One hundred years ago, Lena Goldberg
started Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home by turning a small multi-family building
into a welcoming home for elders. Today that home has grown into Chelsea Jewish
Healthcare, one of New England’s leading healthcare organizations. The
non-profit operates campuses in Chelsea, Peabody and Longmeadow, employing more
than 2,000 individuals and taking care of more than 1,000 individuals every
day. While there has been extensive growth and expansion throughout years, one
thing never changed: the organization’s unwavering commitment to provide
high-quality, compassionate care in a “real” home setting.
“From the very beginning, our goal was to
provide the best possible care,” said Barry Berman, who has been CEO of Chelsea
Jewish Lifecare for more than 40 years. “We encourage our residents to make
their own choices and live their own lives by creating a warm and welcoming
atmosphere with a caring and compassionate staff.”
He further explained, “Living in a
residence that offers all the amenities of a real home greatly enhances the
quality of life for elderly and disabled individuals.”
Berman recalled coming to Chelsea Jewish
when he was only 23 and fresh out of graduate school.
“When they started this organization,
that was before MediCare, MediCaid and public health programs,” he said. “It
was just a bunch of Jewish women who saw elders that needed services and they
decided to buy a home and help them. When I started, I was only 23 and just got
out of graduate school. It was a small, 60-bed home that really needed an
incredible amount of work. I went to the Trustees and I was honest with them. I
said them I didn’t have a lot of experience, but we could all work together and
figure out how to do this so we can improve the home.”
By 1983, they were able to demolish the
home on Lafayette Avenue and build the brand new Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home –
a home that was just completely renovated and modernized this past year.
Over the past 100 years, Chelsea Jewish
Lifecare has achieved many similar and significant milestones.
The opening of the award-winning Leonard
Florence Center for Living in 2010, the first urban Green House skilled nursing
facility in the country, is one example. This revolutionary nursing home in
Chelsea includes 30 rooms devoted to individuals diagnosed with ALS
(amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and MS (multiple sclerosis). Individuals are
able to live as independently as possible through the cutting-edge technology
built into the center. Today the Leonard Florence Center takes care of more
individuals living with ALS under one roof than any place in the world.
The organization greatly expanded in 2016
with the addition of a Peabody campus and again in 2018 with the affiliation of
JGS Lifecare in Longmeadow. All three campuses reflect the organization’s
mission: to be the most respected provider of service-enriched residential care
and post-acute care for seniors and individuals living with debilitating
In 2017, the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home
underwent a dramatic $16 million renovation. The new building reflects a legacy
Green House skilled nursing model that can be easily duplicated by nursing
homes across the country. This concept sets the stage for new level of care in
“We came back to the home atmosphere that
our founder, Mrs. Goldberg, originally had in mind,” said Adam Berman,
president of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. “What’s so unique about our model is that
we’ve combined contemporary design elements with the traditional concept of
making one’s home as warm and inviting as possible.”
On April 28, employees, residents,
families, friends and community members came together to celebrate the 100th
anniversary of Chelsea Jewish Lifecare. Governor Charlie Baker recognized this
momentous day by issuing a Citation in honor of
this special anniversary. Amidst dinner, dancing and emotional speeches,
attendees viewed a slide show with over 200 photos spanning the last 100 years.
A highlight of the event was a heartfelt tribute to the 49 staff members who
have worked at the organization for 25 years or more.
Barry Berman summed up the night
perfectly: “Our employees are the real reason behind our longevity. Without
them, we wouldn’t be here today.”
Looking to the future, Berman said they
will look to grow, but not hastily.
“We believe in growth, but we also
believe in very calculated and smart growth,” he said. “Some companies can grow
too fast. Although we are ready to grow, we are cautious about it…We do it with
our eyes wide open because we’re not going to grow just to grow.”
For the second consecutive year, three
Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (CJL) skilled nursing facilities have received the
prestigious Five-Star Quality Rating from the Centers for Medicare &
Medicaid Services (CMS).
This designation reflects the highest number
of stars allotted to a skilled nursing facility. Currently, there are a select
number of nursing homes that have been awarded this distinction.
“We are pleased that all our skilled nursing
residences have once again been recognized as being among the top nursing homes
not only in Massachusetts, but throughout the country,” states Chelsea Jewish
Lifecare President Adam Berman. “Earning this Five-Star designation is a
testament to our skilled and
compassionate staff, our strong commitment to excellence and our
dedication as an organization to provide the highest caliber of care possible.”
The CJL homes include the Chelsea Jewish
Nursing Home in Chelsea; the Jeffrey and Susan Brudnick Center for Living in
Peabody; the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, which is the
country’s first urban model Green House skilled nursing facility.
These residences offer both short-term
rehabilitation services as well as long-term comprehensive care.
To receive a five-star rating, nursing homes
are judged by three components. Health inspections are one means of evaluating
a residence. The rating is based upon information from the last three years of
onsite inspections, including both standard surveys and complaint surveys.
Secondly, a rating is given based upon staffing, which details information
about the number of hours of care provided on average to each resident each day
by nursing staff and other healthcare providers. The final category involves
quality measures, which includes data on how well nursing homes are caring for
their residents’ physical and clinical needs.
Today the five-star rating system has become
a critical tool for the public to measure the quality and performance of a
skilled nursing facility. Nursing homes with five stars are considered well
above average quality.
Berman, “In reality, we work very hard, day in and day out, to achieve and
maintain these five-star ratings. We are so proud of our staff at each of the three
Last Friday members of the state
legislature, including Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Dan Ryan, attended the
annual Legislative Breakfast at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
While the breakfast’s format usually gives
the opportunity for Soldiers’ Home staff and residents to lobby for more
legislation that helps and protects veterans, last week’s breakfast centered
around the new long-term care facility being constructed at the Soldiers’ Home.
“I was proud to once again attend the Chelsea Soldiers Home Legislative Breakfast and see first hand how this facility takes care of those who have served our country,” said Speaker DeLeo. “It was also a chance to hear about the progress on plans for the new building, which reflects our ongoing commitment to our veterans.”
State lawmakers, including Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Dan Ryan, attended last week’s legislative breakfast at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
In October Gov. Charlie Baker broke ground
on the new long-term care facility. The current facility will continue to be
fully operational, caring for 154 veterans, during the construction process
with an anticipated project completion date in 2022.
“Friday I joined my colleagues to hear from
Superintendent Cheryl Poppe of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea and Secretary of
the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, Francisco Urena, about the
incredible new treatment center that will soon be built on their campus,” said
Rep. Ryan. “This investment will ensure that our veterans continue to receive
the best possible care in a new, state of the art facility.
In May 2017, Baker announced plans for a new
long-term care Community Living Center (CLC) and signed legislation authorizing
funding needed to advance the project in Chelsea.
The Baker Administration also has received
funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) for the $199 million project. The federal funding was awarded through the
VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up
to 65 percent of construction costs for approved projects. The Administration,
with strong support from the Legislature, plans to spend approximately $70
million net of federal reimbursement on the project.
“Great to be with many legislative
colleagues, including Speaker DeLeo, as well as Secretary Urena, at the Chelsea
Soldiers’ Home annual legislative breakfast this morning,” said Rep. RoseLee
Vincent. “Thanks to Superintendent Cheryl Poppe and Paul Moran for your hard
work and dedication in making sure our veterans are well cared for at the
Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell), a U.S. Army
veteran, also attended the breakfast and said, “I had a great meeting at the
Chelsea Soldiers’ Home as we discussed an updated overview of the services that
the Commonwealth is able to provide our veterans, particularly their new
Community Living Center project. I will continue to support and advocate for
the men and women who have fought for our country.”
Home first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first
residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for
themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home construction project will begin in earnest this
week as fences are expected to go up around most of Malone Park.
Supt. Cheryl Poppe told
the Record that the construction fence is scheduled to go up any day on about
two-thirds of Malone Park, with about one-third of the park on the western edge
to remain open.
“About two-thirds of the
park will be fenced off and one-third will stay open,” she said. “That will
help us start the drainage work, the geothermal wells and the parking lot. I
want to make sure everyone knows what is happening with the project and that
they can use the park one last time before it is closed off.”
The project will be the replacement of the old Quigley Memorial Hospital
with a new Community Living Center for veterans. The $199 million project is a
partnership between the federal and state government and represents one of the
largest expenditures for long-term veterans care in the history of the state.
But, as School Committeeman Rich Maronski recalled, Scottie Holden did climb the Soldiers’ Home water tower and it was the stuff of legend growing up in Chelsea.
“The biggest news with the tower as a kid was when Scottie Holden actually climbed it,” said Maronski. “It was the talk of the town for more than a week. I grew up beside this tower all my life. It’s the thing I look at when I’m on an airplane. I know when I’m leaving and I know when I’m home by looking at that tower.”
His remembrance was but one of many that were shared at a special farewell to the Soldiers’ Home water tower last Friday, Nov. 30, in the shadow of the tower, which was constructed in 1958 and will come down in the next few weeks. It has to come down to make way for the $199 million Community Living Center that will provide long-term care for veterans in a modern, home-like setting. Currently, the Quigley Hospital provides great care, but it is laid out in open wards, which are no longer acceptable.
“Today is an opportunity to say farewell to the water tower that served as a beacon or a landmark to so many in and around Chelsea,” said state Veterans Secretary Francisco Urena. “This is a bittersweet moment, but this is also a happy moment for the veterans at the Soldiers Home who will reap the benefit of the largest investment ever in the Commonwealth for long-term veterans care. It’s going to be a beacon of care for veterans across the Commonwealth now.”
Supt. Cheryl Poppe said CBI Corp. put up the six-legged water tower in 1958, and the purpose was to help the water supply and water pressure at the home. Over time, however, the tower became less useful and a permanent pump station was implemented in 2011. The tower was decommissioned at that time, but allowed to stay in place. Over time, it has deteriorated and vandals have painted it.
“It was a noticeable part of the Chelsea skyline, but now our Community Living Center will serve as a special vision on the horizon as it will serve our veterans for the decades to come,” she said.
Tom Kasiecki said he has watched the tower all his life.
“I watched this tower go up when I was a kid in 1958,” he said. “I sat there at my window over there and watched them build it. Now, as a senior citizen, I am going to sit over there and watch them demolish it.”
Former City Councillor Matt Frank said he is going to miss the tower, and that it is special to him, but he also said he will choose to remember it now as a place of hope and rest for those who have served their country – as it was for his grandfather when he was there.
“That’s what I’m going to remember moving forward is we’re going to have a brand new facility for the veterans,” he said. “When I look up and see the skyline without the tower, I will be sad. I will miss the tower because I’ve had it there all my life. It’s always been there. However, when I look up and don’t see it, I’m going to think of the wonderful care that the veterans are receiving there.”
Added Barbara Richards, “It’s going to be very hard to see it go. Whether you go by boat, train, plan or car, you can always see the tower.”
Dottie Kusmierek has lived across the street from the tower for most of her life. She said it holds a special place in the hearts of her family members. She said it will be hard to see it go, but she understands the reasoning.
“My older brother was in Vietnam and he saw the water tower when he came back home and said, ‘At last, I’m home,’” she recalled. “There are a lot of changes now in Chelsea, and a lot of them I’m not happy about. Good bye old friend and on with the new.”
Councilor Luis Tejada said he would definitely be sad to see it go, and it’s a part of the local history to him.
“It’s sad to me because New England and Greater Boston have so much history, and it’s why people are jealous of us in other parts of the country,” he said. “The tower was an historical marker for Chelsea. My generation and up recognize that certainly. Sometimes in the name of progress you must give up some things to get others.”
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower – a beloved local landmark – is slated to come down next month, and this Friday, the Soldiers’ Home is inviting everyone to its grounds to give an official good-bye to the red and white checkered symbol of Chelsea.
“The ceremony Friday is going to be very informal, but meaningful,” said Supt. Cheryl Poppe. “We’ve invited a lot of officials and the entire community. If anyone has a memory or a letter they would like to read, this would be a good time for that. This is a time for residents, staff and Soldiers’ Home residents to give the tower a farewell.”
Poppe said the tower has to be taken down due to the new $199 million Community Living Center project, which is starting construction now and will be in full building mode this spring. The tower has been a beloved symbol of Chelsea for decades since being put up in 1958. The red and white checkered tower was used to pump water, but for many more it became a symbol of the City of Chelsea – with people being able to see its ‘Chelsea Soldiers’ Home’ lettering from far and wide.
Poppe said it hasn’t been functional since 2009, and is structurally unsound now. There was no way to save it from the wrecking ball in order to build the new Center, but they do plan to commemorate it with a photo montage or a small model on the property.
“The construction company is still exploring ways to remove the tower and there are many ways,” she said. “They’re still examining things like how many layers of paint are on it and how they can safely take it down. It might now be until late in December, but we do expect it to go down soon. We wanted to make sure people had a chance to say good-bye before that happened.”
In addition, part of Malone Park will also be taken up soon by fences that will be used for construction activities and parking.
“I know I want to take my last walk around that loop before it’s not available,” said Poppe. “I’m sure others do, too.”
The Soldiers’ Home has had many scares over the years due to underfunding and the fact that the Quigley Hospital has open wards, something that was permitted in the past but no longer is.
“When it was built, you were supposed to come here, heal and then go home,” she said. “It wasn’t meant to be a home. Now, of course, people stay here and it is their home. This new Center will make it more of a home, right down to how the meals are prepared.”
Poppe said the fact that the hospital is getting a remake is a tribute to Lawrence Quigley, who advocated for years and years to get it built in the first place.
“At one point he said that the VA had done 21 surveys and 21 studies and it was time to do something,” he said. “He was trying to take care of the veterans from World War I, not even knowing his son would go to World War II and need the same services.”
She said there was quite a lot of folks who were sentimental or upset about the removal of the tower at first, but she said she believes in recent months many have seen the value of the overall project.
“The residents have a sentimentality for the tower, but at this pint they realize it is more important for veterans who need long-term care now and in the future to be served by this Community Living Center,” she said.
The farewell to the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home tower will take place on Friday, Nov. 30, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home has officially embarked on a new face and mission to help care for veterans and their
Gov. Charlie Baker and Speaker Bob DeLeo lead the way in breaking ground for the new Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home this past Monday, Oct. 29. The new Center will eventually replace the Quigley Memorial Hospital. It is a state and federal project costing $199 million.
families, breaking ground Monday on a $199 million Community Living Center (CLC) that will provide modern accommodations and replace the old Quigley Memorial Hospital.
Gov. Charlie Baker joined Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael J. Heffernan, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders, Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and veterans of the United States Armed Forces for the groundbreaking of the new long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
The current facility will continue to be fully operational, caring for 154 veterans, during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2022.
Some 65 percent of the funding for the new facility will come from the Federal government, which approved monies for the project earlier this summer.
“The new long term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will improve the quality of services and care provided to the Commonwealth’s men and women who have answered the call of duty and served our nation,” said Baker. “Our veterans and their families have sacrificed so much for this country, and it is our duty to care for them with honor and dignity.”
House Speaker Bob DeLeo was also on hand and has been a friend to the Home for years. Gov. Baker gave credit to DeLeo for getting funding through the Legislature so that the federal application was prepared quickly.
“Having been in the Legislature 25 years now, you, Mr. Speaker, own a big piece of that and we are all extremely grateful for this work and all the work you do for veterans in the Commonwealth,” he said. “This place will be a true testament to our investment to our veterans.”
DeLeo said the Home does have a special place in his heart, and serves veterans from his district as well.
“I am so pleased this project is underway and moving forward,” he said.
In May 2017, Governor Baker HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/baker-polito-administration-releases-fiscal-year-2018-capital-budget-plan” t “_blank” announced plans for a new long-term care Community Living Center, which was included in the Baker-Polito Administration’s Fiscal Year 2018 capital investment plan, and in November 2017, HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-baker-signs-bill-to-fund-new-facility-at-chelsea-soldiers-home-and-high-speed” t “_blank” signed legislation authorizing funding needed to advance the project.
The Administration has also received funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for the project. The federal funding was awarded through the VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up to 65 percent of construction costs for approved projects. The Administration, with strong support from the Legislature, plans to spend approximately $70 million net of federal reimbursement on the project.
The Home has long suffered from having open wards at the Quigley, and it was a point of contention for federal authorities – as health care payments are not allowed to go to facilities with old, open wards. With funding on the line, the Home was able to secure the project funding. This will allow the Home to now have private rooms and modern facilities for the residents there.
“This facility truly is a fitting tribute to our veterans who have served our nation,” said Supt. Cheryl Poppe. “With this building construction, we honor their sacrifice…The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea is honored to serve Massachusetts veterans, and this groundbreaking reaffirms the Commonwealth’s commitment to veterans of yesterday, today, and for generations to come.”
HYPERLINK “https://www.mass.gov/orgs/soldiers-home-in-chelsea” t “_blank” The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home. Chelsea Soldiers’ Home currently has capacity for 136 beds for long-term care.
The ALS Walk for Living on Admiral’s Hill, run by the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL), will host its 10th
In its milestone 10th year, the Leonard Florence ALS Walk for Living on Admiral’s Hill is being coordinated by Maura Graham, who came to the LFCFL in January. She said they are in the middle of crunch time for the Sept. 30 walk, but are excited how things are coming together. The walk is expected to attract residents of all ages, including several high school students from Chelsea, Everett and Malden Catholic.
annual walk this coming Sept. 30, and new Director Maura Graham said she is ready for another great event.
“This is my first year as walk director, but I’ve had the good fortune of having the previous walk director sty on to consult and help me,” said Graham. “Now we have 10 years of walks and so we have some history under our belts and it comes together really well. It’s huge for us. It’s our only fundraise at Leonard Florence and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards resident care.”
The Walk for Living benefits ALS and MS patients at the LFCFL, and helps them to be able to do unique activities. It is the only fundraiser for the home, which exclusively cares for those with ALS and MS. As an example, last year several residents with ALS were able to use proceeds from the walk to go to Disney World in Florida.
The walk is a family activity, and Graham said they have a lot of fun things to do in addition to the walk for families and young adults.
Matt Siegel of Kiss 108 will once again be the emcee of the event, this being his fourth year of participating in the walk.
In addition, Phyllis and Alan Bolotin of Swampscott have been named the Walk for Living Ambassadors this year.
“They have been very good to the Leonard Florence over the years and they have graciously accepted the roles of Walk Ambassadors,” said Graham. “They’ve been wonderful and have a huge team coming.”
Also coming will be hundreds of students.
One of the unique things about the Walk for Living is the fact that high school students from Chelsea High, Everett High and Malden Catholic participate and learn about ALS. Many eventually befriend the residents and gain an understanding of what it is to live with ALS or MS.
“Everett, Chelsea and Malden Catholic will all be participating and will have a big group,” said Graham. “Malden Catholic will be bringing a large group because they are honoring Brother Joe (Comber), who lives here at the Leonard Florence. The fact that so many young people participate is wonderful and shows a great sense of unity with the residents here and the community. It is multi-generational.”
Another aspect of the walk is that many of the residents who are benefitting from the fundraising participate side-by-side with the fundraisers. Many even bring their own teams.
“It is a rare thing to be able to walk side-by-side with the people you’re helping,” she said. “It’s a sense of camaraderie.”
Graham came to the LFCFL in January and previously worked in public relations and marketing for the Cambridge Office of Tourism and the Harvard Square Business Association.
“The minute I walked in to the Leonard Florence, I felt it was a great fit,” she said.
Graham lives in Melrose and has two young children.
To sign up for the Walk for Living, go to WalkForLiving.org. Registrations are also accepted the day of the event. Registration is $20 and kids 12 and under are free. Students are $10.
The event begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 30, 165 Captain’s Row.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced last Friday that the state has secured approximately $70 million in federal funding for the new 154-bed Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home – federal funding that pretty much gives the green light to proceed on the project.
State leaders have made a priority of designing and funding the $199 million project, but getting the federal funding was always a crucial piece of the puzzle that had to come through.
On Friday, the Veteran’s Administration State Home Construction Grant Program announced it would provide a 65 percent reimbursement of approved construction projects, including the Soldiers’ Home.
“Our veterans have sacrificed greatly to protect our freedoms and we are proud to see this project move forward as we continue to provide them with great care and dignity,” said Baker. “We are grateful to the VA for their support of Massachusetts’ veterans and this funding allows us to construct a state of the art facility that will be a model for future veteran homes across the country.”
The Community Living Center at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will provide 154 “home-like” rooms for veterans in accordance with VA standards of design, which promotes greater accessibility, mobility, and enhanced quality of life. Services will include physical and occupational therapy, recreational activities and greater access to the outdoors. The current facility, the Quigley Memorial Long Term Care Center, will continue to be fully operational during the construction process with an anticipated project completion date in 2021.
“We appreciate the Department of Veterans Affairs’ approval to replace the existing long-term care facility at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Campus,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco A. Ureña. “In addition to approving our replacement project, the VA granted the Commonwealth $129 million in matching funds.”
In May 2017, the Baker-Polito Administration announced state funding for the new long-term care facility as part of the Fiscal Year 2018 capital budget plan, and in November, Governor Baker signed legislation to fund the project.
“I am thrilled that the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home will be receiving federal funding for its new Community Living Center,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “The House has been a longtime supporter of this project and, as a neighbor of the Soldiers’ Home, I have been proud to support the residents and their needs throughout my tenure in the House. This financing will allow the Soldiers’ Home to further improve and enhance the vital care that they provide our veterans.”
Governor Baker was joined at his 2018 State of the Commonwealth Address by U.S. Navy Veteran Tom Miller, who lives at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Director of Nursing Debbie Antonelli and Superintendent Cheryl Poppe to celebrate the Administration’s commitment to this necessary funding.
“This funding will allow us to provide our veterans with a long-awaited updated home that will enhance their quality of life with increased privacy and greater access to services,” said Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Cheryl Lussier Poppe. “Our veterans deserve the very best, and this home will complement the quality care our veterans receive here at the Soldiers’ Home. We are grateful for the support of the Baker-Polito Administration for this opportunity.”
The Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s “alms houses.” Today, Chelsea carries on Massachusetts’ proud tradition of helping all veterans in need of both long term care and domiciliary / supportive services. Chelsea is surveyed annually by the Federal Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”). It is also fully accredited by The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (“Joint Commission”). Chelsea has a Board of Trustees appointed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The trustees and DVS share responsibility for the management of the home.
Kathryn McKenna was in the middle of reinventing herself – getting into peak physical condition – when her life took an abrupt turn to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
McKenna, a life-long Salem resident with deep roots in that city, now lives at the Dapper McDonald House in the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL) on Admirals Hill – and she couldn’t be happier and more hopeful.
On Sunday, she and a huge contingent of family and friends will participate in the ever-popular Walk for Living on the campus of LFCFL and on Admirals Hill. The walk is expected to attract 1,000 or more people raising money to help expand opportunities at the home – which is considered on the forefront of facilities in the world for treating and managing ALS.
“When I envision a Leonard Florence resident with ALS, Kathryn McKenna was the ideal candidate,” said Barry Berman, CEO. “That’s because Kathryn has a zest for life and living at the Leonard Florence allows her to continue living a very active and engaged and dignified life. We all realize that if Kathryn was in a traditional nursing home, she would be leading a much different life. Our staff are experts in understanding the nature of the disease, thus offering our residents the highest quality of life possible.”
McKenna led an active life for certain. The son of a famed basketball coach at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, she was always in top shape and active – known as a chatter box.
She was a flight attendant, was multi-lingual, traveled the world and worked at the Lahey Clinic.
That active lifestyle was cut out from under her starting in 2014 when she noticed changes. She was diagnosed in 2015, but the degenerative disease has not taken completely taken away her active nature – especially since coming to the LFCFL in January.
“It was very hard to leave my apartment in Salem overlooking the Harbor, but I had to do it,” she said. “it was the best decision I ever made. I’m very independent. I was very chatty and that has changed, but I still get my point across…I believe in a cure by 2020.”
Many of the things that McKenna and the other residents at the two ALS homes at the Leonard Florence would not be afforded them at other facilities. Designed by resident Steve Saling, who has ALS, the homes are customized with technology and the staff is trained specially to meet the needs of those with ALS.
That combination, plus a very active and understanding administration, has led to remarkable achievements in quality of life for individuals who were written off in the past.
McKenna, 60, said she had been inspired by a co-worker at Leahy to go back to college and finish her degree in 2013. She decided to major in Sports Science. While working two jobs, exercising with 20 year olds and taking care of her elderly mother – the active woman began to notice some inconsistencies.
“I knew something was wrong in 2014,” she said. “My speech was getting impaired. One day I was working out and my colleague, who was so nice, noticed and said, ‘Kathryn, you don’t have to do anymore.’ I was diagnosed with ALS in 2015, but I still had a semester of school left until graduation. I had promised my dad I would finish, so I went back…It was hard during that semester, but I wanted to persevere.”
And that she did, graduating from Salem State in 2015 with her degree.
Now, with that same die-hard spirit, she keeps focused on eating and attitude.
“The doctor told me when I was early on that appetite and attitude would determine my quality of life,” she said. “I work very hard to keep my appetite up and my attitude positive.”
She and many other residents of LFCFL and the community will bring that same positive, can-do attitude to Admirals Hill on Sunday, where critical fundraising and fun are set to take place.
“The walk certainly helps raise money, but it also gives our residents a sense of well-being when they see how many people that do care about their living situation,” said Berman. “We are now working on opening our third residence, but obviously that will take time with the fundraising.”
The LFCFL Walk for Life will begin registration on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 8 a.m., with the Walk beginning at 10 a.m. A celebration will follow.