VNA plans big Haven expansion

New community room, programs could function as regional senior center

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The Visiting Nurse Assoc-iation's ambitious plans for The Haven include a major expansion and addition of a community room that could function as a regional senior center.

The community room would be part of a 4,000-square-foot expansion to The Haven Senior Assisted Living Center that will be built when the VNA acquires it and secures additional funding.

For the past year, the VNA has been discussing expansion details with the West Routt Rural Health Council, which currently owns The Haven.

"I think the addition will go great with the community -- not just Hayden but Steamboat, Craig and Meeker," said Hayden Mayor Pro Tem Crecencio "Chencho" Salazar, who was among supporters who traveled to Denver last week for a grant hearing in which the VNA requested $650,000 in Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance funds.

The VNA has been working since last fall to raise $750,000 to pay off debt at The Haven and build a reserve operating budget.

It took a significant step in that direction last week when an advisory board for the Energy Impact Assistance program recommended the Colorado Department of Local Affairs award at least a portion of the VNA's $650,000 grant request for the project.

DOLA executive director Michael Beasley is expected to make a final decision regarding the proposal in April.

Added to about $250,000 raised, a full award of $650,000 would put the VNA well above its acquisition goal. Additional funds will go toward the expansion, estimated at about $790,000.

Some grant money also will help upgrade and link computers at The Haven and VNA sites in Craig and Steamboat Springs.

At about 2,800-square-feet, the community room would help expand senior services in West Routt County while integrating seniors with other generations through classes and activities, VNA project adviser Dace Carver Kramer said.

Kramer is using her experience in nonprofit projects to help the VNA develop a "cross generational model" at The Haven. The model calls on research suggesting older Americans do better if they are not isolated with other older residents.

The model hopefully will include partnerships with other nonprofit organizations interested in hosting activities for seniors and others in the community.

Language and culture classes through Colorado Mountain College and bird watching with The Nature Conservancy are among the possibilities. The model also will give seniors the opportunity to share their skills or visit with youths interested in learning about seniors' life histories.

"Anything that will connect different generations with seniors we think will have broad community benefits," Kramer said.

The community center would be available for public meetings and private receptions.

The addition would include a "buffer zone" between the community center and residents' rooms at The Haven. The VNA also wants to expand The Haven's kitchen and hold congregate meals for seniors in the community room.

The Routt County Council on Aging currently hosts congregate meals three days a week at the American Legion hall. The hall does not have a commercial kitchen, so the council delivers meals to Hayden from Steamboat Springs, Council Director Shelley Orrell, said.

The council may be able to prepare meals at The Haven, which would allow for more congregate meals and possibly more delivery days for Meals on Wheels, she said.

A community room equipped with audiovisual equipment would allow the council to host activities, such as a defensive driving course for seniors, in Hayden.

"I just can see a lot of things the seniors in the community and residents at The Haven could take part in," Orrell said.

The VNA hopes to acquire The Haven in September and, depending on funding, complete the expansion by the end of 2006, Kramer said.

The organization has raised $250,000 in funds from private donors, foundations and local governments, including the town of Hayden. The VNA plans to begin a public fund-raising campaign in April.

Funding from the program likely will help secure grants from state foundations that require grantees meet a funding threshold before receiving foundation money, Kramer said.

"Because they will be able to see the support of DOLA and significant community support, we believe that our grant request to other organizations in the state would be favorably received," she said.

-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail tmanzanares@steamboatpilot.com.

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