VOA officially opens The Homestead at Anoka

After a decade of searching and planning, The Homestead at Anoka held its official opening ceremony May 16.

Ward and Mary Lou Wilkins are among the new residents at The Homestead. The Wilkins moved from their home of 46 years in Coon Rapids to an apartment on the Anoka campus in Feburary. Photos by Mandy Moran Froemming

Ward and Mary Lou Wilkins are among the new residents at The Homestead. The Wilkins moved from their home of 46 years in Coon Rapids to an apartment on the Anoka campus in Feburary. Photos by Mandy Moran Froemming

Built by Volunteers of America, The Homestead at Anoka is a senior living community that offers a mix of independent and assisted living along with nursing and memory care. It represents a $35 million investment in the community.

Newcomers started moving into the apartments before Christmas and the nursing facility residents from VOA’s 40-year-old Anoka Care Center moved from the Madison Street location in February.

Ward and Mary Lou Wilkins moved into a one-bedroom apartment at The Homestead at Anoka in February. They had lived in the same house in Coon Rapids for 46 years.

“When the time comes that you need it, this is a great place,” said Mary Lou. She likes the mix of independent and assisted living the couple is able to take advantage of.

“That way we can do as much as we can, or we want, on our own,” she said.

Moving in to the senior community has also come with an unexpected bonus.

“I never thought of making new friends at this age,” Mary Lou said. “People are always laughing here, playing cards.”

She has also been appointed a resident ambassador, charged with welcoming newcomers to The Homestead.

Mary Lou said as nice as The Homestead at Anoka is, it is the staff and the care that are especially important.

“Those are the people that really make the wheels turn – the nurses and the caregivers,” she said.

The Homestead of Anoka, a new Volunteers of America senior community, celebrated its official grand opening May 16. A public open house followed May 18.

The Homestead of Anoka, a new Volunteers of America senior community, celebrated its official grand opening May 16. A public open house followed May 18.

The Homestead at Anoka, located at 3000 Fourth Ave., includes the new 120-bed Anoka Rehabilitation and Living Center, along with the 59 apartment units, a mix of independent and assisted living.

The opening of the senior living campus marks the culmination of a decade-long effort, clearing hurdles that included legislation to allow the construction of a new facility, along with finding the right spot to build.

The Homestead’s Executive Director Dean McDevitt said the VOA knew there was a better way to provide care and service to seniors, and that could happen with improvements to the physical location.

“We have been blessed with a beautiful building to provide in a better way for the seniors we serve,” he said.

Mike King, president of VOA, said staff perseverance led to the eventual construction of the new campus.

“This was going to happen because people make a difference,” King said Thursday. “You locked in on idea that there was a need to be met and could be met.”

Wayne Olson, senior vice president of health care operations for VOA, was one of those people who doggedly championed for the kind of care facility that is now The Homestead of Anoka.

But Olson was quick to credit a long list of others who stuck with him on the cause, including Rep. Jim Abeler and former Sen. Leo Foley, who sponsored legislation to allow the transfer of the beds from the original Anoka Care Center.

Olson also recognized the role of Anoka’s Community Development Director Bob Kirchner.

“We needed a person of influence who believed in the need for this project,” Olson said. “Bob was that man.”

During the ceremony, Olson paid tribute to Ron Patterson, a champion of the project.

Patterson was the chief financial officer and executive vice president of finance for the VOA. He died unexpectedly over a year ago, before The Homestead at Anoka was complete.

A tribute to Patterson is located in the entryway to the care center – a stained glass display of Glacier National Park – a favorite spot of Patterson’s.

The Volunteers of America operates 25 health care facilities for seniors throughout the United States, with the first opening in Minnesota in 1970.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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