Ann's Choice shows no signs of slowing
Warminster is by no means a small municipality.
So it may come as a surprise that roughly 6 percent of the township population resides on 100 acres of land that is now home to Ann’s Choice, the largest, nonprofit, full service continuing care retirement community in Pennsylvania.
“We have a substantial wait list,” Executive Director Chris Donati said Friday morning from his office at 10000 Ann’s Choice Way. “We’re 98 to 99 percent occupied, whereas industry averages for this type of community are closer to 88 percent. The place is beautiful, the grounds are beautiful.”
Ann’s Choice is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. Special events to mark the occasion began in February and will come to a head on Oct. 5 with an anniversary gala to support the organization’s Benevolent Care Fund, which assists residents who are unable to pay their monthly fees because of a hardship.
Donati moved up to executive director from associate executive director in May 2012. He has spent approximately six and a half years at Ann’s Choice, which is managed by Erickson Living and is home to more than 2,000 residents. Erickson Living has 16 communities across the country, and Ann’s Choice is its second largest behind Riderwood (more than 2,500 residents) in Silver Spring, Md.
“We have three goals: 1) We want to make sure our customers are satisfied; 2) We want to make sure our employees are happy (Ann’s Choice’s retention rate is close to 80 percent); and 3) We want to make sure we’re operating in a financially sound manner,” Donati said. “And we want to be good community partners, too. We do a lot outside the gates of Ann’s Choice. We do a lot of stuff with the United Way, Gilda’s (Club) and the school districts (especially Centennial).”
Ann’s Choice has five restaurants on campus that are primarily staffed by students. As a reward, Ann’s Choice hands out scholarships to help with students’ expenses at the next level. To date, $2 million has been raised, via donations by residents and staff, to support the Scholars’ Fund since its inception 10 years ago.
Although there is plenty to do on campus, Ann’s Choice’s trips department is always busy. In six months, “our transportation team has driven more than 67,000 miles and has taken 74 resident trips, visiting 14 different countries,” Donati said.
Closer to home, Ann’s Choice residents have 2,038,153 square feet of total building space to themselves. The community has 1,493 independent apartment homes and is comprised of 16 residential buildings. There are three luxurious clubhouses that anchor the residential buildings and the continuing care center.
The neighborhoods and community buildings are connected by several climate-controlled walkways, which provide residents with the opportunity to walk throughout the entire community without being affected by the weather.
“The philosophy was, (founder) Mr. (John) Erickson said, what do older people not do when the weather gets bad?” Donati asked. “They don’t leave their house. They don’t go to the doctor. They don’t go to the grocery store, they don’t go to church. They don’t do anything, they don’t socialize, for obvious reasons. So what he (Erickson) wanted to do was create a community that breaks down those barriers. Doctor’s office is right down here. Fitness center. The pool. They never have to walk outside.”
Ann’s Choice includes an on-site medical center, which is staffed by full-time doctors; a pharmacy; a convenience store; two hair salons/spas; game rooms; and a bank branch. The community offers more than 150 different clubs and groups.
And while Ann’s Choice holds nearly 6 percent of Warminster’s population within its boundaries, there is room for growth, too. The organization has about 15 acres up the road.
“This community was intended to be about 500 units larger than it is,” said Donati, mentioning the financial downturn in 2008 threw a wrench in plans.
What becomes of the 15-acre tract is anyone’s guess at the moment.
“There does seem to be some appetite for some more of this,” Donati said. “We don’t know how big, but there is definitely demand for our care center. We’re full in our care center all the time. We’re looking at possibly expanding the care center, so we’re exploring opportunities for possible expansion in the future.”
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