With the aim of boosting services and programs to residents and community members, a $3.5 million education and resource center is being added to the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living.
About 30 board members, staff, and supporters came to the campus in Somerset on April 20 for a ceremony to break ground for what will be the first new construction there since the Martin & Edith Stein Assisted Living Residence was built 18 years ago. It’s expected that the new 12,000-square-foot, two-story building will be completed in December.
The project will also lead to the centralization of administration and services, said board president Mickey Kaufman, as he stood wearing a hardhat at the site of the new facility. When finished, the new building “will allow senior staff on campus to all come together under one roof, will allow us to bring Stein Hospice to the campus, [and will] pave the way for greater collaboration among the various agencies that make up the Wilf campus.”
After the ceremony, attendees and other staff members gathered inside for a dessert reception, where bottles of champagne were uncorked to celebrate the milestone.
The office of Stein Hospice, because of the current lack of space, is located off-campus, on Veronica Avenue; it will join Wilf Transport — which provides rides to seniors going to medical appointments and socialization programs — the campus foundation, the marketing office, and other corporate and administrative staff in the new center.
The building will also house meeting rooms and a multi-purpose room, allowing an expanded roster of health, wellness, and educational programs; speakers and workshops; holiday celebrations; and movies, shows, and cultural events for both residents and the general community. Plans also include a resource room with a library and information area and computer work stations. As part of the project, 60 “desperately needed” parking spaces will also be created, according to Kaufman.
Kaufman noted that having centralized offices will help forge “a sense of community” on the sprawling DeMott Lane campus, which also includes the Lena and David T. Wilentz Senior Residence. The nonprofit facility, a beneficiary of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey, is also supported through funds raised by its foundation. Campus facilities have served the needs of residents of Middlesex, Somerset, and Union counties.
Campus business administrator Gayle Braunstein said that when the various services occupy their dedicated office spaces in the new structure, it will free up the rooms they currently occupy in the Wilentz building, helping “everybody across the spectrum.”
“We needed to have a space for large meetings, such as our board meetings,” Kaufman told NJJN. “When the board meets, we have to displace the Wilentz people because we use their cafeteria.”
Kaufman said he expects the new building will eventually house additional agencies, programs, and services.
The project is being funded through a combination of sources, said Kaufman: money set aside by the campus, private donations — board members are collectively underwriting the cost of the new board room — and contributions from family members of current and former residents and members of the general community. Donor naming opportunities are available for the lobby, offices, and other areas. About $400,000 has been raised to date.
Forty-two years ago, what is now the Oscar and Ella Wilf Campus for Senior Living began as the Central New Jersey Jewish Home for the Aged. In 2007, Regency Nursing and Rehabilitation Centers assumed management of the Somerset facility, renaming it the Regency Heritage Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. It has retained its Jewish nature.
After a feasibility study showed a need for a low-income HUD building, the Wilentz residence — formerly known as the Somerset residence — was opened in 1985 for 100 low-income seniors. It became the Wilf campus — its namesakes Holocaust survivors and forebears of the prominent real estate developers and Jewish philanthropists — in 2002. The next year saw the opening of the Stein assisted-living facility, the hospice began in 2005, and in 2012 Wilf Transport was added to assist Stein residents and members of the general community.