Cliff Zimmerman, Dan Daggett, and Stan Gawron sign the contract commencing development of the Plant Home expansion.by Chris Chase
Coastal Journal staff
BATH — The Plant Home in Bath can begin the process of expanding its living spaces, now that officials have signed a contract with architect Stan Gawron. The signing took place on Nov. 29, but the expansion has been in the works for nearly four years, with multiple plans being created and ultimately turned down.
“The last time we were sharing it publicly,” said Donald Capoldo, the executive director of the Plant Home, “it wasn’t what the neighbors wanted, it wasn’t what the city wanted – and it wasn’t really what we wanted.”
The previous plan involved a two-story building that would have been 446 feet in length. The redesign is aimed at increasing the number of stories while lowering the overall footprint, which will allow the building to avoid obstructing nearby views and also provide a better environment for residents.
According to Gawron, who will begin drafting designs for the building now that a contract has been signed, the plan is to match the style and character of the surrounding area as closely as possible.
The Plant Home itself is a charitable home for the elderly which offers its residents the option of paying any amount they can to stay in the facilities, which offer full assisted living. The cost per month is typically $3,600, but of the 36 residents there, 30 receive assistance from both charitable donations and the Plant Home’s endowment.
The endowment for the Plant Home was established in 1917, to provide assisted living care for the elderly. Thomas Plant, the founder of the home, earned his fortune as a shoe manufacturer and set aside a large sum of money in the endowment so it could be used to supply care for elderly residents who could not afford to pay the full cost. The endowment allows them to pay what they can, while still living in the facilities. Currently, according to Capoldo, the Plant Home is the only charitable assisted living facility in the country that both subsidizes the patients’ expenses and offers private rooms.
That endowment, however, is not unlimited, and unless something is done, the funds will dry up. That’s where the expansion comes in. It will increase the number of apartments that will charge the full market rate, allowing for the residents who require subsidies to draw less from the endowment.
“Right now, we have a waiting list for the five market-rate apartments that we have available,” said Capoldo. “We have 18 people waiting for those five rooms.”
It’s no wonder that the waiting list is long, considering the services that the Plant Home offers. With private rooms and full assisted living care, many of the residents who live there couldn’t imagine living in a different place.
“Oh I love it,” said Barbara Burns, a 90-year-old resident who has been living in the Plant Home for three and a half years. “I love this place, I always have.”
Burns, who is one of the residents who receives subsidies, says it was a choice between living in the Plant Home and living with her children, something she didn’t want to do. The security the Plant Home offers her is one of its defining features, allowing her to feel comfortable in her future.
“I don’t have to worry about tomorrow. I don’t have that elephant, or monkey, whatever you call it, on my back any more,” said Burns with a laugh. “That’s a blessing.”
Even with a high level of care, the Plant Home is entirely self-funded through donations and the endowment.
“We have never taken a single state or federal tax dollar to support the people here,” said Dan Daggett, chairman of the board of directors for the Plant Home.
The average resident has an income of less than $10,000 a year, with 30 of the residents qualifying for both state and federal care. That cost, instead of going to taxpayers, goes to the Plant Home.
The expansion itself will allow that care to continue into the future, with 100 percent of the profits from the residencies in the expansion going directly to the endowment. Currently, the plan is set to move forward, with funding to the tune of $9.2 million already in place. If all goes well, groundbreaking should begin in the summer of 2013.
For the residents and their families, that means continued access to low-cost care of high quality.
“We complain a little bit, but we would no matter where we were,” said Burns. “It’s an old lady thing.”