Project Renew’s impact on Nathaniel Witherell shown off

It was a day of celebration for The Nathaniel Witherell as the work of Project Renew is mere months from completion and  the town was given a $1.75 million contribution from the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell for the project. From left, Witherell Executive Director Allen Brown, Friends member Debbie Lash, Friends chairman David Ormsby, First Selectman Peter Tesei and Friends member Karen Sadik-Kahn mark the moment. –John Ferris Robben

It was a day of celebration for The Nathaniel Witherell as the work of Project Renew is mere months from completion and the town was given a $1.75 million contribution from the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell for the project. From left, Witherell Executive Director Allen Brown, Friends member Debbie Lash, Friends chairman David Ormsby, First Selectman Peter Tesei and Friends member Karen Sadik-Kahn mark the moment. –John Ferris Robben

During a special tour of the facility and reception for supporters, the Friends of Nathaniel Witherell Inc. unveiled the center’s newly remodeled and expanded rehabilitation center and celebrated the imminent completion of the long awaited Project Renew.

Friends of Nathaniel Witherell Chairman David Ormsby presented First Selectman Peter Tesei with a contribution of $1.75 million towards the costs of the short-term rehabilitation and nursing center’s renovation, thanking Mr. Tesei and the entire delegation for their continued support. A distinguished crowd of supporters, including state Reps. Livvy Floren (R-149th) and Fred Camillo (R-151st) joined Nathaniel Witherell staff and board members for a tour of the new rehabilitation center Monday, June 30.

“This assembly today, in itself, represents the very best about the Greenwich community. In these walls we have volunteers who have undertaken some critical work to restore an institution that has been treasured heavily and relied upon by families for generations,” Mr. Tesei said. “All of the folks in this room are the reason why [Project Renew] has moved forward and is the success that it is.”

Project Renew, the plan to modernize and refurbish the Nathaniel Witherell, broke ground in January 2013, and is scheduled for completion in September of this year. In addition to the new 4,000-square-foot rehabilitation center, Project Renew will expand the center’s short-term rehabilitation capabilities, introducing more than double the number of private resident rooms from 26 to 64. Additionally, 86 existing rooms have been remodeled and redecorated. Family and public spaces have been updated to give the entire facility a modern aesthetic, but retain a design that reflects the 110-year history of the Nathaniel Witherell.

“In some ways it’s a relief, in some ways its a sense of satisfaction, we’ve been at this for almost 10 years,” Mr. Orsmby told the Post. “It’s been a long and sometimes controversial path. I think the town has kind of rallied behind us in the last 12 months — the goal line is in sight.”

The Friends of Nathaniel Witherell have made a commitment to raise $7 million over a four-year period to assist in Project Renew. Along with last year’s contribution of $1 million, the organization has now raised $2,750,000, which is approximately 10% of Project Renew’s estimated $26-million cost. Private citizens have contributed heavily to the cause, having raised more than $4 million in donations and pledges, including $1 million grant from the Dalio Foundation.

Public funding for Project Renew has been significant as well. An agreement with Connecticut Light and Power Co. has resulted in a $4,490,918 contribution in exchange for tax credits generated by the Nathaniel Witherell. Town leaders and legislators struggled for the better part of a decade as they sought out funding for the center’s  renovations, but expressed satisfaction at reaching the end of the long process. Nathaniel Witherell is one of Connecticut’s only municipally owned nursing centers, owned and operated by the Town of Greenwich as a non-profit organization. Public funding has provided more than $5 million towards Project Renew so far.

“The Friends of Nathaniel Witherell believe that the $4,065,000 raised to date for Project Renew from private citizens and the up to $5.8 million raised from other sources continues one of our town’s finest traditions, which is a public/private partnership to support Greenwich’s extraordinary institutions,” Mr. Ormsby said in a statement.

The new rehabilitation center was officially opened last week featuring state-of-the-art equipment for physical and occupational therapy, as well as speech and language pathology services. The space is outfitted with a full kitchen, bathroom and laundry space for rehabbing elders to practice or relearn home skills. Director of Therapeutic Recreation Mary Bruce described the process of helping elders “negotiate” with their body to prevent reinjury and make necessary adjustments to their habits at home.

Licensed therapists are on staff to assist elders seven days a week with recuperation, welcoming both resident patients and those who have left the Nathaniel Witherell but are still rehabilitating. Part of the Project Renew renovation will also add 42 private rooms directly adjacent to the rehabilitation center. Increasing the short-term rehabilitation capabilities of The Nathaniel Witherell is one of the major goals of the project, and the expansion of the center will allow it to provide more patients with the most modern methods of treatment.

Currently, the Nathaniel Witherell reports that 90% of its admissions are for short-term rehab, commonly sourced from Greenwich Hospital. Greenwich residents are typically prioritized for admission, but those residing outside of Greenwich are not discouraged to apply.

To learn more about The Nathaniel Witherell, go online to Nathanielwitherell.org.

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