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Not day care, a place of care

Published: Thursday, March 28, 2013 11:57 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2013 12:11 p.m. CDT

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A common misconception people have about Willowbrook Adult Day Center is that it is a day care for older people. It’s not.

Willowbrook is nothing like a day care. In actuality, Willowbrook is more like a social club. The comfortable and familiar setting is what entices it’s participants into coming back.

Willowbrook Director Margot Voshell and Events Coordinator Dee Gibbs explained why this isn’t a day care and why the term should be stricken from use when discussing Willowbrook.

“We try not to use the word ‘day care,’” Voshell said. “Adult day service, adult day center, we don’t want people to feel like they are at day care.”

Gibbs chimed in: “We are trying to educate the world (on proper terminology for the service.)

Voshell gave a breakdown of the typical day at Willowbrook.

“We have breakfast, we talk about current events and we try to make everything current,” Voshell said. “Then we may also step back a little bit and talk about what happened in the ’40s or ’50s on this very same day. Everyone participates, we all help make breakfast and serve. We try to have this be their home away from home during the day.”

Participants only come to Willowbrook during the day and return to their homes at night. The cost is $55 a day to participate, and thanks to scholarships they provide, hardly anyone pays full price.

Willbrook also provides handicap accessible transportation through HIRTA and a grant from the Jasper County United Way.

Willowbrook’s facility also houses both a coffee shop and gift shop, a full-time nurse, exercise equipment and a TV room complete with a nicely-sized flat screen.

Despite all of the amenities, a lot of people are hesitant to look at Willowbrook with an open mind.

“One of the challenges for me, and Dee would agree,” Voshell said, “would be the awareness of Willowbrook and the understanding that we are here to support families and support people in maintaining their independence as long as they can. We’re here to partner with people and families so that they can remain in their homes. The challenge is getting people to come here; we know they are going to enjoy themselves once they are here.”

“You probably heard the participants say, ‘They forced me to come’,” Gibbs jokingly added. “They feel like they are doing OK and they are in their own homes and they just don’t know what we are. They are unsure of that, once they come through our doors they’re very happy with what they find. But just the idea of coming, they usually balk. We tell families it’s not unusual. For them (participants), it’s like starting a new job or starting at a new school.”

Ramona Saunders was one those people who was apprehensive about coming to Willowbrook at first, and now she is one of the regulars.

“I was forced to come here by my daughter-in-law,” Saunders said. “I didn’t have any real friends when I moved. They were all in different states. She thought I was lonely, and I was. My husband had passed away awhile ago, and she thought I should come.”

“I do (like it here),” Saunders continued. “It’s a wonderful place. We play games, we discuss a lot of issues and we talk about our lives.”

Willowbrook must be doing something right, as it recently was given a grant from the Fred Maytag Family Foundation for $100,000. The funds will go directly to the center’s scholarship fund which allows participates to attend at a discounted rate.

Voshell explained how Willowbrook’s service differs in comparison to a nursing home.

“Older adults are able to remain in their homes and be contributing citizens of Newton,” Voshell said. “Herb is very involved in his church. Ramona goes to ballgames with her grandchildren. If they were in a nursing home environment, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to enjoy living at home, contributing to their community, going to the grocery store, going to ballgames, plays and all of the things people are able to do because they can come here and then go home at night.”

There are only 35 adult day centers in the state of Iowa, and Willbrook serves all of Jasper County.

Gibbs, Voshell and the staff at Willowbrook genuinely enjoy their days with the participants and are proud of their work.

“I always say, ‘We have to be listening every single day, because these people have things to teach us about life,’” Gibbs said. “They are usually the people that have been in our churches or political groups. People that have been contributors to society. This is like having a whole bunch of grandparents, because they will love you. This is a most accepting group.”

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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