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Warroad Senior Living Center rises from the ashes

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In a month, Ann Moilanen will move into the new $23.5 million Warroad Senior Living Center. She can't wait. The assisted living building where she lives now is a former hospital that was built in 1940.

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"Oh my goodness," she said about her new home. "My son's job has taken him to hundreds of nursing homes across the country and he said this one is five-star."

The entire construction cost - plus debt accumulated from financially troubled Warroad Care Center - was paid by the Marvin Lumber and Cedar Co., which includes Marvin Windows and Doors. At its dedication Wednesday, CEO Jake Marvin became choked up as he talked about the gift.

"Our family has been blessed far beyond anyone would have a right to expect," he said. "That blessing has been delivered by the people of this community. We're honored to be able to build it."

He offered details of the source of the money. It wasn't from the court settlement from a supplier for a defective product, as some suspected because of the gift's timing. It was from the profit of the company's investment in the Hubbard Group, a satellite television company.

"It just so happened to be about the same amount as was needed for the center," he said. "We wanted to keep the settlement money for our employees because they had stayed with us through some tough years where they received little or no profit-sharing."

The facility offers a continuum of care. It has 22 apartments for independent living, 32 units of assisted living, 49 skill-care rooms and 10 rooms in its Alzheimer's unit. The current facility, which will be demolished, does not have independent living and Alzheimer's care.

The wait for Molianen and others is a year longer than expected. The facility was 85 percent built and three months from completion when it burned to the ground on April 25, 2008. Some residents already had sold their homes in anticipation of moving into their new living quarters.

"I was devastated," said Mary Olson, an assisted living resident. "It was a disaster. Now, the idea of having a new place is exciting."

The existing care center, built in 1979, is attached to the old hospital. It was a time when nursing homes were hospital-like institutions, designed to provide the basics of physical care. The rooms held two residents in only 175 square feet. It also offered little room for activities and gatherings.

"The antiquated structure experienced a decline in occupancy rates," said Steve Tourek, a board member of the non-profit. "Operating losses prevented improvements, which caused further deterioration of the occupancy rate. The Care Center was teetering on the precipice of financial collapse."

Tourek said Marvin's "quietly" covered operating losses before deciding to build new in 2005. The facility sits on a 24-acre campus and its five connected buildings cover more than 135,000 feet. It has a room for large events, a chapel, a fitness and wellness center, a physical therapy room, a club room, a movie theater, a beauty shop and café. The private rooms are 400 square feet, more than double the size of the double-occupancy rooms.

And - no surprise - it has many (720) windows. "It's state-of-the-art," Tourek said.

Seventy-five percent of the rooms will be occupied at its opening. Tourek cautioned that facility still will need gifts, despite having no mortgage. But the day's repeated message was the generosity of the Marvins.

"We're very fortunate in this town to have a family that cares about us this much," said 84-year-old Ruth Stukel, who already has started packing for moving day.

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