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December 2008
Total Care Community
By Brandee Dishner

Imagine pulling into a gated neighborhood to meet your friends for lunch. Greeted by the friendly guard and welcomed by warm and familiar faces, you take your place at a favorite spot in the bistro. And after lunch, you take a stroll around the neighborhood to admire the beautiful trees. You stop here and there to greet a friend and make plans with a neighbor to hit the putting greens later in the day.

If you think it sounds like a premier country club lifestyle that costs your life savings to join, think again. Welcome to the full-service, maintenance-free lifestyle offered at Windsor Run, Erickson’s newest retirement community for adults over the age of 62 in Matthews, North Carolina.

 

The Erickson Name

     Over 25 years ago founder and CEO John Erickson and his wife Nancy developed the idea of Erickson Communities with two special customers in mind, his parents. One of 14 children, Erickson imagined a different lifestyle for his parents, but as he looked around at what was affordable for a hard-working, middle-class couple, the choices were few.

    That’s when Erickson Retirement Communities first began in Baltimore, Md. Now, Windsor Run is the twenty-second addition to the family and the first community in the Carolinas. The land on McKee Road in Matthews was chosen because of the beautiful farm, contouring land and mature trees while being in near proximity to the energetic downtown activity of Charlotte.

     Like all other Erickson communities, Windsor Run will provide a full-service, maintenance-free campus with loads of amenities for the people who live there. Upon its opening at the beginning of 2010, there are plans for a 56,000-square-foot clubhouse that will accommodate two restaurants, an all-season aquatics center and fitness center, creative arts studio, woodwork and hobby shop, billiards lounge and computer lab.

     Those in the community can also enjoy the many conveniences that an Erickson community provides with a full-service bank and 24-hour ATM, postal center, hair salon, day spa and the marketplace which serves as a grocery to the neighborhood. The idea is that you never have to leave your neighborhood for the things that you need, unless of course you would like to schedule the driver at Windsor Run to take a group to the movies or nearby mall.

     Perhaps the community’s most unique feature is the climate-controlled walkway that connects the entire campus. If the North Carolina weather is not suitable to be out and about, the people who live in Windsor Run can leave their home and walk to the clubhouse any time of the year in the comfort of these walkways. This way, rain or an early spring frost will not keep anyone away from their activities.

     Tom Senger, director of sales at Windsor Run, is excited about leading the staff at the community and eagerly awaits the opening in 2010. With a background in sales and marketing and having been a business owner himself, Senger says: “I treat Windsor Run as if it were my own company. The entire staff here is willing to roll up their sleeves and work for the good of the company and for our new friends who are joining our priority list every day.”

     He explains that the marketing strategy of Windsor Run is strictly inbound, which means the sales staff is only taking calls and inquiries from those who have heard about Windsor Run through television and radio ads or from their monthly publication, The Erickson Tribune. The magazine highlights current events and features short biographies of new staff members, company news and even a challenging crossword puzzle.

     “It is a totally different approach,” Senger explains, “because we are setting up the process to educate them rather than sell them. When they call the welcome center, one of our friendly and knowledgeable staff sends them an information package to fully explain what we have to offer. Later, we invite them to one of our weekly luncheons.”

     The luncheons, held every Thursday, are an opportunity for those interested in Windsor Run to hear Senger give a presentation of the community and its amenities and ask any questions they may have.

     “People are not only buying into and investing in their life when they make a decision to live at Windsor Run, they are buying us,” says Senger. “When we open, we will work in the clubhouse, which is the first floor of their home. They have to like us and trust us. That is why we take our time informing them and getting to know them.”

 

A Growing Family

     Already, over 400 people have joined the priority list to be the first to select their homes when the buildings open.

     “Everyone is really engaged in the process,” Senger says. “You form these great relationships where someone will call or pop in to see if there are any new people who have joined the list or if there are any new floor plans available. They are very curious to see who their neighbors will be and anxious to move in.”

     Another key member of Windsor Run’s team is Lydia Hill, retirement counselor. Hill was drawn to Erickson for many reasons, namely the way Erickson approaches aging.

     “Many people have not aged the way they need to. Many have let life pass them by and allowed their health to weigh them down,” Hill explains. “When people choose to make the decision to live in a continuing care community, they have just extended their life and made it better.”

     Hill’s role is to meet with people who are interested in learning more about the Windsor Run community and show them the virtual tour which allows them to envision their new neighborhood. She is also responsible for explaining what makes an Erickson community stand alone in a sea of competitors, which begins with its financial structure.

     The key difference is the 100 percent refundable entrance deposit. Those interested in joining the community have worked hard and are looking to continue to live a life of independence and freedom. Most have found however, that the burdens of a home or yard have become more of a hassle.

     The 100 percent refundable entrance deposit is a way for those people to ensure that their money is being preserved for their future and the future of their estate. At any time if the individual or couple chooses to leave the community, the monies are returned in full.

     There is also a convenient monthly service package that includes home maintenance, one meal a day, utilities, transportation and access to all of the amenities. If a person living in an Erickson community depletes their assets, the entrance deposit will be accessed at that time.

     What is special and quite unique to Erickson is that even in the rare event that someone depletes the deposit; Erickson’s own Benevolent Care Fund will allow them to stay for as long as they choose to do so. This is the way that the Erickson staff can confidently say that those who join can truly live out their life at Windsor Run. Hill echoes this sentiment: “We don’t ever want someone to have to leave if they don’t want to.”

 

Total Care Community

     Hill shares that Erickson communities like Windsor Run focus on all aspects of physical and cognitive care by providing an atmosphere for each and every person who lives there to feel free to explore new hobbies, learn better exercise and healthy eating habits and ultimately take full control of the rest of their lives.

     “The amenities, staff and lifestyle encourage residents to concentrate on living and proactive aging,” she explains.

     The security staff are all trained as medical first responders and there is a doctor’s office on the campus if residents are in need of care nearby. The board-certified doctors only see two patients each hour to ensure quality time. While focusing on existing problems, they also take time to develop plans and educate patients on the little steps they can take that add up to an overall better health picture.

     Erickson’s commitment to providing the best service is also proven in their Capital Improvement Plan. The owners and staff realize that the campus is not only a business but a home to thousands of individuals and couples. Therefore any time there is a need for new carpet, appliances or fixtures, the Capital Improvement Plan fund takes care of those needs as they arise. They recognize that many people live in an Erickson community for years and want to provide a lifetime of quality service.

     Not only does Erickson provide a wonderful place to live, but a fantastic work environment as well. Featured in Fortune magazine’s Top 100 Places to Work, employees are surrounded by an energetic team and managed with encouragement, professionalism and care.

     “We had a great training experience in Baltimore. Erickson really invests in their employees, which is rare these days,” Senger explains. “The culture of the company was best demonstrated when we had our groundbreaking here at Windsor Run. Over 50 people from corporate came to support us and cheer us on. Not only that, but John and Nancy’s four children are all involved in the company in some capacity. I believe we all see the vision and importance of redefining retirement living and all love what we do. At the rate we are growing, we hope to open more communities every year, something we are all excited about.”

     “I love it because they choose smart, kind and compassionate people who want the best for the people who are live here,” adds Hill. “From marketing to housekeeping, drivers to executive directors, everyone who works here smiles, cares and works cohesively to create this energetic and nurturing environment.”

     Julia Schnell, director of development, echoes the praise for her company by her co-  workers. “I am extremely excited about the 2010 opening due to the fact there has been such a positive response to our project. This is a tremendous responsibility as well as a great opportunity to offer the Erickson lifestyle to more people.”

     As director of development, Schnell is responsible for the entitlement of the property which includes significant ongoing involvement with the Town of Matthews staff. She is also responsible for the management of the design, construction and turnover of the site and facilities to the Windsor Run Community.” All staff members are excited about Windsor Run being the first community opened in the Carolinas.

    With a solid, enthusiastic staff in place and a business model with proven success, Erickson’s newest addition will be a sure success and a wonderful addition to the Matthews area.

Brandee Dishner is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.
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