Summercrest: Local Care for Seniors
Newport, N.H. 03773
By Laura Jean Whitcomb

Sixteen years ago, five local businessmen – George Kelley, Eddie Rochford, Sam Saggiotes, John McCrillis and Vern Violette – bought the old Newport hospital, which was in bankruptcy. "We thought it was a good building to keep; it came with 18 acres of land," says Vern Violette of Newport, N.H. "Then someone asked if we ever thought of going into the assisted living business." That conversation started what is now Summercrest, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living and memory care.

In 1998, the concept of assisted living was still new. In developing the plans for Summercrest the partners made every meeting with the administrative team. "We weren't afraid to put money back into the business," says Violette. "They wouldn't have asked us if they didn't think it was needed. It was complete teamwork."

Initially it was difficult to fill the building. A complete turnaround occurred when the decision was made to contract with the management company HMS Windward led by Dan Hassan, president and CEO. Along with HMS Windward, Hassan brought Administrator Steve Gunnerson on board. With Gunnerson at the helm, his more than two decades of experience in the long-term care industry was key in the turnaround of Summercrest.

"Our services help residents maintain their independence," says Steve. He notes that it is almost like living in a resort, with meals, laundry, and maintenance and housekeeping services provided. Some people simply don't want to perform these tasks any longer. Others might need more assistance and therefore receive help with daily living activities like bathing, dressing, mobility and medication management. The team can even help with paperwork, such as advance directives.

These days, Hospital Hill Realty LLC – comprised of two of the original five owners (Violette and McCrillis) and Joe Davidson (recently deceased) and Bill Hoyt – works in partnership with Valley Regional Healthcare and HMS Windward. Both Hassan and Peter Wright, CEO of Valley Regional Healthcare, are essential, active members of the Summercrest Board of Directors. This partnership makes it easy for Summercrest to do what they do best: provide a secure and nurturing home for aging friends and neighbors so that they may stay in the Lake Sunapee region.

What sets Summercrest apart? Summercrest is still locally owned and operated. "The decisions are made right here," says Violette. "We don't have to call anyone. The board is here and everyone trusts everyone. There's a really good synergy between the owners and the staff."

Gunnerson, who has been with Summercrest for 12 years, is now a partner. He's worked for both for-profit and nonprofit senior living communities and says that "Summercrest is for profit, but it is run with a not-for-profit philosophy. The owners were very patient, waiting years to get a return on their investment. The residents are loyal to us and the board is loyal to the residents. Sometimes decisions made are advantageous for a resident but not necessarily beneficial for the board."

"Residents ask for Vern by name," says Marketing Director Leigh Stocker. "The board has a presence here, not just for staff but for the residents, too. They are a positive and supportive influence at Summercrest."

The community atmosphere is apparent throughout Summercrest – from the happy residents sitting outside on a sunny spring day to the kitchen staff serving homemade wild blueberry pie with a smile. Staff and residents alike enjoy the annual Friends and Family BBQ, which is held in appreciation for the residents and their families.

"One family member told me, 'We're so glad you're here. If you weren't, someone would have to invent you,'" says Violette.

Learn more at www.summercrest.net

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