|Shauna O'Brien welcomes guests to the Heirloom Inn, a retirement center where people age with dignity.|
The nominations for the Sun Advocate Business Woman of the Year were overwhelming and one woman clearly walked away with the most votes. It's not surprising when people in Carbon County think of successful women they think of Shauna O'Brien and the Heirloom Inn.
"Shauna is a successful business woman concerned not only for the health and well-being of her patrons, but community beautification and improvement as well," wrote one nomination, while another read, "Heirloom Inn was created from a dream of a beautiful place to live in your retirement years, promoting independence, dignity and choice. The dream has become a reality."
Heirloom Inn opened in November of 2000, just three years ago, but work began long ago for O'Brien. It actually began in high school, not with Heirloom Inn in mind, but with a goal of becoming a successful working woman. The one person that served as a friend and mentor to Shauna was her mother, Lois Telarole, who spent 40 years in the nursing field. She gave Shauna more than a background of helping others. One honor bestowed on her mother was the "Humanitarian Award" and as Shauna stepped into the working world as a senior in high school it was her mother's work ethic and determination to change people's lives that influenced the young woman.
"It's not that I didn't want to become a successful mother and wife, its just that I had a dream of working and helping the community." Among her mother's jobs at both the old Carbon Hospital and the present Castleview Hospital were the director of nursing, med search and outpatient services and through her, "I saw how to be an angel."
Shauna attended Helper Junior High School and later Carbon High in Price and like a typical high school kid, I wanted a car and I wanted to go to work." She began work at 17 years old in the x-ray room in radiology and later coordinated the visiting doctors program, where specialists from all over the state would come into the hospital to work with the patients. Many of the patients had black lung and doctors would come to assist with the treatment.
The dream continued after her marriage to Dave O'Brien, who was working hard to establish his plumbing and heating business. They also owned independent housing units and as a receptionist for these businesses Shauna heard over and over again from the aging population about problems they were having keeping their homes up. So the research began here, on the other end of the phone, until one day she realized there was a definite need for a center where people could age with dignity in a stress free environment.
The wheels were turning in Shauna's mind and she began visiting places in Utah and California looking at nursing homes and assisted living centers. She became active with the Utah Association of Assisted Living and studied rules and regulations.
Together Shauna and Dave purchased a closed-down grocery business called D & G Warehouse. "I sat down and started sketching what I envisioned the building might look like and passed on the sketches to my husband, who with an architect, took the dreams to the next level," she said.
In her research O'Brien discovered that people are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. The age group over 65 is the fastest growing segment in America's society. As a result of the aging population, the demand for senior housing alternatives and senior life-styles services is growing rapidly. This has led to the development of an entirely new concept of seniors-orientated housing called "retirement communities."
Retirement communities, such as the Heirloom Inn, are apartment complexes that provide most of the services found in a fine hotel. Residents occupy their own private apartment, furnished with their own belongings. They live as they always have, but with many new conveniences. They are freed from the everyday problems many seniors experience with home maintenance as well as the more pervasive issues of boredom, isolation and the resulting spiritual decline. By contrast, in retirement communities seniors receive life-style enhancing services such as housekeeping, transportation, planned activities and restaurant-style meal services.
O'Brien explained that most of their residents are in their 70's and 80's and they want to maintain their independence but not have the burdens of yards, heating, cooling or clearing snow.
Dignity is very important to O'Brien explaining how everything at Heirloom Inn is focused on this concept. This begins with dressing and grooming, and also transcends into staying active, and maintaining independence. Even the exercise of getting to and from the dining room three times a day is providing more exercise than most residents were getting in their homes.
And the rooms are decorated with their own pictures, furnishings, family photos and lifetime memorabilia.
O'Brien repeatedly talks about her staff and their dedication and devotion to the residents. "These people are our families and we all take so much pride in the work that we do." Employees like Carolyn Randall who coordinates all the activities. Shauna's assistant administrator is Kelli Dozhier, who does more than just help her keep the day to day function in place but stops to answer any question anyone might have.
In describing her dream, "I always looked at women as incredible workers and saw a need for girls to further their education and work. Active for years in Soroptimists, Shauna saw how important it was for women to be helping women succeed in businesses.
"Since every senior comes with a different background, different medical needs and different social needs," explains Shauna," we create an atmosphere and a home setting to match each of our residents." She explained that some of their residents love the social opportunities, where they have friends they can enjoy activities with and socialize around. Other residents enjoy the quietness of the sitting rooms and the library. "We create a well-rounded spectrum for everyone."
Heirloom Inn was built in three phases, the first being the renovation of the former grocery warehouse. The second phase is the south wing that runs off the dining room towards 100 North.
The most recent phase is the apartments towards the north side of the complex. The first two floors of the third phase opened earlier this year and the third floor, which includes affordable upscale suites with fireplaces, will open in a couple months.
Shauna said she would have been pleased if even 16 of the rooms in the first phase would fill, but it turned out that all 23 licensed beds were spoken for, which showed the O'Briens the incredible need the facility would be serving the community. Currently the facility is licensed for 50 residents and this will increase once the new phase is complete.
Shauna and Dave's dream of raising a family also came true. Their daughter Erica, 23, recently graduated as a photographer from Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, Calif. "We are proud of her working at making her dream come true, as she begins a career as a photographer," said her mother.
Shauna's dream of being a successful business woman really has come true. An application from Price City councilwoman Betty Wheeler sums it all up. "Shauna operates a very successful business, the Heirloom Inn. She serves her patrons with love, comfort, compassion and expertise. She also finds time to volunteer her services to the Community Progress Committee."