Lutheran Community Home celebrating 50 years in Seymour


Susie Schnitker still remembers visiting her grandfather at Lutheran Community Home in Seymour when she was a young child.

He was a resident there in 1973 when the facility was only five years old.

“I remember exactly which room he was in,” she said. “I remember even in 1973 coming here as a child just the care that the nursing staff gave and the individual attention that they provided.”

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Later on, her other grandfather and her mother- and father-in-law were residents there.

“They’ve all received wonderful care,” she said.

For the past 10 years, Schnitker has served on the nonprofit senior living community’s board of directors, giving her the opportunity to be a part of the facility’s growth.

Together, the board and Executive Director Karyn Fleetwood strive to meet Lutheran Community Home’s mission of “passionately providing excellent person-centered care in a Christian environment” while maintaining the values of respect, compassion, teamwork and continuous improvement.

Over time, the facility has evolved to provide independent and assisted living options along with a nursing facility.

“We are able to provide that in-house service in different regions of the campus or different aspects,” Schnitker said. “It’s nice for the family and for the individual residents that they don’t have to move to another physical place, that they are familiar with the folks here, they are familiar with how things operate. It makes those transitions easy as life continues on for the folks.”

Lutheran Community Home is celebrating 50 years in Seymour.

The first celebration is at 2 p.m. Sunday with a special service in the chapel at the facility, 111 Church Ave. Paul Neuman, the pastor on staff, will preach, and all local Lutheran pastors have been invited to be a part of the service. The Lutheran Men’s Chorus also will sing.

After the service, there will be a birthday party with cupcakes and punch. The event is open to the public.

Then Sept. 14, Church Avenue will be closed down at noon to prepare for a community celebration from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be food, entertainment and games for children.

“Hopefully, it will be a family event,” Fleetwood said. “We’re celebrating what we’ve done but also what we plan to do, our commitment to the community and always looking at the needs that are there, ensuring that we’re going to be that service provider for 50 more years.”

The board members agreed that it’s important to celebrate 50 years of service to the community.

“I think as a service organization just celebrating how many lives we’ve touched over 50 years, how many families we’ve impacted. I just hope all of those folks show up and reminisce and enjoy the day we have planned,” Schnitker said.

“We’ve really been blessed to be able to do all that we have done, and so it’s a celebration but a thankful celebration,” said Lou Voelker, a 25-year board member who now serves as chairman.

More than 50 years ago, several Lutheran leaders in the community organized to meet the need for skilled care in the community. Through their efforts, the Lutheran Community Home campus became a reality.

It opened Aug. 25, 1968, to provide skilled nursing services to older adults. The first resident was admitted Sept. 14.

Six years later, people in need were being turned away, and it was evident that growth was necessary. The board entered into a contract to build a 20-bed nursing addition and construct 15 residential living apartments.

Then in 1976, the board approved the construction of independent living duplexes on the north side of Church Avenue. Ten duplexes, or 20 units, were constructed over the next few years and are at full occupancy today.

In 1987, recognizing the increasing demand for nursing units in the community, another nursing unit with 30 beds was constructed.

In 1996, Church Avenue Manor Apartments was built to provide 11 additional independent living apartments on the campus.

Growth came again in 2009-10 when assisted living level of care was added to the campus — 33 apartments licensed for 45 residential care beds — to complete the full continuum of care. A dedicated rehab-to-home unit and a secure memory care unit also were constructed.

In 2013-14, a renovation of the memory care unit was completed, an addition was made to the chapel and a small house, named Forest Path, was built on the campus that allows 10 residents to live as a family in a more residential setting than traditional nursing home beds.

A complete renovation of the kitchen was completed in 2016-17.

“I credit a lot of this growth to Karyn because she has pushed us, always pushing,” Voelker said, smiling. “Every time we’ve built something to meet a need, it fills up and is used quicker than what we expected it to be, and we have a new waiting list. It lets us serve the community. The more we’re able to serve the community, the better.”

Lowell Wessel, who has been on the board for 21 years and serves as vice president, said it has been great to see the facility go from being a nursing home to more of a continuing care unit.

“I give a lot of credit for this to our administrator because she looks forward and kind of challenges us a little bit, which is good, definitely good,” he said. “To be able to be current or moving forward has been good for the home, and it keeps changing. People really admire that, and they want to be there.”

Schnitker said it’s a plus that Fleetwood is involved in state and national long-term care facility organizations.

“She’s very in touch with the pulse of what’s going on,” Schnitker said. “That’s what helps Karyn bring a lot of these new and innovative ideas to the home.”

Fleetwood said the 12 volunteer board members are truly committed to Lutheran Community Home’s mission.

“I might bring the ideas, but they are very loyal to Lutheran Community Home and committed, and I think each one of them brings different perspectives because they all come from different backgrounds,” she said.

Today, there are 180 residents, and they all come from different locations and religious backgrounds. Even though Lutheran is in its name, only 40 percent of the residents are of that faith.

Change continues to occur at the facility. Fleetwood said the national association is going from referring to it as a continuing care retirement community to a life plan community.

“When you enter a campus like ours, we have all levels of service,” she said. “I think those transitions in care then become much easier because we get to know our residents living in an independent living setting, so when it’s time that they might need rehab or need more assistance, then the more we know them, it makes those transitions easier.”

The board and leadership just completed a long-range plan with several primary goals.

Those include expanding independent living, assisted living and memory care; creating a separate rehabilitation unit; providing for long-term care expansion and renovation; making changes to the administration and maintenance areas; enhancing the food service and dining experience; providing ample and convenient parking; and creating a more inviting, green campus environment.

“Our residents, staff, volunteers, pastors, visitors and physicians are all committed to ensuring that Lutheran Community Home will continue to provide a peaceful and friendly place for people to live and receive services for years to come,” Fleetwood said.

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Lutheran Community Home is celebrating its 50th anniversary at 2 p.m. Sunday with a special service in the chapel at the facility, 111 Church Ave., Seymour.

Paul Neuman, the pastor on staff, will preach, and all local Lutheran pastors have been invited to be a part of the service. The Lutheran Men’s Chorus also will sing.

After the service, there will be a birthday party with cupcakes and punch. The event is open to the public.

Then Sept. 14, a community celebration is planned from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. with food, entertainment and games for children.


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