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Patriot Assisted Living center opens

By Staff | Jun 5, 2011

What began as an idea a year ago and also involved several months of renovation work, the assisted-living housing facility for military veterans in Winnebago opened its doors on Wednesday.

“It looks great! This doesn’t look like the same place,” says Naomi Ochsendorf, executive director of the Winnebago Area Chamber of Commerce.

Faribault County District 4 Commissioner Tom Loveall also was impressed with the remodeling done to the former adolescent treatment center.

“Someone has a homey touch. It doesn’t look very institutionalized,” Loveall says as he walks down a hallway looking at the decor on the walls.

Tours of Patriot Assisted Living were part of a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house held by the Chamber.

The facility is an extension of Parker Oaks Communities, Inc., which is owned by Jim and Kathy Birchem of Little Falls.

“It took us a little longer to open than we expected. I think this building is perfect and will work well,” says Jim Birchem.

It was hoped the facility would be ready to start accepting residents in January, however, the windows had to be replaced because they did pass the state Fire Marshal’s inspection.

Deb Barnes, administrator at Parker Oaks nursing home, says upgrading the building to meet fire code standards was just the beginning.

“The windows were the first flake in the snowball. It’s been a huge project,” Barnes says of the improvements.

Doors were replaced, new carpet was installed and a lot of painting was done.

For now, one-third of the nearly 14,000-square-foot building is being put to use.

Barnes says there are currently five rooms available, but the facility can house 12 to 16 residents.

Being a veteran himself, Birchem says he has a “soft heart” for those who served in the military and wants to help them anyway he can.

“The focus will be on housing for vets. We think that’s where the market is,” he says. “But, the facility also will be open to others who want to live here. I just want people to have a nice place to live.”

Some medical services will be offered to residents and meals will be provided by Parker Oaks.

As members of the public walked from room to room, a white board behind the admissions desk welcomed the facility’s first occupant, Warner “Shorty” Miner.

Staff and family members helped Miner move in and settle into his new home.

“I’m going to like it here. They have nice, friendly workers,” says Miner.