Residents, employees continue to grapple with Village Woods closing near Crete

Weeks after residents of Village Woods Senior Living Community near Crete were told the facility would close due to recently discovered structural damage in the main building, questions remain about next steps for employees and residents.

A news release announcing the closure stated concrete spalling was discovered in many of the rooms. The cost of repairs as well as the disruption they would cause to residents were cited as the main reason why Providence Life Services — the religious nonprofit organization that manages Village Woods and seven other Midwest-based retirement communities — decided to close the center at the end of November

“We are doing everything we can do with our resources to try and help them get to their next location,” Providence Life Services’ CEO Rich Schutt said of the 84 residents. “Some of them are going to (other) Providence Life Services facilities. Many are going to other community solutions.”

Within two weeks, 70% of all residents have already figured out where they will move, Schutt said.

Residents who spoke with the Daily Southtown expressed frustration about how they were informed of the closure that affected themselves, family and friends.

Kelly Murfin, who said her father, Dennis, is a resident of Village Woods, was frustrated with the way Providence Life Services handled the Aug. 30 when residents were informed of the plan.

Carol Wentz, an 84-year-old resident of Village Woods, said she found herself crying for most of the meeting.

“Most of us came here, expecting this to be our last place,” Wentz said. “I like this place so much because of the natural beauty.”

Wentz said staff has made every effort to relocate her and fellow residents, and that Providence Life Services will help with moving expenses.

Yet the decision is still deeply affecting Wentz and fellow residents as they venture into a new place perhaps farther from family and friendships that have been forged at Village Woods.

“Emotionally, it’s quite a jolt. It’s partly the people, it’s partly the place,” Wentz said.

Employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity expressed frustration they were only given three months to find new jobs, but they also appreciated Providence Life Services was doing things to help them, such as holding a job fair where they could meet prospective employers.

Spalling concrete presents itself as cracks or erosion of the surface concrete and is caused by a poor concrete mix, poor finishing, or overwatering, according to Concrete Network. Sometimes the only way to fix the surface is by a complete replacement of the area.

The spalling in Village Woods’ main building was discovered in April when engineers considered upgrades to residents’ rooms, Schutt said. The group’s board looked into options, but the cost of repairs and the disruption to residents led board members to conclude closing was the best decision.

Providence Life Services brought in Chicago-based architecture firm Klein & Hoffman, Inc. to estimate how much the repairs would cost.

“They said immediate things that they identified were probably half a million dollars,” Schutt said.

Schutt said another $1.5 million would be required over the next several years to conduct necessary steps to complete the upgrades. He declined to provide Daily Southtown with Klein & Hoffman’s estimate.

While $2 million is not an inexpensive fix, Schutt made $2 million in 2019, according to Providence Life Services’ 990 form from that year — a form used by the Internal Revenue Service that provides financial information about a nonprofit organization. Schutt said that year was an anomaly and was from his retirement payout, which he was owed when he turned 65.

“I don’t decide how much of the community resources should go to me,” Schutt said, saying the board decides his salary.

In most years, Schutt said he makes “roughly half a million” dollars. In 2021, Schutt made more than $600,000 with the nonprofit’s chief operating officer making $421,351 and its chief financial officer making $338,815, according to the 990 form.

“We’ve been losing millions of dollars,” Schutt said. “Bringing in gross revenues is one thing. Do you have anything left when you’re done serving people?”

According to the 2021 form 990, the nonprofit lost $1.67 million.

Money was not the only factor in the decision, Schutt said. The disruption caused by the repairs would most likely force residents out of their homes for months. Hosting residents elsewhere for a portion of time during construction was ruled out.

“The board made that decision after prayerful consideration and it was not made capriciously,” he said.