The massive mansion where Fountain Place is housed was the former home of Cherokee Village land developer, John Cooper. It was also utilized as a very successful bed and breakfast, before six local churches went together to start Spring River Village, Inc., which would eventually become Fountain Place. Besides the apartments, the community is beautifully landscaped with a pool and fountain, as well as a large dining area and opportunities for various activities.
Although Hooker has served as the director of Fountain Place for eight and a half years, she is no stranger to directing retirement homes. She has worked for over 20 years in different states, managing and overseeing the day to day operations of facilities similar to Fountain Place.
Hooker said she had actually retired for five years when she came to the facility, for what she thought would only be a temporary job, in starting the new retirement home. She and her husband, Charlie, farmed in northern Missouri for years and then moved to Georgia, where she served as director for a 117 unit facility.
The company that owned the facility then moved them to other locations in Texas, Virginia and Florida to improve staff and resident relations, as well as to help insure the profitability of the retirement complex.
She said she then became a regional manager with three facilities in Alabama and Tennessee, where she would eventually retire and move to Cherokee Village. Charlie is a huge resident favorite at the home, Hooker said, "The residents will probably miss him more than me."
She said, "It has been good. I have enjoyed the residents. I have had wonderful residents over the years."
Fountain Place is an independent living facility, where residents can come and go as they please and where many go on vacations. Residents come to the dining area for all meals, which are prepared restaurant-style and served by a professional staff and volunteers. In order to live at Fountain Place, Hooker said, the resident must be independent.
Hooker said one of things she has been a staunch advocate for includes insuring residents do not have to sign any type of long-term lease. She said the longest they are obligated to stay is for the month they pay rent. If they don't like the retirement center, they can move with no worries. She said this simply makes sense for those of retirement age.
It is plain to see Hooker's genuine concern for the residents and her extreme pleasure with the board's decision to hire Pam Guidry as the new director. "I feel very comfortable leaving, knowing there is going to be someone who will care of them and the staff. That is the most important thing, is the resident relations. So many of them here have no family nearby, so we become the extended family for them. When staff is hired, they are told this is not a job, it is a mission."
Hooker said she did not know Guidry prior to her hiring. The two have been together since the first of June and discovered they are a lot alike. Hooker has been assisting Guidry with the transition and said she is picking things up quickly.
Part of the daily activities the director performs, other than becoming a parent figure to the residents, includes maintaining an open door policy to serve as a counselor and advisor. The director also insures work orders for apartments are explained and relayed to the maintenance department. They also do the relevant paper work and work with the board of directors.
Hooker said, "You get close to resident's families. Sometimes, as the director, you are forced to be the bad guy, to take that pressure off the family."
Guidry's background is primarily in law enforcement, where she spent 11 years. She then got then got into management positions after a law enforcement related injury. She also worked as an interior decorator for large facilities and has worked in human resources. Guidry and her family moved to Arkansas from Florida, where she worked for several years at Pinnacle Frames and Accents in payroll and human resources. Guidry said they bought property in Cherokee Village back in the early 1990s and knew this area would be where they would eventually retire. After her daughter, Bonni, graduated in 2005, she took a job with King and Rhodes as an associate broker and moved permanently to Cherokee Village.
Guidry said, "The natural progression of things led me here. I have been very, very blessed with the opportunity to fulfill a need that connects me with my community. I think this has given me the opportunity to give back to a community that has just opened their arms and embraced my entire family. Over the past few years, both my sons have also moved here. I think we were just destined to be here and through the grace of God, we have been given this opportunity."
Guidry said she is not nervous but more excited about her new job. She was very thankful to have Hooker at her side to transition her into the job.
"She has been so welcoming and helpful. A lot of people ask how I am going to fill her shoes -- I am not, that won't happen. I will create my own way and we will continue to do things that need to be done," Guidry said. "It is starting from scratch. I have made a real hard effort to get to know everyone involved, so I know what to expect from them and they know what to expect from me. It will be a learning process. The ultimate goal is to make the transition as smooth as possible."
Guidry said another goal while working as the director of Fountain Place is to improve the public's perception of the facility, which is a non-profit 501 c3.
One common misconception is that they are a nursing home or assisted living facility. Persons who consider living at Fountain Place don't have to buy into anything like a time share situations or sign a lease requiring them to stay for a particular time. They do not have to sell anything or sign anything over. It is like extended apartment living. Residents can still own their own homes. The main difference in the Fountain Place experience in comparison to that of apartment or condominium living is having meals and house cleaning provided. Hooker said they have the best food in Sharp County, and recently earned an unheard of 100 percent pass on their health department inspection.
The volunteers are also an integral part of Fountain Place, Guidry said. "So far this year, they have completed 5,444 hours of volunteer time and that is just up until May. Volunteers work nightly from 7-10 p.m. to answer phones in case of emergency. If residents do not have transportation, volunteers will take them shopping and to other appointments."
These volunteers are residents of Cherokee Village and the surrounding area. Volunteers are a vital part of the organization and they are always looking for them. If anyone is interested, they are welcome to contact Guidry at Fountain Place.
A retirement reception for Hooker will be held June 30 at Fountain Place in Cherokee Village and the community is welcomed to attend.