Friendship Haven launches capital campaign

Big changes are under way at Friendship Haven. The Kenyon Road campus of one of Iowa’s largest continuing care retirement communities is undergoing a $38 million revitalization.

Today, Friendship Haven is launching a public fundraising drive to help pay for this major transformation. Chad Hammar, development coordinator, said the goal of this capital campaign is to raise $3.5 million in financial commitments by year’s end.

Julie Thorson, president and chief executive officer of Friendship Haven, said the changes taking place at Friendship Haven are designed to make an already excellent facility an even more appealing home for its residents. An important theme of this huge project is improving Friendship Haven’s ability to meet the diverse needs of both present and future residents.

“We’re being innovative and responsive in listening to what this population wants,” Thorson said. “We are transforming the way we provide care.”

Transforming Friendship Haven

There are three major parts of the construction project.

  • River Ridge Apartments, a 56-unit assisted-living complex, was completed in the fall of 2012. An innovative feature of this facility is that the amount of “assistance” each resident receives is carefully customized to reflect that person’s unique needs.
  • The major Friendship Haven buildings are being physically connected to put much of the campus under one roof as well as create a main entrance to the complex. This increased connectivity, which will be completed this year, will make it possible for residents to access most areas of the complex without going outdoors. These new spaces are much more than just covered corridors, however. An expanded gift shop, computer labs and gathering spaces will be among the features included in these new areas.
  • A new health center to replace Tompkins Health Center will be ready for use by this summer.

The new health center will be far different from the more traditional nursing home it supplants and illustrates a focus at Friendship Haven on enhancing both the comfort and dignity of the resident.

“We’re so constrained by the institutionalization of that building now,” Thorson explained. “It was designed as a geriatric hospital. … Whereas in the new health center there will be households of 16 resident rooms, or 16 really apartments, for residents of the health center in households where they will have their own living space, their own dining space for just 16 residents, not 30-plus like we serve now. And not only that … everything that happens with the resident will happen as close to them as possible. For example, the way we deliver medications will happen in that resident’s private room. … All the resident rooms will have showers. All the resident rooms will be private, where now, in almost every nursing home you would go to, there could be a possibility of sharing a room.”

The health center will have six households, each accommodating 16 residents. They will be organized according to the type of care the patient needs. For example, there will be an Alzheimer’s section and a rehabilitation unit.

There’s more to the Friendship Haven approach than just having top-notch facilities and state-of-the-art care.

Thorson said the staff is deeply committed to the organization’s mission.

“This is about much more than bricks and mortar,” she said. “We’re not just replacing the buildings. We’re doing a lot inside Friendship Haven that people can feel really good about. … We’re building an employee base that understands why we’re all there and that’s to provide the best experience possible for the residents that call Friendship Haven home.”

That point is illustrated by the large number of employees in all categories who are cross-trained, she said.

“Employees that would never have thought about becoming a certified nursing assistant a few years ago, they have gone and taken the necessary requirements … including myself. … We believe that is a really important piece of leadership. We don’t want anyone to walk by a resident’s room and not be able to respond to their needs as quickly as possible. We have encouraged and celebrated all employees becoming cross-trained.”

Community asset

Thorson said that as the appeal for broad-based financial support from the community for the capital campaign is being inaugurated, it is important to emphasize that Friendship Haven is a nonprofit organization with a mission that is in part charitable.

“Once people come to Friendship Haven, if through no fault of their own they should exhaust their resources, we don’t ask people to leave,” she said. “I want people to know that when they are partnering with us on the capital campaign or whether they are a donor for life that’s something that we take very seriously.”

Thorson said Friendship Haven is an important asset to Fort Dodge that over time will play a role in the lives of many people who may never personally live there.

“Whether they have a loved one there or not, at some point in their lives, Friendship Haven will touch them,” she said.

Thorson said the decades-long partnership between Friendship Haven and the community has helped build an organization that makes a unique contribution to the quality of life here.

“The reason we are able to provide the charitable care that we do is because we have a long-standing tradition of having an endowment. This has been part of our goal for years,” she said.

Capital campaign

The funding of the $38 million reworking of Friendship Haven has three principal parts.

Hammar said $20 million is being financed, about $14.5 million is a cash equity investment by Friendship Haven and the remaining $3.5 million is to be covered by the current capital campaign.

The committee overseeing this fundraising effort includes a mix of board members, community representatives, staff members and Friendship Haven residents. The members are Bev Baedke, Jennifer Crimmins, Phil Gunderson, Chad Hammar, Steve Hendricks, Joe Jerome, Linda Lauver, Jim Patton, Bruce Shimkat, Julie Thorson, Bruce Vandagriff and Kirk Young.

The giving options are quite varied.

“It’s a five-year pledge if someone wants to take the pledge route,” Hammar said. “It can be cash. It can be gifts of stock. … There’s flexibility in when the payment might be scheduled.”

Online giving is among the possibilities.

Thorson and Hammar both said that for large donors there are “naming opportunities” for some of the areas on the Friendship Haven campus

Anyone wishing more information on how to help with this campaign can contact Hammar at 573-6705 or by email at

About Friendship Haven

Friendship Haven has approximately 350 residents and a staff that numbers between 335 and 340. It ranks as one of Webster County’s largest employers. Hammar said analysts put its aggregate annual economic impact on the region at about $30 million.

This large continuing care community offers a range of living options. There are several distinct choices, including independent residential living in either an apartment or town home, assisted living and nursing home care. All feature convenience and security. Additionally, there is an adult day care program, which is open to nonresidents.

Friendship Haven is a nonprofit entity governed by a 12-member volunteer board of directors, currently chaired by Bruce Shimkat, of Fort Dodge.