Eagle senior care center takes next step
By the numbers
$23 million: Approximate cost of the center.
$4.4 million: Startup donations so far.
64: Total beds available.
65: Full-time jobs.
More info: Go to www.castlepeak.org
EAGLE — It was 1972 when Johnnette Phillips started lobbying for a senior care facility in the Eagle area. Last week, supporters of the Castle Peak Senior Care Community celebrated finishing a $4.4 million fund-raising campaign.
On a 20-degree morning, a large group of locals and officials watched the cover come off a sign at the site between the Eagle Ranch commercial area and Brush Creek Elementary School. That site is going to become an active construction zone by this spring. The county will have a facility that many residents say “completes the community.”
At the sign unveiling, longtime Vail resident Merv Lapin said the facility, run by Minnesota based Augustana Care, will allow aging county residents to stay in the community.
“I’ll be able to pick my roommate,” Lapin said with a laugh.
Closer to Family
For others, the Castle Peak facility will be a way to move their own parents to the valley.
Doris Dewton, who served on the fundraising committee, said the valley’s changing demographics helped drive the campaign. A significant part of the valley’s growth in coming years will be from young retirees, Dewton said. Those people are likely to want senior care as they age.
Fellow committee member Melissa MacDonald Nelson added that a number of people living here now hope to move their parents to Eagle County. She might be one of those people.
MacDonald Nelson’s mother, who just turned 102, is now at a facility in Grand Junction. A 103rd birthday celebration in Eagle probably won’t happen, but the dream is there.
Echoing Lapin’s comments, MacDonald Nelson said, “I want to spend my (later) years there with my friends.
Raising $4.4 million in less than a year is impressive. Dewton said much of the credit goes to “extremely generous” donors. But there were other donations, from town governments to foundations, that enabled the project to get its start.
Phillips, who moved to Eagle County as a newlywed in 1959, has seen several attempts to get a senior center project started. She served on the first committee in 1972, and helped organize more attempts during her two terms as county commissioner, before leaving that job in early 2001.
Falling Into Place
Phillips said previous attempts all fizzled, for reasons mostly involving lack of money, a shortage or land or other factors. For the past two years, Phillips has worked on organizing committees for Castle Peak, and said it took some time before she was convinced this was the right project.
“Once the (fundraising) was complete, then I felt we could move forward,” Phillips said.
David Carter used to be the county’s senior services coordinator. For the past several years, Carter has worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, putting together deals for housing projects across the mountain region.
Carter said Phillips has been “major mover to get this going.”
At the other end of the valley, Dr. Tom Steinberg has been another strong advocate of creating a senior care facility somewhere in the valley.
Steinberg, now in his late 80s, helped unveil the sign at the building site. There, he reiterated that “It’s important to keep seniors here if we can — it’s a kind of community building. There’s definitely a need here.”
Phillips, who has long volunteered at the Golden Eagle Senior Center in Eagle — a nearby apartment complex — said she fields questions at just about every weekly senior luncheon.
Dave Saemrow, Augustana vice president of marketing and public relations, said the community interest in the project was a big part of his company’s decision to get involved.
“You’ve laid a solid foundation here,” Saemrow said.
Given the number of people who turned out on a chilly morning to watch the unveiling of a sign, Phillips spoke for many who came when she said, “I’m just really excited this will finally become a reality.”