Lucy Rickman and Mona Weaver stuck their hands into damp, leech-infested, 3-foot-deep holes, testing to see how water percolated into the ground at the wetlands site where The Haven now sits.
The Army Corp. of Engineers also required some mitigation if they planned to build an assisted-living facility at the site, so they brought out the shovels and dug new drainage areas, planted seeds and kept them watered.
This "sweat equity" is something Rickman looks back on as just one of the difficult yet rewarding tasks in making the dream of assisted living in Hayden a reality since the idea came about in 1992. They did it because there was no money at the time to pay someone else to do it and because they believed in the dream, Rickman said.
"It was cold and dirty work, but somebody had to do it," said Weaver, former director of The Haven for 3 1/2 years and former member of West Routt Rural Health Council Inc. "When you believe in something, you just do it."
Rickman wanted more than ever to see The Haven succeed, Weaver said, and she didn't mind doing whatever it took for that success. That's part of the reason she decided to take over the role as director just a year after retiring in 2000 from 34 years of teaching English and social studies to Hayden seventh- and eighth-graders.
"I was ready to retire, but I didn't want to quit working," Rickman said.
And so she worked. For exactly three years, Rickman has been director of The Haven. During that time, she has helped it grow in leaps and bounds, as well as keep it afloat during hard times. But now, Rickman wants to return to retirement.
"I think my work here is done," Rickman said. "I've done a lot of reorganization, not just with office files but with the employees and procedures and with carrying on the vision. Now, I think (The Haven) is in the best shape all-around ever."
Karen Burley, regional coordinator of Emergency Medical Services in western Moffat County and former technician with Moffat County Social Services, has been selected by the WRRHC as the new director of The Haven and will start Monday, WRRHC President Mark Fischer said. Burley is now in Denver, completing state certification for assisted-living facilitation.
During the first two weeks while Burley works, Rickman will stick around to show her the ropes, Rickman said. "Karen has connections throughout the whole valley," Rickman said. "We haven't had much exposure in Moffat County, and she will provide that. Hopefully, she can reach out for more residents and do some more grant writing. Her challenge will be to take what I've done and run with it."
The Haven is 75 percent full with 15 residents. It also has two prospective residents. However, almost two years ago, occupancy dwindled to about 50 percent, and The Haven struggled financially to keep its doors open.
Rickman wrote several grant applications and was successful in getting $115,000 to maintain Routt County's only assisted-living facility.
"I had to hustle," Rickman recalled. "It's what I'm most proud of."
Rickman also is proud of her 13 employees who she has delegated authority to and allowed to blossom. "I can be gone, and they can run the place," Rickman said. "And that's how it should be."
Rickman also helped residents of The Haven get involved in more community-oriented events, such as senior-visit lunch Fridays, holiday light tours and socials in the town and park.
"She was so instrumental in upgrading and organizing. ... She brought sense of organization that is unique to Lucy. West Routt Rural Health is the beneficiary of that organizational skill," Fischer said.
But Rickman's work began several years before she was director. She was involved from day one with the overall inception of The Haven, the wetlands study, site planning, design and decoration and facilitating efforts with the WRRHC.
"I'm the type of person who needs to be creative," Rickman said. "When it comes to maintenance, I lag a bit. The job is not as creative or challenging as it was.
"I will miss it. I don't even know how much I will miss it until I'm gone. It's been my life for 12 years. Every spare minute I had was donated to The Haven. So it's going to leave a hole."
She said she forgot what it was like to have summers off because she hasn't had such a vacation since she was a teacher. She looks forward to working in the yard, which she says she's neglected in the past few years.
According to Jacquie Boyd, a friend of Rickman's and former WRRHC board member, if Rickman feels like stepping down, then it truly is time.
"She gives 110 percent or she doesn't do it," Boyd said. "She gives everything to any project she believes in. I feel her personality and values are evident in all elements of The Haven."
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