It was May 1972 when a group of volunteers opened the doors to serve Denver-area older adults with a single-site nursing home then called University Hills Christian Nursing Home. Fifty years later, that 63-bed facility, opened with a mere $2,000 during a time when the Vietnam War was raging and inflation was spiking across the country, has grown into one of Colorado’s largest nonprofit senior housing and services organizations, supporting nine communities and a home care service in the state, as well as four other communities in Indiana and Ohio. It is now known as Christian Living Communities.
“What can you do with $2,000 dollars? Even back 50 years ago, not much,” CLC founder and current resident Earl Lammers said. “There was some struggling, but it all worked out well, and we never had doubts.”
CLC helped pioneer the assisted living option in the state of Colorado. It was among the first to develop a care level offering help with dressing, medications and meals to older adults who didn’t fit skilled nursing criteria but weren’t safe at home. It was also one of the first organizations to introduce life plan communities in the Denver metro area, CLC executives told McKnight’s Senior Living.
CLC also was innovative from the beginning in its approach to housing. The organization’s very first community — a nursing home — was built with a window for every resident, a novel concept 50 years ago and one that embodies dignity and respect for all, which always have been part of the organization’s mission.
In the spirit of its founding, the organization continues to look for dignity in the details – offering residents choice dining and resident-directed services. Today, the organization is one of the national leaders in providing what is known as person-directed care and a citizenship culture, partnering with older adults to support autonomy, purpose and true belonging, in an age-positive and ability inclusive environment, Lammers said.
Even as it finds itself in equally troubled times, the organization continues to rebuild successfully from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 global pandemic and to navigate growing inflation and address challenges caused by the nationwide staffing shortage.
The community spent last week celebrating its 50th anniversary with the Dutch Days festival at CLC’s founding community, now renamed Clermont Park, an assisted living community. Residents, employees and members of the community gathered to honor the organization’s founders and partake in Dutch treats and traditions.
CLC executives say the founding principles of love and compassion remain throughout its communities, just as the founders intended more than 50 years ago.
“So often we would have people come into University Hills (now Clermont Park) and say, ‘there is just this feeling here — my mother just has to come here,’” said Mary Ham, another founder and current CLC resident. “It was a feeling of love.”
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