NEWPORT — About 250 people gathered at St. Clare Newport last Tuesday to celebrate the ribbon-cutting marking the conclusion of a significant portion of the diocesan nursing facility’s major expansion efforts.
The modern, three-story addition, whose top floor and covered deck affords sweeping views of picturesque Newport Harbor, adds 122,000 square-feet of space to the property which will serve as an oasis of comfort and care for those who will soon live there.
The expansion includes assisted and independent living apartments, a memory care unit, adult day health program, rehabilitation unit that includes a salt water aqua therapy pool, as well as a restaurant-style dining room and recreational space.
Additional construction, already underway and expected to be completed in the next several months, will see the existing current skilled nursing facility, built in 1970, but founded as a ministry of care in 1909 by the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, renovated in the style of the rooms in the new wing.
“This event marks the culmination of a long journey for St. Clare-Newport,” said facility Administrator Mary Beth Daigneault, who thanked the Daughters of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, the St. Clare-Newport Advisory Board and the construction team for their efforts in helping St. Clare to realize its 20-year goal of becoming the future of senior living in Newport.
A first-of-its kind facility in Newport County, the expanded St. Clare-Newport will offer a continuum of care for elders, employing an “Age in Place” model that will allow local seniors to start out in an independent living apartment, transitioning as needed to assisted living services while remaining in the same apartment.
Two levels of secure memory care are offered, one in a household of apartments without kitchens and one at the skilled nursing home level.
Bishop Tobin toured the facility before the ribbon cutting, which was also attended by Gov. Gina Raimondo, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and Newport Mayor Jean Marie Napolitano.
As the bishop proceeded through the various floors of the facility he blessed the newly constructed areas with holy water.
“It’s a beautiful facility, very impressive and it’s going to serve the needs of that population for many years,” Bishop Tobin said.
“I’m sure the renovation of the current nursing home will be equally as impressive
Sister Luke Parker, SJC, toured the expansion with fellow Sister Angela O’Callahan, SJC, who will soon be moving into the new wing.
Sister Luke guided Sister Angela’s wheelchair through a warm carpeted community living room area, complete with an inviting fireplace flanked by bookcases, and then down a bright residence hallway painted in sunny yellow.
Turning into the room that Sister Angela will reside in, they approached the window which offers a view of the houses and activity close by on the side street.
“The household is so homey and intimate, it’s wonderful,” Sister Luke said.
Father Thomas O’Neil, chaplain of St. Clare-Newport, said that the work the architects and builders did in constructing the expansion was remarkable given the small footprint they had to work with in such a densely populated downtown area.
“This place is beautiful,” he said. “The heating and ventilation systems will be a lot better than they were in the old building, which will make it much more comfortable for everyone.”
Having served for years early on in his ministry in western Canada, Father O’Neil is a strong advocate for the environment.
He is very pleased with all the thought that went into the construction, which he said allows storm water to first accumulate in storage pipes below the facility rather than simply rushing immediately into Newport Harbor.
“When the water does reach the harbor, because it’s allowed to sit for a while, it will be cleaner,” he said.
In his remarks during the ribbon cutting, Bishop Tobin reflected on the greater good that is accomplished by the Church in supporting such projects as the expansion of a nursing facility, noting that it is more than simply trying to meet a need in the community.
“Why do we do these works? It’s not just social work for us. It really is for us an expression of our faith. It’s how we fulfill the commands of Jesus to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, whole strength, whole mind and to love our neighbor as our self,” Bishop Tobin said.
Further, he noted that such acts are part of the Church’s overall mission that is driven by our respect for human life and our respect for human dignity.
“We renovate and expand a nursing home for the same reasons that we advocate for and pray on behalf of the unborn child, and that we have a heating assistance program and that we educate poor children in our urban centers, and that we operate Emmanuel House and that we have a prison ministry and that we run scores of food pantries and soup kitchen across the state,” he said, adding that St. Clare Home and St. Antoine’s, the diocesan nursing facility located in North Smithfield, are part of that consistent ethic of life.
“Why do we invest so much time, effort and energy into these programs?” he asked. “The motivation of what we do is just as important as what we’re doing itself.”
Phase I of the project is funded by a $15.8 million loan from the Savings Institute Bank & Trust. The new building is designed by Durkee Brown, Viveiros Werenfels Architects of Providence and constructed by Behan Bros. of Middletown.
John J. Barry, secretary of diocesan Catholic Charities and Social Ministry, said the final cost of the expansion and renovation is expected to be about $22 million.
At present, two skilled nursing households serving a total of 32 people and 12 independent assisted living units are about to open in the new wing, with other new areas expected to be operational by December 31, according to Barry. Then, the older part of the facility will be renovated, with construction expected to be completed in about six months.