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Church transforms nursing home

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sunny Lewis, a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church hands Emily Payne payment for a purchase from the convenience store during the dedication of Cornerstone Courts, formerly the Sharp County Nursing Home, June 8. Cornerstone Baptist Church recently open the independent/retirement living apartments along with a cafe and convenience store. Photo by Jessica Goff
CAfter sitting vacant for more than two years, the former Sharp County Nursing Home is buzzing with activity once again.

After months of hard work and remodeling, Cornerstone Baptist Church has reopened the former nursing home as a independent/retirement living complex for senior citizens called Cornerstone Courts.

"This is what we had in mind for it all along," said Elvis Sneathern, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church. "The main interest was always independent/retirement living."

The 45-year-old nursing home officially closed March 3, 2006, due to a declining census and funds. When the nursing home opened in 1962, it was the only nursing home in the county. As time went by and other nursing homes sprouted up in the area, new residents often were not brought in to replace the ones who had died.

The 80-bed facility needed to have 50 residents to keep it floating financially. As of Jan. 27, 2006, the home had 31 residents with two scheduled to leave resulting in a 32-percent occupancy. The home closed soon after.

The building was leased to the nursing home from the county. With no use for the building, the county had decided to sell the property to the highest bidder, but first it had to go to a public vote. Voters decided to sell during the November 2006 General Election.

The church, located between Mt. Pleasant and Melbourne at the junction of Highway 58 and 69, submitted the sole bid to the Sharp County Quorum Court for the former nursing home property in November 2007. The property had appraised for $78,400. In order to be sold, the interested buyer had to bid at least 75 percent of the appraised value -- $58,800. The church's $65,519 bid exceeded the minimum.

The main building is 24,431 square feet. The property includes 8.581 acres and three outbuildings -- one with 420 square feet, one with 426 square feet and another with 576 square feet.

Since the purchase, the church has invested another $100,000 in it already with renovations and upgrades. Sneathern said the church will end up putting a total of $200,000 to $250,000 into the facility.

"This is a great facility," he said. "This facility is too good to sit there and just go to waste."

The facility serves a niche of the population that has few options. It is for those who don't need to live alone but aren't ready to enter a nursing home.

"It provides a place for people who just aren't ready to go to a nursing home," Sneathern said.

So far, the church has taken one wing of the former nursing home and developed it into six apartments. There are currently two residents in the facility. When all six apartments are full, the church will begin remodeling more of the facility to make more apartments. There is room for a total of 22 apartments, he said.

The apartments are approximately 500 square feet and include a living room, bedroom, small kitchen and private bath. The residents are provided with two meals a day, weekly cleaning services and 24-hour assistance.

The facility offers a Christian environment, Sneathern said. There are Bible studies held at the facility but no one is required to attend.

Each apartment has access to both the inside of the facility and has an outside entrance to each individual apartment.

"They have their independence but they have assistance if they need it," he said.

The apartment, along with all utilities, basic cable and the other amenities, cost $600 to $800 a month for a single tenant depending on the size of the apartment, Sneathern said.

There are also laundry facilities on site along with a restaurant/convenience store called Cornerstone Cafe and Quick Mart located in the former dining hall area of the home.

"They don't have to leave the building," Sneathern said.

Sandwiches are served along with dinner specials on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings.

The cafe and store opened for business the day after Memorial Day. It isn't just there for residents of Cornerstone Courts but also to the general public. So far, business has been good, Sneathern said.

"We want to be a blessing to the community," he said.

All of the profits from the facility are put back into the church for use as Christian ministries. Those ministries include mission trips and the youth camp the church has in Poughkeepsie at the former school building.

The facility is located about 9 miles from the church.

For more information, contact the church office at 870-346-5675.

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