SMITHFIELD — The town has landed a $200,000 grant that will help bring an elder care facility to West Smithfield.
Chris Johnson, head of the Downtown Smithfield Development Corp., said the center will make its home in the former Heilig-Meyers furniture store on West Market Street.
When construction is finished – in about a year, Johnson said – it will be third elder care facility owned by St. Joseph of the Pines, a health care provider based in Southern Pines. The company already has adult care centers in Southern Pines and Fayetteville.
St. Joseph of the Pines declined comment, but Johnson said the center would offer medical care, on-site nutritionists and room for activities. “Adult day care is kind of an understatement,” he said.
The center will provide an economic boost to the town as well, Johnson said. And it will bring development to West Smithfield, which took a major hit when Kmart closed during the U.S. 70 bridge construction.
The grant required the project to create between 40 and 50 new jobs, but Johnson thinks the total will be more than that in the long run. “Should they be successful, they could easily double that within five to six years,” he said.
Johnson said the new facility could also entice more retirees to Smithfield, and it will certainly provide a service that is sorely lacking here.
“With the baby boom generation growing older – particularly here in Smithfield, in Johnston County – that’s an untapped (need),” he said.
Church opens respite center
Since the opening of St. Joseph of the Pines is more than a year away, a much smaller group is trying to fill the need for adult day care now.
Starting next month, First Baptist Church in Smithfield will watch over seniors two days a week, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. For $25, the church program will supervise seniors, feed them lunch and provide them with entertainment.
Shirley Fox, who’s heading the program, said the chief aim is to provide respite for caregivers. Fox, who looked after her mother into her 90s, said it can be an exhausting job.
It’s important for caregivers to get some time to themselves, Fox said; even a few hours can make a big difference.
“Not that they don’t love taking care of their loved one … but they need a break,” Fox said. “Perhaps they can go shopping or go to lunch, or go to a doctor’s appointment themselves.”
Fox wants to keep the operation fairly small. The church has room for about 12 seniors, and she wants to keep a 1:3 staff-to-patient ratio.
The seniors’ food will come from the church’s soup kitchen. A retired nurse will be on staff to monitor what the seniors eat. “If we’ve got someone who’s diabetic, she’ll know what to serve them,” Fox said.
Fox is still seeking volunteers to staff the center. Volunteers can perform a variety of functions, including entertaining the seniors with music or arts and crafts, or leading a Bible study. “There are plenty of ways to serve,” she said.
Fox decided to launch the program when she heard several church members complain about the lack of affordable adult day care in the area. Some people take their seniors to Dunn, she said, where they pay $20 per hour.
“We’ve just seen a need for this type of thing in our congregation,” she said.
“We wanted to see if we could help in some way.”