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Enlisted Village opens assisted living doors

SHALIMAR, Fla. -- The Air Force Enlisted Village recently opened the doors to Hawthorn House, the latest addition to the community that "provides a home" for the widows of retired enlisted Airmen.  The house is a 64-apartment assisted living residence.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

SHALIMAR, Fla. -- The Air Force Enlisted Village recently opened the doors to Hawthorn House, the latest addition to the community that "provides a home" for the widows of retired enlisted Airmen. The house is a 64-apartment assisted living residence. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SHALIMAR, Fla. -- Hawthorn House residents eat dinner in their dining room.  The Air Force Enlisted Village recently opened the 64-apartment assisted living residence.  (U.S. Air Force photo)

SHALIMAR, Fla. -- Hawthorn House residents eat dinner in their dining room. The Air Force Enlisted Village recently opened the 64-apartment assisted living residence. (U.S. Air Force photo)

SHALIMAR, Fla. (AFPN) -- After two years, a reneged $8-million donation and several major hurricanes, the Air Force Enlisted Village finally opened the doors to Hawthorn House, the latest addition to the community that “provides a home” for widows of retired enlisted Airmen.

Hawthorn House, a 64-apartment assisted living residence, brings a 38-year dream to life for an organization whose goal has always been lifetime care for these widows.

“It was definitely a challenge,” Jim Binnicker said. “We had many obstacles to overcome, including funding and one of the most damaging hurricane seasons on record. Our construction team … did a stellar job bringing this project online.

“But without the people living there, it was just another building,” he added. “Hawthorn House (officials) really breathed life into the building and made it a home.”

Mr. Binnicker also recalls the significance of the project that began about two years ago.

“Operating an assisted living facility is a monumental task -- starting one from scratch is even more so,” Mr. Binnicker said. “The entire Air Force Enlisted Village team has been totally involved from the start and is to be commended for their outstanding support.”

Divided into four “neighborhoods” that include 16 apartments, a dining area, living area and laundry room, the upscale two-story state-of-the-art facility was built on five acres of land on the Bob Hope Village campus here.

Marcia Solheim, 84, has lived at Bob Hope Village for the past eight years. She was the first resident to move in.

“I’ve been waiting forever, it seems, to move into Hawthorn House,” Mrs. Solheim said. “It was all more than worth the wait. So much care, planning and consideration has gone into making this home the beautiful place it is.”

To date, 30 residents occupy the facility. Many were already living at the Air Force Enlisted Village. Several former residents who were no longer able to live independently were invited to return.

“What a joy to be able to bring these ladies back with their Air Force family,” Mr. Binnicker said. “I’ve always told people the saddest thing we have to do is tell these widows goodbye as they head off to local nursing homes or leave with their families. Now they feel as though they’re right where they belong.”

“With the addition of Hawthorn House, our residents will simply be able to ‘move across the street’ rather than leave the friends they’ve been with for many years,” said Glenn Yost, Hawthorn House administrator. “Settling into a new home along with familiar neighbors makes the whole transition much easier on our ladies.”

“Instead of [the] elderly, ill women that we are, we feel like special guests who are loved, pampered and well cared for,” Mrs. Solheim said. “I hope to be able to enjoy it for a long time. It is a pleasure to live here.”

For more information on independent living apartments at Teresa Village or Bob Hope Village, people can contact the admissions department at (800) 258-1413.

Anyone interested in assisted living at Hawthorn House should contact the administrative assistant at (850) 651-3013.

For more information about the Air Force Enlisted Village, people can visit its Web site at www.afenlistedwidows.org.

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