Haven, VNA raise the first $100,000

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Mark Fischer, president of the West Routt Rural Health Council Inc., recently sat in on a sing-along at The Haven Senior Assisted Living Center.

The experience left him feeling good about the warm and positive place that the nonprofit health council created more than seven years ago.

"I don't want that feeling to fade," Fischer said.

The comfort, security and enjoyment Routt County's only assisted living facility provides seniors isn't likely to fade anytime soon. Since joining forces with the health council in the spring, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has helped raise almost $150,000 toward the goal of securing The Haven's future.

"I'm optimistic because it's a good project, and there are agencies and individuals that are willing to support good projects," Fischer said.

The VNA and the health council, which owns the center, signed a collaborative plan in June focused on generating $750,000 to pay off The Haven's debt and create a reserve operating budget. The funds also will help the VNA merge with The Haven and use it as platform to expand senior services in the Yampa Valley.

The two organizations hope to raise the entire amount by September 2005. The biggest grant has come from the Helen K. and Arthur E. Johnson Foundation, which contributed $100,000.

Several immediate opportunities for grants didn't work out because they weren't the right fit, Fischer said.

The Governor's Rural Health Care Initiative, for example, emphasized funding technological innovations to make facilities more profitable -- a focus different from The Haven's request.

"I would say we are pretty much exactly where we thought we would be right now," Fischer said.

The VNA and health council are in the thick of submitting grant proposals to key charitable foundations at the state and national level, VNA director Sue Birch said.

"We're very positive about it," she said. "We have a wonderful community support and a great board of directors."

The Haven, which has a maximum occupancy of 20 residents, currently has 16 residents. Although the center has either broken even or made money in previous months, it still is vulnerable to financial difficulties created by unpredictable resident numbers, Fischer said.

"We're still interested in working with a larger organization to protect The Haven from the natural ups and downs in the resident cycle," he said.

Birch's fundraising record and success in establishing the VNA as a vital part of the Yampa Valley bodes well for The Haven's future, Fischer said.

In addition to submitting grant proposals, the VNA and health council also are consulting with different foundations about how the VNA and The Haven might pursue different models for all-inclusive care for the elderly -- including the addition of senior day care and more hospice and respite beds, Birch said.

Birch is organizing a fund-raising committee. Anyone interested should call her at 879-1632.

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