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by Terri Hogan
Senior Staff Writer
Friends House in Sandy Spring is celebrating its 50th year of providing care and housing for seniors, and residents and staff say the Quaker principles on which the community was founded are still as evident as they were five decades ago.
Members of the community, which was founded on simplicity, peace and nonviolence, integrity, community, equality, stewardship and sustainability, believe those values contribute to the unique sense of community that residents and staff say has been in place for five decades.
“I feel there has always been a sense of community here,” executive director Kevin Harrington said. “It is in large part Quaker, but we are open to all folks. The living principles of Quaker foundation creates that sense of community.”
Harrington said residents come to Friends House wanting to be a part of the community and share their lives with neighbors.
“That’s what has driven the community in the past, and I don’t see that changing in the future,” he said. “We are working on delivering better brick and mortar facilities, but that sense of community won’t change.”
Many of the employees have been at Friends House for decades.
Darlene Howes has worked at Friends House for 32 years as a senior geriatric nursing assistant.
“All the residents and staff are family here,” she said. “We all have our ups and downs, but at the end of the day, they are our family. When it is a resident’s time to leave this world, we cry. We get so attached to them.”
Charlotte Garrison, a geriatric nursing assistant at Friends House for 40 years, said she has enjoyed caring for the seniors.
Howes and Garrison agree that while the facility has expanded and new faces have come and gone, the most important thing has not changed.
“There is one thing on our minds — the residents,” Howes said.
Eleanore Harker, 97, has resided at Friends House since 1990.
“I think it’s the friendliest place,” she said. “I have made a lot of new friends with every interest and lots of good stories to tell. It’s very comfortable easy living. Everything is done for you.”
Harker said she likes the many activities and opportunities available to residents.
“I’ve been here so long that I have tried just about everything,” she said.
She has worked in the garden, the country store, the library and the Elephant Shop thrift shop.
Jean Ward, 94, has also lived at Friends House since 1990.
“There is a sense of community here and it is very resident-run,” she said. “All residents have some kind of job. We take care of one another, physically and socially.”
Looking back, looking ahead
Friends House was established in 1967 by members of the Religious Society of Friends to provide affordable homes for low- to moderate-income seniors.
It sits on 62 acres in Sandy Spring, sharing a property line with Sandy Spring Friends School. The property was donated by the Esther Scott family.
Developed with financing from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 202 Program, Friends House originally offered 100 apartments — four wings with 25 apartments each, plus an additional wing for administrative offices and common areas.
Since then, 31 freestanding cottages have been added, as well as assisted living and skilled nursing care units to provide residents with a full continuum of residential and care options.
Friends House can accommodate 130 residential living households along with 103 individuals in assisted living and skilled nursing.
Since many of the facilities have reached the end of their useful life, officials say, a redevelopment and expansion project is planned. The existing apartment building will be replaced, and lodges (with eight to 15 units) and duplex cottages will be added.
Eventually, a new assisted living unit will be built and the existing skilled nursing unit will be renovated.
New facilities will be Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, offer enhanced amenities such as Wi-Fi and multiple floorplan options.
“This will allow residents to live a simple lifestyle where they can age gracefully with as much dignity as possible,” Harrington said.
Final approval for the project is expected by the end of this month. In November, Friends House will begin selling the market-rate cottages and lodge units and construction should begin next summer.
To mark the 50th anniversary, Friends House has held several special events throughout the year. A celebration for residents and their families was held in July and Ligon’s Run, a 5K race/walk open to the community, took place Oct. 7, drawing more than 70 participants. “Down Memory Lane,” a tea, was planned for Oct. 17.
Terri Hogan can be reached at [email protected]
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