DIXON – Avonlea Cottage of Dixon LLC, a privately owned home for people with dementia, is trying to raise $119,000 in an effort to stay afloat after losses incurred because of COVID-19 restrictions, the owners say in a GoFundMe campaign they established.
Dixon couple Stephen and AvaLynda Casey bought the home at 503 Countryside Lane in October 2019, after learning in August that the struggling facility was about to close its doors. (They were allowed to keep the name as part of the deal with Kansas-based United Resource Holdings, which also owns Avonlea Cottage of Sterling, an assisted living facility.)
Avonleea has room for up to 20 Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients, but was nowhere near capacity when they bought it, and about 5 months later, when they still had only five residents, the pandemic arrived.
Even though people were calling, looking for spots for their loved ones, “we were unable to accept new residents for 9 months,” AvaLynda Casey said.
As with other health care facilities, the need to increase staff to meet the changing needs of their patients, or to cover employee illnesses, the payroll increases that and overtime issues brought, and out-of-pocket expenses for PPE and other necessities hit Avonlea hard, she said.
Because Avonlea is privately owned, “we get no subsidies from the government,” and because their income stayed flat and did not drop 25% or more in 2020 – again, because they couldn’t bring in new residents but maintained the same number for the year – they aren’t eligible for a second round of PPP assistance, Casey said.
She declined to say how much Avonlea received in the first go-round.
Wednesday, for the first time, the Caseys couldn’t make payroll for their 28 staff members, which is distressing for them as well as their employees, she said. “We feel really responsible for them. We want to take care of our employees.”
Casey herself hasn’t had a paycheck in a year, she said.
That’s what donations will be used for, she said – to pay staff and catch up with investors, to make sure the residents’ needs are met, and to pay vendors who have been kind enough to defer payments.
Once more residents arrive, though, the Caseys will have to increase the staff to cover their needs, and they also plan to raise salaries.
“We have residents ready to move in ... but we need capital to catch up and see us through,” she said.
The Caseys, who had no experience running an assisted living facility, spent about a year and a half looking at properties that could become an assisted or community living facility before they found Avonlea Cottage.
AvaLynda’s father, the Rev. Howard Wiseman, pastor at Lincoln Avenue Church of God in Dixon, died of Alzheimer’s in 2018 after 6 years living with the disease, which sparked their interest in running such a facility.
Casey is confident, given the research they did before they bought the home, that the need is out there and that Avonlea can reach full capacity. The problem now is overcoming the COVID stigma nursing homes – which they are not, she emphasizes – and long-term living facilities developed over the last year.
She’s also battling preconceived notions about what memory care and assisted living facilities are like, she said.
Avonlea’s goal, among other things, is to offer families plagued by guilt because they promised their mom or dad they always could live at home an experience as much like home as possible, Casey said.
When fully operational, Avonlea offers full-time residential care, short-term care for caregivers who need to step away for a few days, and a private-pay adult day care option for a minimum of 2 hours. It has 10 private rooms and five semi-private rooms, there’s a nurse on site 24/7, and the home provides meals, housekeeping and laundry services.
So in addition to asking people donate “to help offset our increased costs during the past year and help build a financial bridge to get us past COVID,” the Caseys ask people to ”refer your friends to us who would like to work in a home where they can make a difference.”
Go to https://tinyurl.com/ywmj3uep to find the GoFundMe page. As of Thursday night, $650 was raised.
Go to AvonleaDixon.com or call 815-288-6044 to learn more about Avonlea Cottage of Dixon.