This attempt at history is written as a story told by Dick Bennett.
In 2002, Sarah and I sold our first and supposedly our last attempt to own and operate a skilled nursing facility long distance from our home in Randolph County. It was an 80 bed facility in New Bern, North Carolina. Many days, Sarah and I would travel 3 1/2 hours to New Bern, work 8 to 10 hours and drive the same 3 1/2 hours home that evening. After this 10 year experience in New Bern, we both decided never again would we go that far from home on a business venture. It would take an opportunity closer to home and we were not looking prospectively for that event. Three years later in November of 2005, Bobby Duncan, the CFO for High Point Regional Hospital, called late one afternoon and asked to speak to me. I had met Bobby some 10 years earlier, with my partner Linn Wilfong when we first opened The GrayBrier. Linn had given Bobby his first accounting position just out of college. Over the next 10 years, Bobby and I developed a close professional relationship with his learning the realities of skilled nursing operations and my learning the same about acute care hospitals. High Point Regional has served as our nearest acute hospital and has provided the bulk of discharged patients to us for many years. Bobby said that he had served as a member of a task force made up of members of all the Guilford County hospitals, the county health department, the Evergreens Board of Directors, members of the medical community, as well as the Guilford County Commissioners. The purpose of this task force was to determine the future of The Evergreens Health Care System. The Evergreens operated over four hundred skilled nursing facility beds on campuses both in Greensboro and High Point spanning 50 to 60 years, from the days of the county home providing a variety of long term care services to the elderly of Guilford County. Bobby said we are looking for an experienced local provider of long term care to assume control and continue the operation of these beds. Are you interested? I answered in the affirmative.
That evening at the offices of the CFO, Sarah Bennett, Missy Bennett Lawver, our daughter, and I, the CEO, met with Bobby Duncan and Linda Roney, Vice President of Development for the hospital. Bobby outlined the work of the Task Force over the last year and a half. The physical plant of the two facilities was roughly 37 years old and in severe need of repair. Essentially, both facilities needed to be replaced and with a probable price tag in excess of $30,000,000, and operations were very unstable. The task force reached the decision to sell the properties with the operational rights for the beds that went with them. Serious consideration was given to local religious facilities, local non-profit facilities, and locally owned private owned long term care organizations that had proven their commitment to the community over time. They had made a firm decision not to consider an out of area long term care provider, such as a chain organization that operated multiple skilled nursing facilities in many states and communities. Bobby Duncan recommended our organization to assume control of all 400 plus beds. Our initial reaction was shock, pleased and honored to be considered for the reasons explained to us. We had worked hard for 20 or more years to develop a reputation of honesty, integrity and a provider of good basic care. We have never sought recognition and assumed no one was really looking at us beyond our local community of Archdale-Trinity. I had made a decision in my earlier years, consulting with numerous owners and long term care providers, that I would try to develop one facility at a time slowly and maximize our quality rather than trying to grow larger and operate many facilities. We are family and community based and have no interest in expanding beyond our capability. We will not accept an expansion opportunity unless we feel we can do a quality job.
After thinking about the opportunity and the confidence placed with us, we responded with this answer. Our local area of experience had been High Point and we were most interested in remaining in this area. We wanted a substantial share of the beds, 150 skilled beds, and pledged to interview and recommend a second North Carolina provider with similar interest in good quality care in this local community to develop the remainder of the beds in 2 new additional facilities. Our intent was to recommend that more diverse locations in Guilford County be given consideration for these 2 additional facilities. After interviewing a select group of providers, a choice was made to recommend Bob Walker from Henderson, North Carolina. We chose Jamestown as our location primarily due to its location central to both Greensboro and High Point, and its excellent access to transportation and both local hospitals.
Sarah and I have been active in our state nursing home association and its drive to convert and build new skilled nursing facilities for the future... 30 plus years into the future with a model that will serve the next generation of senior citizens, the "baby boomers". We settled on a design with Architect David Polston of Wilmington, based on individual communities with self sufficiency built into its design in each community. We also believed that serving the community with a heavy emphasis on therapy would give that boost to senior citizens that wish to rehab their bodies after surgery and other general illnesses to prepare them to go home and continue to live independently for as long as possible. With that decision made, we redesigned the plan to provide the largest therapy center in all of North Carolina in a skilled nursing facility, roughly 1700 square feet, including an in-ground pool with a treadmill with the ability to provide hydrotherapy to treat and exercise new joints and create DVDs to show surgeons progress from therapy. Each community operates independently with its own kitchen and two dining rooms. The four communities are named for the four regions of North Carolina: the Heartland (The Piedmont), the Sandhills, the Crystal Coast, and the Highlands. Every hallway and every congregate room has an individual name, including local historical names such as Mendenhall, Guilford, and Sedgefield. The site we chose for The Shannon Gray is an 8 acre tract immediately behind Mendenhall Plantation, a historic farm site and buildings open for tourists daily across from High Point City Lake on Main Street in Jamestown.
Our corporate name is Greatest Generation, Inc., in reference to the honored generation of residents in our community which we serve. The name of the facility is The Shannon Gray Rehabilitation and Recovery Center. We believe symbolism is important when planning a facility which will serve the community for years to come. The name Shannon Gray was coined from a common family middle names. The unique term "recovery" in our name points to our focus on rehabilitation of our residents or our customers. We also believe today’s seniors have foremost in their minds to be and to remain independent for as long as possible, continuing to be a vital part of their families and the community. Personal and community based is further exemplified by room addresses at the Shannon Gray. For example, Our residents mail may come to 301 Salter Path in the Crystal Coast, 402 Pirate Alley in the Crystal Coast, 802 Cherokee Pass in the Highlands, or 701 Blue Ridge Parkway in the Highlands.....all specific to their home with The Shannon Gray.
The Shannon Gray opened to our first residents in April of 2010 and has continued to operate to this day with compassion, attention to detail and warm heart for our residents.