September 27, 2022

Newton’s first retirement community still lives up to original vision

Park Centre celebrates 30 years of service

Residents of Park Centre converse with each other during the facility's 30-year anniversary celebration in Newton. Park Centre celebrated its three-decade milestone with residents and community members, who enjoyed food and refreshments, good company and live music.

Gary Haynes, a four-year resident of Park Centre, remembers when the Newton retirement home broke ground nearly 30 years ago. It was the first of its kind in the city and in the county, and it quickly stood out from other nursing homes in the area. Haynes joked that a lot people thought it was for “the rich Maytag-ers.”

While there were certainly a great deal of former Maytag employees finding themselves in the care of Park Centre staff over the years, it was clearly serving all kinds of 55-and-older individuals. When it came time for Haynes — who was not a Maytag-er — to retire to assisted living, he knew the perfect place.

While celebrating the facility’s 30-year anniversary celebration on Sept. 13, the 89-year-old Haynes remarked how happy he and his family are knowing the facility and its giving staff keep him busy with plenty of events and accessible services. They can rest easy knowing he is well taken care of at Park Centre.

“They don’t have to worry about me,” Haynes said. “And I’m very glad I’m here.”

Founders of Park Centre told Newton News that getting the facility built in town was no easy feat. It took years of planning and preparation to get the right people and the right certifications before construction even began. John Carl, a founder, said the committee leading the Park Centre project looked at several facilities.

“The saying goes: ‘If you’ve seen one retirement community, you’ve only ever seen one retirement community,’” he said. “Almost every one of them is different.”

Joan Tyler’s late husband, Jim, was also one of the founders of Park Centre, and she recalled how he did not know anything about retirement communities. But he did know there was a need from something like it in Newton and in Jasper County. Tyler said former mayor Bob Smith gave the committee a needed boost.

By giving it the city’s stamp of approval, the committee had a greater level of legitimacy to help speed the process along. Considering those two to three years of planning, it makes Tyler and Carl wonder just how long the process could have been if it had not been supported by Newton’s mayor.

“They had some credibility to go raise money because they needed money right away, and they had to do a community survey, too,” Tyler said. “It had to be done professionally. And it would be expensive. But the professional survey was done and it surprised everybody. The reaction was so overwhelmingly favorable.”

Dori Byers and Corine Hadley, who are also founders of Park Centre, said the lack of a senior center in Newton or Marshalltown underscored the demand, which is likely a reason why people were in favor of the facility. Retired teachers, executives and farmers, Hadley said, wanted a place to call their own.

“We wanted a place for people who didn’t want to their homes anymore. They wanted to move out of their homes in Newton and into a place where there was less upkeep and more services,” Hadley said. “There was nothing in Newton like that at the time, other than nursing homes.”

Joan Tyler, whose husband, Jim, was one of the founders of Park Centre, speaks during the 30-year anniversary celebration at the Newton-based retirement community.

While nursing homes have a role in the community, founders of Park Centre wanted another option, an option that would keep longtime townsfolk in Newton rather than another neighboring city or county. In the process, Park Centre created its own community for seniors.

“We knew we had a success,” Byers said.

Park Centre is operated through WesleyLife. Ward Phillips, vice-president of market strategy and business development at Wesley Life, said service integration is ingrained at Park Centre, which offers independent living, assisted living, short-term rehabilitation, memory support and long-term care.

“It is a foundational piece of WesleyLife,” Phillips said of Park Centre at its 30-year anniversary party. “There’s 30 years of heritage here. We’ve built these ‘forever buildings,’ we like to say. We’re always going to be here. Park Centre is at the forefront of that.”

Amy Hutchins, chief marketing offer at WesleyLife, added, “We really are looking to evolve the experience of aging and help change the narrative about what it means to age, because there’s a false perception you’re on the decline. We do not look at it that way. It’s a new chapter.”

Age is just a number after all. Still, a 30-year milestone is impressive for any business. Margot Voshell, sales director of Park Centre, said the Newton residents who lived in town more than 30 years ago had a vision. Their vision, their goal was to create the best retirement community in the state.

“And I think they succeeded in that,” Voshell said. “To have four (founders) come back today and speak just meant the world to us. To be able to pay homage to them and carry the vision they had 30 years ago to this day and moving forward really means a lot to us.”

Voshell later added, “The team at Park Centre takes the vision and mission of the founders very seriously. We strive each and every day to make them proud.”

Over the years Park Centre has developed a strong reputation. In order to ensure Park Centre’s stay in the community for another 30 years, Voshell said it needs to keep staying relevant, keep moving forward and keep coming up with new ways to serve and support people.

“Not only are we a community within these four walls, but we also like to generously give back to the community that has been so good to us,” she said. “When people think of us they think of family and community. We appreciate the way Newton embraced the vision 30 years ago and still supports us to this day.”

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.