PioneerCare Suites Planned Closure

August 9, 2017 

After five years of providing enhanced assisted living services in its location at 1006 Sheridan Street South in Fergus Falls, PioneerCare leadership has announced the planned closure of its PioneerCare Suites. Nathan Johnson, PioneerCare’s CEO, met face-to-face to inform current staff, residents and families last month.

“For several years we knew we faced an important decision with regard to the building. Simply put, the current physical plant, which has certain portions as old as 90 years, has numerous deficiencies and can no longer effectively provide assisted living services,” Johnson said.

“With careful reflection on our mission, our board of directors and staff leadership have concluded that in its present state, the building is holding us back.”

A resident relocation team made up of key staff and led by Tara Wagner, PioneerCare’s director of social services, will assist each resident in relocation to another care setting appropriate to their individual needs. Families will be invited to work closely with the team to assure as smooth a transition as possible. The goal is to vacate the building to allow closure by the end of August.

Caregivers and other staff working at PioneerCare Suites are offered the opportunity to continue employment seamlessly within other care settings in the organization, such as PioneerCare Center and Pioneer Cottages Memory Care.

Building Slated for Demolition

The future of the former nursing home building on Sheridan Street has been in a suspended state since the care center’s move to new quarters in 2011. Once providing care for as many as 105 residents, the building has since served as home for just up to 20 residents of PioneerCare Suites. Pioneer’s business office, foundation office, and PioneerLink program also have been housed at the site. Otherwise, over two thirds of the building has stood unused.

Once residents and staff of PioneerCare Suites vacate the building and other offices are relocated, the building will be scheduled for demolition as early as October.

Recognizing a need to provide better care for older adults, church and community leaders organized to form the non-profit organization in October 1926. The original building opened on October 7, 1928, becoming the first nursing home in Otter Tail County. Beginning in the mid-1950s, wings were added to expand the building’s capacity each decade through the 1980s.

The 1990s saw demand grow for more diverse forms of senior care. In response, Pioneer Pointe was built as an independent living setting and Pioneer Cottages opened to provide memory care.

By 2007, leadership considered remodeling the original building to meet today’s regulatory and market expectations. Early in that planning process, it became clear that building a new care center from the ground up was the best solution. With completion of PioneerCare Center in May 2011, residents moved from the Sheridan facility to Mabelle Avenue with fanfare that included a parade led by residents in classic cars, staff carrying banners, and the Fergus Falls High School Marching Band.

“In its time, the original site was a landmark for providing innovative care,” Johnson said. “In 2011, PioneerCare Center became that landmark for us.”

Closure and Demolition is Step Toward Plan for Future

In 2016, a group of staff, board members, and other stakeholders participated in strategic planning exercises to create a shared vision for PioneerCare’s future. Market surveys were also completed at that time. That input helped lead the group to conclude that saving the original structure was unfeasible.

Leadership is discussing plans on how to best provide new housing and care services on the site that address community needs and complement the neighboring Pioneer Pointe apartments. For the short term, the property will be designed and maintained as an open, park-like space.

PioneerCare will host events for residents and their families, staff, and others to properly commemorate the past, share stories, and help envision the future. Details will be publicized on the organization’s web site and through local media as plans are developed.

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