Employees and volunteers of the Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Center recently gathered for a Hawaiian Luau to celebrate the center’s 30th anniversary. Held under the pavilion, which was decked out in tropical island décor, the event included a delicious buffet, catered by Blue Coal BBQ, live entertainment, karaoke, games and raffles.
Cristina Tarbox, administrator of the Meadows, greeted each guest with a lei. “We had a perfect day to celebrate our 30 years of caring,” said Tarbox. “The food and entertainment was great, and it was nice to see everyone enjoying the party,”
Throughout the month of August, a collage of photos and newspaper articles spanning the history of the Meadows was displayed in the center’s lobby.
The Meadows is owned and operated by Ecumenical Enterprises, Inc. (EEI) a non-profit, faith-based organization. The center provides care to long-term residents requiring skilled care as well as short-term rehabilitation.
On behalf of the board of directors of EEI, Carl Noto, president, commended the Meadows staff for its service to the residents. “We thank the staff of all departments of the Meadows Nursing & Rehabilitation Center for providing 30 years of dedicated and caring services that help each resident reach his or her highest level of independence in a warm and friendly environment,” he said
Thirty years ago, the board of directors of EEI saw a need in the community to help the ill and infirm. Monsignor Donald A. McAndrews and Rev. Dr. Jule Ayers, co-founders of EEI, approached the Sisters of Mercy at what was then College Misericordia about purchasing a parcel of land across the street from the campus to build a nursing home. “This property belonged to the sisters,” said McAndrews. “This is where the cows grazed in the summer and the students would ice skate on the pond.”
The sisters agreed to sell the land because they knew the project would be for a “humanitarian purpose,” McAndrews said. With only eight residents and 50 staff members, the Meadows Nursing Center opened its doors in August 1983. Today, the 130-bed facility is one of the Back Mountain’s largest employers with over 150 employees and over 100 active volunteers.
“We’re so pleased that it is a 130-bed facility,” said McAndrews. “I never imagined that it would have grown so much. The grace of God, good planning and good employees we’ve had over the years made it possible.”
Registered nurse Jan Congdon remembers that first day like it was yesterday. “It was my first experience at a nursing home,” she said. “I remember I was very nervous because I was the only nurse on, and I’d been out of nursing for a while. The director of nursing, Judy Harding, helped us a lot,” she recalled. “She helped pass medication and did everything to help.”
Congdon also remembers how the Meadows first administrator, Thomas Sweeney, and other administrative employees rolled up their sleeves to make sure the center was ready for opening day. “I heard they were all washing windows,” she said. “Everyone was pitching in.”
Congdon, who was hired to work the 3 to 11 p.m. shift and still does to this day, said one of the changes that has impacted her job over the years has been the increase in paperwork to comply with state regulations. “It was a lot simpler then,” she said of days gone by.
Working at the Meadows has been a rewarding experience and she’s made a lot of friends, Congdon pointed out. “I often said I should have written a book about all of my experiences. It was just amazing to think about all we went through during the years.”
Mary Ann Fosko, a registered nurse who works dayshift, recalls the early days at the Meadows. “It was less hectic then,” she said, remembering her first day of work on Aug. 13, 1984. Although advances in technology have improved the healing process for residents, it has also increased the work load, she said. The one thing Fosko said that hasn’t changed in 30 years, however, is the way the staff works together. “We have a family atmosphere. ”
Fosko recalled the blizzard of 1993 when the small number of employees who were snowed in and couldn’t get home, took turns folding laundry and cooking. Fosko said the late Tom Thorne, who was head of maintenance at the time, was her “rock.” When the snow had reached the roofs of the employees’ vehicles, Thorne and his staff cleared them off.
Admitting there have been plenty of ups and downs as with any job, Fosko said she’s happy to be a part of the Meadows family. “There’s no Utopia,” she said. “No place is perfect. It’s what you make of it. We just do the best we can.”