By Randy Arrington
LURAY, April 30 — It was “happenstance”, according to owner Brian Phelps. He dubs the string of events that lead he and business partner Scott Stricklin from the Roanoke Valley to the northern Shenandoah Valley two decades ago as somewhat random and “lucky.”
The two were working at Richfield Retirement Community in Salem around the turn of the millennium when they got together to discuss “doing their own thing.” Through business connections, a family member heard about assisted living facilities for sale in Page County. At first the figures didn’t work and there was even another buyer already in front of them. Then fate stepped in, all of the obstacles were removed, and they started business in Page County in April 2001 with the purchase of Hawksbill Assisted Living, Whispering Pines Assisted Living / Excel Therapy, and Montvue Nursing Home.
“We first arrived here 20 years ago…and we were very fortunate to have such great community support,” Phelps said during a ribbon cutting earlier this week. “And we thank you for that continued support.”
On Wednesday, local officials gathered at VCM’s Goshen House adjacent to the Hawksbill facility in Luray to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Valley Care Management.
“It’s been a pleasure to have you in the community,” District 2 county supervisor Allen Louderback said after the ribbon cutting. “Thanks for hanging in there with us, for giving back to the community, and hopefully you can expand more in the future.”
VCM currently owns five properties, including:
• Dogwood Crossing Senior Living & Memory Care – Tazewell, VA
• Hawksbill Assisted Living – Luray, VA
• Journeys Crossing Assisted Living – Elkton, VA
• TimberView Assisted Living – Timberville, VA
• Whispering Pines Assisted Living, Luray, VA
After initially buying three properties in Page County in 2001, VCM expanded with the purchase of Journey’s Crossing in Elkton and TimberView Assisted Living in Timberville in 2009. Dogwood Crossing Senior Living and Memory Care in Tazewell (southwest Virginia) was purchased out of foreclosure in 2015. MontVue (now Skyview Springs Nursing and Rehab Center) was sold around that time. Excel Therapy was also sold and became Apex Therapy three years ago.
“We are in the process of expanding,” Phelps told the crowd at Wednesday’s 20th anniversary celebration. “We are in the process of purchasing another property, and we’re in the process of looking at another property.”
Currently, VCM cares for 225 residents among its five properties — 180 of those are in the northern Shenandoah Valley.
“We want to congratulate you on 20 years and all of your contributions to the community,” Luray Mayor Jerry Dofflemyer said at Wednesday’s event. “You certainly provide a vital service.”
Despite the terrible toll that the COVID-19 pandemic took on many assisted living facilities across the country, the two Luray properties went COVID-free throughout the last year — something that spurs pride in the owners and they credit as a “testament to our staff.”
“Initially, we did shut our doors before other people did,” VCM regional administrator Theresa DeMastus said. “It was a collective effort. We had an operational plan, and our staff followed the guidelines.”
While there were cases of COVID-19 at other VCM facilities, there were no fatalities related to the virus throughout the entire pandemic at any of the provider’s five locations. VCM offered its staff various incentives, including bonuses, to remain COVID-free, and now those incentives are carrying over to a push for vaccinations.
“It takes a community to care for a community,” Phelps said of the pandemic. “Families understood that we had to shut things down…our staff had to practice the recommended guidelines that we received…and how well we did is a testament to the good, honest caregivers that we have.”
The owners of Valley Care Management believe in giving back to the communities they serve, and now they’re putting their money where their mouth is. In honor of its 20th anniversary, VCM is donating $1,000 to 20 different charitable organizations selected by employees.
“We’ve always tried to give back, and we thought [the recipients] were a good representation of the communities we serve,” Stricklin said. “We’ve been very well supported in all of the communities we are in and we wanted to give back…and through the years, we’ve done a lot.”
The $20,000 that VCM plans to distribute will go to the following:
• Alzheimer’s Association
• Blue Ridge Hospice
• Bluefield Union Mission (Tazwell)
• Broadway Emergency Squad Inc.
• Choices, Council on Domestic Violence
• Clinch Valley Community Action Senior Companion Program (Tazwell)
• EAUS (Elkton Area United Services)
• Elkton Emergency Squad Inc
• Elkton Volunteer Fire Co Inc
• EPIC (Elkton Progressive Improvement Committee Inc)
• Labor of Love Tazewell
• Luray Rescue Squad
• Main Street Methodist Church Hope Luncheon (Tazwell)
• Page County SPCA
• Page One
• Plains District Memorial Museum
• Rockingham County SPCA
• Timberville Volunteer Fire Department Inc.
• West Luray Recreation Center
VCM employees nominated 40 different organizations for the 20 donations.
During Wednesday’s celebration, Phelps received a rendition of “Happy Birthday” from the crowd shortly after the ribbon cutting. Smiles were plentiful as a local business celebrated two decades of success and expansion, and a community celebrated two decades of a growing corporate partner that keeps on giving back.
The mutually beneficial relationship seems to personify Phelps’ mantra: “It takes a community to care for a community.”