CEO Corner – December

It is my honor and my privilege to announce that HBI has completed its project to move all of the individuals who were living at its 32-bed facility in Brooklyn Park to community-based homes!  All 12 individuals moved into their new homes on Wednesday, January 3rd of 2024.  It was a day long process, with movers and management staff pitching in.  By nightfall, everyone was eating pizza and celebrating in the new homes.

Now all that is left is to do some cleaning and sell the building!

This was a mammoth project that took years.  The Board of Directors, families, management team and I spent a number of years back in 2003-2005 going through decision-making and planning processes.  Once the decision was made in 2005, years were spent to trying to obtain or financial support from the state and the county.  It was only a few years ago, once the state put its Home & Community Based Waiver funding system into place, when it became clear that the new homes would be able to support the services needed by the individuals who lived at Brooklyn Park.

It was truly a team effort!  The Board of Directors contributed its strategic and financial planning expertise.  One past Board member and Board Chair, who is now the housing advisor to the Board’s Executive Committee, Steve Lanak is an architect.  Steve approved the purchase of the buildable lots, supervised the design and drawings of the homes, and worked tirelessly with our construction contractor, Boyer Construction, to ensure successful selections and construction.

Right by his side was Lori Merriam, HBI’s Director of Development, coordinating the work and a full-fledged partner in the decision-making.  She ordered the furniture.  In addition, Lori raised tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to help defray the costs of the new homes.  Kristi Nordland, Director of Operations & Program Services, and Lisa Fredericksen, Director of Nursing, led the efforts on service delivery.  They coordinated and led all the decision-making with families: who would live where, who wanted to live with whom.  They signed off on all the design and construction major decisions to ensure the homes would be attractive to the individuals and work for staff.  They coordinated purchasing, licensing of the new homes, and finally planned and implemented the moves of 12 individuals in one day.

Theresa Bluhm, Director of Finance & Property, took over management of the financing and kept it going smoothly.  She worked tirelessly with both the state and county to ensure that site closure requirements were met.  She continues to coordinate both the sale and the continuing security of the old building.  And of course, she continues to ensure that the rates we receive for the services adequately fund what each of the individuals require.  Serena Emerfoll, Director of Human Resources, led both HBI’s retention and recruiting efforts to ensure staffing at the new homes.  She met with current employees of the older site several times to explain the transfer process and answer questions and concerns–to ensure their transfer to the new homes and employed numerous innovative methods to recruit new staff as well.  While staffing is no sure thing in today’s world, she was very successful, and we have staffing in place.

Chris Dunleavey, Information & Technology Manager, managed the design, selection and installation of all of the new technology at the new homes.  Now he is conducting the removal of all of the technology at the old building.  Grant Haley, Director of Training, worked with Kristi and Lisa to ensure projects got done, and directed his unit to support the older facility in any way that it could.

Finally, it must be said that it was the Direct Support Professionals, the nursing staff and the site management staff that made it all happen for the most important people—the individuals!  They continued to deliver excellent services during this trying period of uncertainty at the old site, they reassured the families and the individuals.  They helped with packing, the move, and ensured that moving day was as calm as possible.  They continue to do so at the new homes.

As you can see, this was a mammoth undertaking that lasted years.  I want to thank all of these staff and Board members and say how much I and the organization appreciate their hard and excellent work.  The individuals live in real homes at last!  It is an achievement that HBI and all of its stakeholders can be proud of!

Don Priebe

News / CEO Updates / CEO Corner – December