Carriage Hill celebrates two decades of service

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By John Barnhart

Carriage Hill marked 20 years in business this year.

It came into being when Al Persinger, Tommy Reynolds and Don Rowe decided, back in the '80s, that there was a need for a modern assisted living facility in the Bedford area.

" Most of the people were going to Lynchburg and Roanoke at that time," recalled Persinger.

"We knew people around town that needed places to put family members," Reynolds added.

Along with seeing a need, the three men knew each other well. They had worked together on other business ventures prior to this effort.

At first, they considered renovating an apartment complex. They gave up that idea because it wouldn't give them the result they wanted.

"We said we wouldn't want to put our parents in this place," Rowe said, explaining why they chose to build new. "Let's build a place we'd want to put our parents."

They opted to build something new. They settled on a tract of land that gave a beautiful view of the Peaks of Otter. The only developed property nearby was a residential neighborhood. Reynolds said that they decided that all of this would make residents feel safe and more at home.

Persinger said that the developers also wanted to build a facility that they would be willing to move their own parents into.

"We tried to build it state-of-the-art," said Reynolds.

"We built it to nursing home standards," added Persinger.

They had a fourth partner, Betty Schuett, back in 1987. Reynolds said that she and her husband own Regal Medical and, at the time, she ran a small assisted living facility in space that she rented. Schuett had the expertise necessary to know what an assisted living facility needed to include. The three men had the expertise to pull it together. Schuett also served as Carriage Hill's first administrator and brought its first 18 residents as well as Carriage Hill's original staff.

Schuett later sold her share of the corporation's stock to the three men. Reynolds said that she needed more time to help her husband with Regal as that business grew.

Work began in the spring of 1987 and the original building, built by Coleman-Adams, opened its doors in October, 1987. They added two additional wings in 1988.

"We filled up," Persinger said, explaining the new construction.

A second building was built in 1989.

Today, they are licensed for 141 residents, however, they consider 120 to be their maximum capacity. Their oldest resident, Ruby Ramey, turned 101 this year.

Each room has a walk-in closet and its own bathroom. There is an emergency bell system in each room and bathroom. Carriage Hill has a director of nursing, a registered nurse, and a staff of licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

"We exceed state requirements," commented Rebecca Sturm-Clauser, the director of marketing.

Residents' needs vary. Some, who live in the Peaks View Building, still drive and have cars. Others need more help, although they can at least move from a bed to a wheel chair on their own power. Carriage Hill also has a secure wing which allows them to take dementia patients. This wing has a secure courtyard which allows its residents to walk outside, but prevents them from wandering off. A person with dementia, and there can be multiple causes of this, may take a walk and not be able to remember how to get back. The security in this wing prevents this.

Along with meals and assistance where needed, Carriage Hill organizes activities. Betty Mahanes, Carriage Hill's administrator, said that staff organize trips for shopping, scenic drives or dinner out. Activities keep residents from becoming isolated.

Persinger, Reynolds and Rowe, who together own all the stock in the corporation, are neither absentee owners nor hands-on owners. They check in regularly, and are available if needed, but they let professionals handle the day-to-day operation. All of them have had family members at Carriage Hill at one time or another.

"I'll tell you, we have a good staff," Persinger commented.