The Valdosta Daily Times
When George and Ganza LaHood decided to take part of their land and turn it into an assisted-care facility in 1978, they had no idea how it would turn out.
“They were pioneers in the industry,” said John LaHood, grandson of George and Ganza and current administrator of Fellowship Home at Brookside.
“They wanted to provide a quality of care for senior adults, something that wasn’t readily available in the late ’70s.”
In the years after opening Fellowship Home, George and Ganza saw the assisted-care industry become more popular, with numerous facilities opening across the state and country. After relying on their original building, Laurel Oaks, and unique, country setting to set them apart for years — Fellowship Home is located in the middle of 200 acres of mostly undisturbed country — the LaHoods decided to bolster the facility by broadening the services they offered.
“We had a desire to fulfill a need we’ve seen among the senior population,” said LaHood.
“The happier our residents are, the better business will be,” said Buddy LaHood, Fellowship Home general manager.
In 2009, they expanded, opening Willow Wood, a new building specifically for high-functioning seniors who might not be able to live at home alone but want to retain as much autonomy as possible.
“The response to Willow Wood was good ... we’ve been at full occupancy since its inception,” said John LaHood.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of Fellowship Home at Brookside, and on Wednesday, Feb. 20, they cut the ribbon for the new Elms Memory Care building.
The new building adds on nine private rooms and allows Fellowship Home to help meet the special needs of seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, providing them with 24-hour watchful oversight and access to trained caregivers, as well as various activities throughout the day. The Elms also includes secured exits and entrances so seniors can’t wonder off.
“We are also offering what we call Adult Day Service,” said LaHood. “Adults, who are taking care of seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia, can bring them here in the morning, we’ll take care of them throughout the day, and then they can be picked up in the evening.”
Between the new facility and the remodeling of existing facilities, Fellowship Home is eligible for Georgia’s new Assisted Living Communities license. To be eligible, an assisted living facility must have certified medication aides on staff to administer medications, as well as having a plan in place to assist patients with limited mobility in the event of an emergency.
“We’ve filed all the paperwork for the license and should be operating with it by late spring or the summer,” said LaHood.
“We want to care for people as they age in place.”
Reaching your 35th anniversary is an accomplishment for any business, an accomplishment that LaHood credits towards their following of the Golden Rule.
“It’s a biblical principle which is in line with our Christian beliefs,” said LaHood. “As a business, we also don’t like getting too comfortable. We value tradition, but try to change and keep an innovative mindset.”
At the ribbon cutting for the Elms Memory Care building, LaHood thanked SC Barker Construction, which was in charge of the 10,000 square-foot construction and renovation, and credited his team as a major reason for Fellowship Home’s success.
“New buildings are great, but it’s not the building that provides quality care,” said LaHood. “It’s the people, and we are humbled every time we have the chance to do that. It is our wonderful, dedicated team that has made it possible for the company to grow.”
The economic impact of Fellowship Home on the local economy is sizable. Including the eight new positions created by the new Elms Memory Care unit, Fellowship Home creates 74 full-time jobs and 16 part-time ones, for a total of 90.
One of the new hires for Elms Memory Care is Director Maria Smith.
“I’ve always had a passion for senior citizens,” said Smith. “I actually enjoyed going to the nursing home as a kid.”
The Elms building and staff provide for the whole gamut of memory care, from seniors who are in the early stages of memory loss and impairment to more advanced dementia.
“We want to provide a place that is as much like home as possible,” said Smith.
“We try hard to connect with our seniors. Underneath the layers of memory loss, the individual is still there. We want to find out who they were and reach them as an individual by whatever means possible. The person is still there.”
Fellowship Home at Brookside is located at 470 Fellowship Home Lane, Valdosta and can be reached at 229-244-9200 or at their website, www.fellowshiphome.net.