Steve Benz lost his father to Parkinson’s Disease in 2004. His dad battled the disease for years, and the Benz family gained perspective on the difficulties long-term caregivers face.
With his experience informing him, he saw a need in St. Louis for respite care that would not only be a place for caregivers to leave their loved ones during the day, but a place where adults with disabilities, debilitating illness, or degenerative disease could find real enjoyment and expert care during the day.
In 2005, Benz founded EverLove DayClub in Webster Groves. Open from 7am until 6pm, EverLove provides a nurse and well-trained staff along with intentionally planned activities, physical therapy, and meals for their clients.
Serving approximately 150 families, they work with forty adults a day. Most suffer from dementia, but they serve adults of all ages with various mental and physical disabilities and illnesses.
Their staff dispenses medicine and conducts physical therapy while creating an atmosphere of fun and engagement with arts, crafts, educational programming, personal interaction, and activity.
Steve says, “The human being at every level needs interaction.” While in-home health care provides some of the same services, “It’s not as interactive. This is something that’s really social.” And since they provide care to adults of all ages, “The older people enjoy the younger people,” and visa-versa.
“We love them, they love us. We know [each of] their caregivers by first name.”
Kathy Nohl, a nurse of 30 years, has been working with EverLove for the last ten years. “I love it. I would not do anything else. I love working with [Alzheimer’s and developmentally disabled patients]. It’s very rewarding … It’s like a family.”
However, EverLove’s lease at 524 South Elm was ending, and it looked like they wouldn’t be able to renew it. Benz needed to make a commercial real estate purchase as close as possible to his original property in Webster Groves in order to keep serving his customers.
Calling on Will Aschinger of Hilliker Corporation, Benz began searching for a new home for his valued clients.
Commercial Real Estate Purchase: A St. Louis Search
Benz described his ideal space to Ashinger. First, they were ready to purchase their own commercial real estate in the St. Louis Area. It needed to be near their current location, so they began searching in Kirkwood, Sunset Hills, and Webster Groves.
Additionally, they needed a large open space for their activities along with bathrooms and a break area.
Meanwhile, Ashinger was representing Baker Medical Group (BMG) who had piece of commercial property for purchase at 8969 Watson Road.
Owned by a husband and wife family medical practice, Drs. Greg and Paula Baker had closed their St. Louis practice and moved to Florida. The building, originally acquired for the couple’s fledgling practice by Greg’s mother Janice, had become a second home for the Bakers over their years there.
The Bakers hoped to rent the building out, wanting to hold on to a property that meant so much to them. Having had a promising tenant pull out of a deal at the last moment, Greg Baker called on long-time friend (and Hilliker president) Meade Summers.
Summers referred Baker to his colleague, Will Aschinger, an expert in the area surrounding Webster Groves. Together, Aschinger and the Bakers listed the building for sale or rent.
As Aschinger considered the building, he thought there might be a chance he could bring his two clients together.
He showed Benz the Baker Medical Group building. Though it lacked the open space needed for EverLove’s business model, it had the right number of square feet, and Aschinger had an idea.
Relief for Caregivers—New Hope for Their Loved Ones
First, Aschinger and Benz contacted Jim Mills of Mills Construction to evaluate the building.
They determined that they could open the exam rooms into one large room to accommodate fifty people. This would mean room to grow from their current forty-person maximum space.
But Benz says the real selling point of BMG’s building is its park-like property and beautiful trees. He plans to add a fenced-in patio so participants can enjoy the outdoors, which most of them rarely, if ever, get the opportunity to do.
“It’s almost impossible in any kind of medical facility to have green space,” says Benz, seeing an opportunity to bring a new level of service to his clients.
Here, for seven or eight months out of the year, the adults they serve (many of whom are too often stuck indoors) could get some fresh air, view nature, and enjoy the outdoors.
For Drs. Greg and Paula Baker, though they had hoped to lease the building initially, they saw a greater opportunity in selling it, leaning on Aschinger’s expertise and advice.
Though the building was originally zoned as a medical building, the language didn’t cover adult day care. Benz and Aschinger worked with Mara Perry, Webster Groves Director of Planning and Development, to put together a request to zone it for use as an adult day care center.
Building on the Past—Looking To the Future
In the end, EverLove Day Club purchased the 3234 square-foot building for $585,000. After renovations, they’ll gain an extra 1000 square feet for their business, giving them room to serve ten more clients daily.
Benz now has control and ownership over his own property, which allows him more flexibility for the future.
As the Supervising Director and Nurse, Nohl looks forward to the move. “It’s got the outdoor space we can use. And we’re moving right off of Watson Road, so it’s really convenient. We’re excited to be in a stand-alone building.”
EverLove successfully opened at its brand new location on June 3, 2019.
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