surrounding town, so it’s really keeping the income right here in this area,” added Gilman, whose father Charlie owns the business.

As community members pass by the site on Route 66 in Randolph Center, many have been surprised by the amount of equipment on site. Others have been surprised it’s locally owned. W.B. Rogers, which does jobs from the very small to the very large, owns about two dozen pieces of equipment, from excavators to loaders to backhoes to bulldozers to dump trucks.

Randolph senior living communityWith equipment stored in Randolph and an office in Bethel, Gilman notes a local contractor is also the contractor you know. He’s readily available, has built a reputation through his previous work at Gifford and many other local projects, and works hard to do a good job for his community.

“I take pride in my work. I like to see everything look nice. I treat these jobs like they are my own,” Gilman said.

After a long summer in the sun, he’ll also be glad to be done with it. “I was glad to get it. I’ll be glad to finish it,” he said.

W.B. Rogers will be on-site on the property until the ground freezes, finishing some grading and building an access road and then return in the spring for final grading and seeding.

The first phase of the project, which is the reconstruction of Gifford’s 30-bed Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home on the site, is expected to be done by May 2015.

The project began this May. Since then, water and sewer lines, drainage pipes, fire hydrants, light pole bases, and power have all gone in. Concrete has been placed, walls have gone up, and the site is getting ready for a winter of interior work.

Once complete, nursing home residents will move from their current home at Gifford to the new nursing home. The current facility will then be renovated into new industry-standard private inpatient rooms.

Later phases of the senior living community call for first 40 independent living units and then more independent living units and assisted living units to follow.

For Gifford, employing local contractors like W.B. Rogers means supporting not just seniors but the local workforce.

“Gifford is successful when our community is successful. It’s a partnership, and we do try very hard to be a good community partner,” said Gifford Director of Facilities Doug Pfohl.

‘A Labor of Love’

Sue Schoolcraft

Sue Schoolcraft poses outside of her Randolph Center home with her latest Menig quilt and her sewing machine, which she even packs on vacations so Menig Extended Care Facility residents get their quilts as soon as possible. It takes her between two days to a month to create each quilt.

The Last Mile Ride this Friday and Saturday at Gifford Medical Center in Randolph is a lot of things to a lot of people.

For the residents of the Menig Extended Care Facility, it is a splash of color and warmth during the last years of life.

Sue Schoolcraft’s mother always sewed. She made Schoolcraft and her twin brothers’ clothes and winter wear on a tiny, portable General Electric machine. “Until I was married, she made clothes for me,” says Schoolcraft, who was born at the start of World War II and amid the Great Depression.

Sue Schoolcraft

Sue Schoolcraft, who makes quilts for Menig residents thanks to funds raised each year at the Last Mile Ride, demonstrates a stitch.

Schoolcraft’s interest in quilting was born in high school in her native New York.

“I started probably right after high school. We had a history teacher and he would take us to museums and living history museums, and I saw all these quilts,” she says, recalling watching women quilting and then seeing a striking image of a Baltimore Album quilt in a magazine.

“It was beautiful. It just appealed to me,” says Schoolcraft.

Sue Schoolcraft

A quilting book tops a small stack of reading materials in Sue Schoolcraft’s living room.

Her mom helped her get started and she worked on that quilt, her first, for years – through marriage, children and moves to Swanton, Vt., Sheldon Springs, Randolph, Fairfax and Braintree Hill before finally moving to Randolph Center more than 40 years ago.

In Vermont, Schoolcraft found a quilting community. She joined an East Bethel hand crafters group, made a second quilt for her daughter and eventually sold at craft fairs.

Sue Schoolcraft

Menig resident Barb Reynolds’ quilt features bright greens. “I like the color of it and all the hard work that’s in it.” It is Barb’s first ever quilt, she says.

She was teaching a quilting class at her church in Randolph Center, the First Congregational Church of Randolph, when she saw an ad in the paper from the Menig Extended Care Facility in Randolph looking for quilts for its 30 nursing home residents.

Schoolcraft, a stay-at-home mom and avid sewer, responded and put her four students to work.

“They had just opened up the new Menig center,” Schoolcraft recalls. “We suddenly needed 30 quilts. I was teaching a quilt class at the time and we started making quilts.

“And I just loved it and kept on.”

Sue Schoolcraft

Menig resident Jean “Terry” Wilson loves her quilt’s colors, particularly the pink.

Today when a new resident moves in to Menig, 75-year-old Schoolcraft talks to the resident about his or her interests and likes, or receives this information from Menig staff, and gets to work herself making a personalized quilt.

One such quilt stands out in Schoolcraft’s memory. Her mother – that mother who taught her to sew – Dorothy Morack, lived at Menig during her final years.

“She wanted butterflies. So I found material,” Schoolcraft says. “It just made me happy to know that I was able to do something special for her after all the things she had done for me.”

A more recent quilt featured tractors, trees and a gambrel roof barn for a male resident.

Sue Schoolcraft

Mertie Seymour likes flowers, so that is what her quilt at Menig features.

While each is different – be it butterflies or barns – there is one constant to the quilts that neatly adorn each resident’s bed. “I try to do quilts in bright and cheerful colors, especially with our long winters,” says Schoolcraft, who hopes to uplift the residents during what for most are their final years.

The work is supported by the Last Mile Ride, Gifford’s annual charity motorcycle ride, cycle ride, 5K and 1-mile walk, which raises money for free services for people in advanced illness or at the end-of-life.

For Schoolcraft, the work is “a labor of love.” Occasionally, she gets thank you notes and relishes in residents’ reactions. “’Look what I got! Look what I got!’” said one. “’This is for me?’ Did you make this for me?’” inquired another.

“It just brings me happiness and joy to do this. It has many different aspects. It’s giving back to the community that has been so good to us,” she says of herself and husband Ron. “It connects us to people.”

The Last Mile Ride 5K run and one-mile walk is Friday. A 38-mile cycle ride and 79-mile motorcycle ride is being held on Saturday. The events raise money for special services for those in life’s last mile. Those services include alternative therapies such as massage and music therapy; food for families staying in Gifford’s Garden Room for end-of-life patients; professional family photos; family grants; gas cards to doctors’ appointments; and special family requests, such as a family trip to a Red Sox game, a flight to be at a loved one’s side, a handicapped ramp, or other small home improvements.

Log on to www.giffordmed.org or call 728-2284 to learn more. Participants can register on the day of the event.

A Spoonful of Thanks: Message from the Development Director

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

spoonful of thanksGifford’s is a story steeped in tradition, and one that has only grown more positive in recent years. As director of fund-raising efforts, telling that story of a small hospital making it and improving year after year despite the odds is such a privilege.

In 2013, that is even more true. We’re celebrating another year of major achievements, including “making” budget, earning Federally Qualified Health Center status allowing us to soon provide enhanced primary care to the community and receiving all approvals needed to move forward with the construction of a Senior Living Community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at Gifford.

In 2014, moving forward on our Senior Living Community and private patient rooms will become a major focus for the Development Office, Development Committee and our new Campaign Steering Committee.

These committees are comprised of hardworking volunteers. The project has already generated much excitement from both donors and from community members hoping to one day make this community home.

Over time, the Senior Living Community will include the Menig Extended Care Facility nursing home, independent living units and assisted living units. This vision allows our friends and neighbors to age in place rather than leaving their community for similar housing.

Constructing the nursing home, building infrastructure for the entire community and creating private inpatient rooms, however, will take community support. This support is already being demonstrated among the Gifford community, including our Auxiliary, Board and Medical Staff, and soon will be an exciting public campaign where community members can help make this project a reality through financial investments.

Ours is a community that supports its hospital and patients. We continue to have remarkable success each year with our annual fund and once again we have raised a record amount in support of end-of-life care through the Last Mile Ride – our charity motorcycle ride held each year on the third Saturday in August. Participants, volunteers and local business sponsors make this event possible and so positive for our hospital and community. We look forward to continuing and growing this (now) Randolph tradition in 2014.

As always, there are many ways to support Gifford – as a donor, as a patient, as an employee and as a volunteer both at the medical center and through the Auxiliary. I welcome your inquiries on how you can become involved in our story of success and in bettering patients’ lives.

~ Ashley Lincoln, Director of Development

An Extra Push: Housekeeping

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

Kelly Bouchard

Barb Reynolds, housekeeping associate Kelly Bouchard and Della Allen

Barb Reynolds sometimes likes an extra push – in her wheelchair that is. As a member of the Environmental Services team, Kelly Bouchard’s job is to clean the nursing home and residents’ rooms. But in this culture of caring, Kelly doesn’t stop there. Walk down the halls or visit at a meal time and Kelly is often found sitting with residents, including Barb and her mom Della Allen, asking about their day and reminiscing about the good old days. Kelly is so involved, she was asked to join the nursing home’s “Falls Committee” to help prevent resident falls. And, of course, she gives Barb a push now and then.

“She’s very good. She takes me up and down the hall, when she doesn’t need to; it’s not her job… She’s very broad-minded. She’s willing to do things for other people.”
~ Barb Reynolds

an extra push

An Extra Cup of Care: Menig

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

Menig

Gloria Tatro and Marion Currier have known each other for decades. Gloria was a resident at the Tranquility Nursing Home where Marion was a licensed nursing assistant before Tranquility closed and both came to Menig. Dawn Abdel-Fatah works for Upper Valley Services and spends a couple days a week with Gloria and sees the extra effort Marion makes.

If Gloria wants popcorn, Marion buys her a bag out of the hospital vending machine after work. If Gloria, who makes beaded necklaces, needs extra supplies, Marion picks them up for her.

“She’s just very kind. She cares about the way she looks, her hair, her clothes. She takes her time.”  ~ Dawn Abdel-Fatah

Marion Currier

LNA Marion Currier, Gloria Tatro and Dawn Abdel-Fatah

Gifford Breaks Ground on Senior Living Community

Randolph senior center

Officials break ground Tuesday afternoon on Gifford Medical Center’s senior living community in Randolph Center. From left are Dan Smith from builder HP Cummings Construction Co., Gifford nursing home administrator Linda Minsinger, Gifford board Chairman ¬¬Gus Meyer, Gifford Administrator Joe Woodin, Gifford Vice President of Operations and Surgery Rebecca O’Berry and retired Gifford plant operations director Theron Manning.

Amid cloudy skies and unseasonably chilly temperatures, a crowd of more than 100 turned out Tuesday afternoon to show their support as officials from Gifford Medical Center officially broke ground on a much-anticipated Senior Living Community.

For more than two years Gifford in Randolph has been working to gain approvals and move forward with a project that includes the reconstruction of its 30-bed nursing home, the Menig Extended Care Facility, on 30 picturesque acres in Randolph Center. Later phases of the project would include up to 100 independent living units and 20 assisted living beds.

Plans additionally call for renovations at the hospital. Once Menig moves, the current nursing home at Gifford will be renovated into 25 private inpatient rooms for patient safety and privacy. The hospital now has shared rooms.

Gifford earned Act 250 approval for the first two phases of the project – the new 30-bed nursing home and 40 independent living units – last August and Certificate of Need approval for both the new nursing home and hospital renovations from the Green Mountain Care Board in October.

Spring construction was planned and on Tuesday hospital officials along with the contractor HP Cummings Construction Co., architect MorrisSwitzer, and engineer DuBois & King broke ground on the new nursing home.

“It is a great occasion to celebrate this next step,” said Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin. “To be able to put the shovel to the ground, we’ll remember this.”

Woodin noted the nursing home’s history and track record.

Gifford opened the Menig Extended Care Facility in 1998 after a local for-profit nursing home, 53-bed Tranquility Nursing Home, was “closed” by the state for quality concerns.

Since it has opened, Menig has won numerous state and national awards for quality, including being named one of the country’s 39 best nursing homes in 2012 by U.S. News and World Report. The only nursing home in all of Orange County, Menig has a significant waiting list – about 100 people – for care.

Randolph senior living

Gifford Administrator Joseph Woodin addresses a crowd of more than 100 at Tuesday’s groundbreaking for Gifford’s senior living community in Randolph Center.

It’s nursing home officials’ hope that by adding assisted living units, some of that waiting list will be diminished. The medical center has also seen community members move outside of the area for independent living options.

Ashley Lincoln, Gifford’s director of development, called the project “both personally and professionally exciting.” “It is an opportunity for Gifford to carry on its tradition of meeting the community’s care needs, and it will allow more of our senior family and friends to remain in the region where they have grown up.”

The project, said Gifford Board of Trustees Chairman Gus Meyer, is a step forward for the hospital and the community.

“It has long been true in health care, if you stand still, you’re going to lose,” Meyer said.

And while Tuesday’s groundbreaking was for the new nursing home phase of the project, the complete plans are what excite Meyer.

“It’s not just a nursing home moving up on the hill. It’s all the renovations that are going to occur at the hospital,” he said, “and independent and assisted living come behind. We’re really excited about that, and we’re really excited to do this in a way that makes sense financially and that makes sense for our communities.

“This is all a part of Gifford becoming even more involved in the health of our communities, … and doing all we can to realize our vision of having the healthiest communities that we can.”

Construction on the new nursing home is expected to take about a year. Renovations at the hospital will follow.

Hats Off to Gifford Volunteers

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Irene Schaefer and Phyllis Roberts.

Gifford Medical Center’s hats were off, well technically on, in recognition of its volunteers at an annual appreciation luncheon Monday. The “Hats Off to You” hat-themed event welcomed 70 of Gifford’s hospital and Auxiliary volunteers.

In all, Gifford had 120 volunteers in 2013 who gave 16,678 hours to the non-profit medical center, or 2,085 eight-hour days. Auxiliary volunteers working at the Thrift Shop gave another 6,489 hours, or 811 eight-hour days.

Volunteer Coordinator Julie Fischer noted that the number of volunteers and volunteer hours was remarkable. “We are amazing,” she said.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Beth Kittel and Joan Granter.

In recognition of their year of service, volunteers were treated to a delicious lunch, door prizes from 17 area businesses, favors, accolades, a presentation from hospital president Joseph Woodin and even an impromptu round of singing “You Are My Sunshine” from managers working as servers at the event.

Managers, wearing hats in appreciation of the volunteers, came from different areas of the hospital and offered heartfelt thanks.

“Thank you for helping to enrich the lives of the residents,” said Terry MacDougal, Menig Extended Care Facility activities director. Menig is Gifford’s nursing home.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers Donna Bosworth, Shirley Russell and Elizabeth Mahaffy.

“What you bring is just enormous,” agreed Menig Director of Nursing Brooks Chapin.

Volunteers were thanked for their remarkable gift of time, for offering support to staff as well as patients, for their warm smiles and for their hugs. “You bring peace, comfort and stability to the organization,” Woodin said.

Woodin went on to share the latest on Gifford’s plans to build a senior living community in Randolph Center and private inpatient rooms at the medical center. Gifford hopes to break ground on the first phase of the project, a new nursing home in Randolph Center, next month.

Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon

Pictured here, from left, are volunteers David and Lori Peirce.

Volunteers were enthusiastic about the plans, which have already garnered remarkable support from the Gifford Auxiliary. The Auxiliary has pledged $650,000 to the project.

One other remarkable achievement of 2013 for Gifford volunteers was the recognition of Major Melvin McLaughlin as Vermont’s and the nation’s Outstanding Senior Volunteer. McLaughlin earned a round of applause from his fellow volunteers.

Businesses generously donating door prizes and favors to the volunteers were Belmains, Blue Moon, Central Supplies, Chef’s Market, Cockadoodle Pizza Café, Dandelion Acres, Holiday Beauty Salon, Onion Flats, Randolph Village Pizza, The Harrington House, Tozier’s, One Main Tap and Grill, Bethel Village Sandwich Shop, Sidewalk Florist, Drop Dead Gorgeous hair salon, the Aiken family of Bethel and Freedom Foods.

A Message from the Board Chair

The following is an excerpt from our 2013 Annual Report: A Recipe for Success.

Gus Meyer

Gus Meyer

The theme of this year’s Annual Report is a Recipe for Success. Without question, Gifford had that recipe in 2013! We continued to gain great recognition for what we’ve done, while taking major strides to position ourselves to do even more in the future.

In 2013, as we awaited permits for the senior retirement community, we undertook important expansions to the Kingwood and Sharon health centers. Ultimately, the senior retirement Act 250 permits and Certificate of Need were granted, making us ready to break ground for the new nursing home in the spring of 2014, with independent and assisted living options to follow. Moving the nursing home will enable us to renovate our inpatient unit, with single-patient rooms that will significantly improve health safety and comfort for patients using that facility.

In addition, we earned designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center. This will enable us to expand our core commitment to primary care, including new initiatives and collaborations to extend dental and mental health services to underserved areas.

gallon of leadershipAs we have pursued these plans for the future, Gifford has continued its commitment to patient care and furthering the health of our communities. We are extremely proud that Dr. Lou DiNicola was given the Physician Award for Community Service by the Vermont Medical Society. We are delighted that Major McLaughlin was named the national Outstanding Senior Volunteer. We are humbled by the continued recognition of the Menig Extended Care Facility.

As we reflect on these accomplishments and look forward with tremendous anticipation to 2014, it is an honor for the Board to serve an organization that continually goes above and beyond. Even as we experience constant change in today’s health care environment, we have great confidence that Gifford’s ever-evolving recipe will generate success this year and for many more to come.

Gus Meyer
Board Chair