The plan to build a new medical center in Florence is jeopardizing a nonprofit program that provides adult day care for elderly people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
It is time for someone or some group to step up and save Westminster InterFaith Caring Place.
Since 2009, the nonprofit group has been offering adult day care services for elderly people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. This is an essential service provided to about 20 families a day from a hill overlooking the Tennessee River at Helton and Veterans drives.
The Westminster program is housed in the Brandon Ministry Center, owned by New Vision United Methodist Church. New Vision is selling the property to RegionalCare Hospital Partners, which plans to transform the site into a $251 million medical center complex.
It is great that RegionalCare plans to replace its aging Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. It is great that New Vision can walk away from the deal with more than the appraised value for its property.
But members of the community — including the two parties in the land transaction — need to consider the impact on the adult day care center. We don’t know if there is any legal obligation to Westminster, but there certainly is a moral trust. For everyone involved, including the community at large, to wipe their hands of responsibility is to risk our reputation as a caring and compassionate populace.
Westminster co-founder Elba Barnes said the group has invested about $250,000 into its program, including about $105,000 in renovations to New Vision’s property. The group is in the fifth year of a seven-year lease, and it expected to be in the building for years to come.
Barnes said none of the parties involved, including the North Alabama United Methodist Church, has communicated with her or made any reassurances or commitments to the day care program.
She said the program would need at least a year to prepare another facility, even if it had the money or site to relocate. It needs a minimum of about 7,500 square feet and no break in service during the transition.
Surely, in all of the Shoals, a facility and money are available to solve this problem.
Perhaps RegionalCare will have space available at its east campus or at the old Coffee hospital. Perhaps New Vision is making enough money from the land sale to reimburse Westminster for some of its investment. Perhaps the United Methodist denomination and others can provide assistance.
We would like to hear their voice, vision and leadership concerning this issue.
We don’t know the solution, but we do know the community should not put this important service at risk.