Providing a caring touch

Providing a caring touch Joe Ward takes time Friday to chat with Woody Sullivan and Annie Graber at Vermillion Assisted Living. Ward has become a familiar face at the facility. His firm, Ward Enterprises, took over management of the assisted living center July 1. by David Lias What once was known as Northwood Assisted Living Center has new management and a new name.

Vermillion Assisted Living, located at 809 N. Norbeck in Vermillion, is now being operated by Ward Enterprises, owned by Joe and Charlie Ward.

"It (the center) is owned by an investment firm out of Sioux Falls," Joe Ward said last Friday, a day after the Wards took over management of the Vermillion facility.

"They hired us, and we started yesterday morning, July 1, and we're still scrambling," he said, laughing.

Ward Enterprises has no big, shiny office building. "We're kind of located all over," Ward said, as a newly connected FAX machine electronically chirped in the background behind his desk at Vermillion Assisted Living. "Our office is in our house."

Besides Vermillion, Ward Enterprises manages assisted living/nursing home centers in Bryant and Ramona.

It also owns similar facilities in Colton, Viborg and Hudson.

Everyone associated with Vermillion Assisted Living received a sense of the personal touch in Ward's management style.

"I was out to Hy-Vee and I had to get groceries for 12 people," he said, "and I drive a Volkswagen. I got one huge cart full and I realized I'm going to have to do this in two shifts because I can't get everything in my car."

Joe Ward began Ward Enterprises in 2001 when he purchased Colton Assisted Living.

"I had been in the nursing home business for almost 24 years prior to going on our own," he said. "A year later, we bought Viborg, and that's when my wife, Charlie, who also has over 20 years in the business, quit her job in Centerville and came to work for us."

Ward Enterprises welcomed some extra help last spring as the scope of its responsibilities continues to grow.

"Chad Stroscheim, my nephew, joined us because we needed the help," Ward said. "We're still a family-run business. We all have the same values, and we really believe that it's our family helping your family."

Vermillion Assisted Living is a 16-bed facility. Its owners, he said, plan to add an additional 16 beds to the center, and make other improvements in the future.

"I've only been here a short time, but the staff is excellent,

Ward said. "They know their stuff, and they do a good job here. The people who live here are very well taken care of."

Ward's prior experience includes a 12-year stint as administrator of an assisted living facility, nursing home and apartment complex in Alcester.

For eight of those 12 years, he lived in Vermillion and commuted to work.

Charlie Ward's background is also rich in administrative experience.

"She's been an administrator at Mobridge and Sioux Falls, and when we got married, she began working for the Good Samaritan Center in Centerville until we went out on our own."

Stroscheim has been involved in the field of assisted living for approximately 10 years.

Vermillion Assisted Living provides a unique form of care that isn't typically found in nursing homes.

"A very easy way to distinguish between the two is assisted living is considered a social model," Ward said. "Nursing homes are considered a medical model."

The staff at an assisted living facility helps residents by providing a range of services, including help with meals or medication.

Many of the residents are still living independently; some even own their own automobiles.

Ward's goal for the assisted living facility is to attract more people � it has a capacity of 16 and currently it houses nine residents.

"We want to make sure the staff is educated to the best of their ability, so they can provide the best possible service," he said.

Staff members have filled out surveys to reveal what they are familiar with, and what they need to learn.

"We'll concentrate on the things they don't know, and provide inservices in those areas and bring everyone up to speed," Ward said. "One of our main goals is to provide staff education."

It's no coincidence that Vermillion is included in the facility's new name.

"We really want to get involved in Vermillion," he said. "We want to be part of Vermillion, and we want Vermillion to be a part of us."

Eventually, Ward Enterprises plans to hire an on-site manager and a local nurse to serve the Vermillion facility.

"We just want to provide the best quality care that we can," Ward said. "That's our main goal."

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