STOW, Ohio — The abrupt and sudden closure of Stow-Glen Retirement Village, one of the oldest nursing facilities in Stow, has left a beloved non-profit in limbo. Pathway to Independence, a non-profit that receives no government funding yet provides supportive services to highly-functional, young adults with developmental disabilities, is scrambling to find a new location for its program and limit the disruptions for the 15 adults under its care.
Last week, company officials said Stow-Glen would be closing at the end of October, ending 37 years of operation. The facility, which includes long and short-term care, independent living and assisted living programs, has faced suffocating financial difficulties because of the ongoing pandemic, including increased operating costs and substantial decreases in cash flow, officials said.
Officials with Stow-Glen did not respond to a request for further comment, and the loved ones of the facility’s residents have accused the company of mixed and conflicting messages. Although the company said residents had until October 26 to find another place to live, the facility was largely empty Wednesday afternoon.
Twelve years ago, Janeen Webb and her husband Chris approached Stow-Glen management with a proposition: a new program that would provide support and assistance to otherwise independent young adults with developmental disabilities. The proposal was inspired by the Webb’s youngest daughter, Lindsey, who, at the age of 25, wanted her own apartment like her siblings.
“She’s the reason we started the program,” Webb said. “Stow-Glen decided to open their hearts and their doors and try us out as a trial program.”
The program, which started with three residents and a PowerPoint presentation, blossomed into a unique and beloved institution that frequently ran a year-long waiting list. The program runs on donations and private pay tuition, and receives no government funding.
The young adults that are part of Pathway to Independence are expected to volunteer full time or have a full-time job, which provides a certain level of structure in their day. The residents live in dorm-style apartments that share a common hallway and meeting room, where they often socialize, play games and have other activities. Residents are provided two meals a day and staff members are always on-site to provide an extra level of security and safety. Although all of the residents are highly functional, including at least three members that are able to drive, each resident requires varying levels of support.
The program’s ability to thread the needle between assistance and independence is what initially drew Chris King, a former News 5 employee in the late 1990s and early 2000s. His daughter, Erica, needs some assistance but is otherwise very independent.
“Pathway to Independence offered the best mix of independence and supervision and support services that just fit Erica. It was perfect,” King said.
Erica was set to enroll in the program and move into her own apartment in early September.
“We were getting ready to do some painting in her rooms, getting her furniture for the apartment, all those little things that you plan and get ready for,” King said. “She was really excited about it too.”
Erica and the other young adults enrolled in the program are now having to search for apartments elsewhere. Even though Pathway to Independence leases a wing of Stow-Glen, the Webbs have been told that they need to move out, although there have been conflicting messages as to when they have to be out.
“We were told that things had gone bad and they had to close their doors and we had to be out ASAP. That’s what we were told,” Webb said. “How are you going to find housing — and apartment-style housing — for all of those people? We’d like to stay here. We have made offers to possibly get some investors and purchase the building we’re in, anything we can do to keep our program running but that’s not going to happen overnight.”
Webb said the sudden closure of Stow-Glenn, which came with no warning, created chaos at the complex over the past several days. Luckily, some of the young adults enrolled in the program have been able to find apartments elsewhere, although their units are in different buildings and on different floors — a vast departure from their current arrangement.
The most significant impact on the program is on what makes the program so special to begin with: the social aspect.
“We told the young adults the night that this all happened…” Webb said as she held back tears. “I can’t tell you how emotional it was because their big thing was they were losing their friends. It was hard to watch.”
King and his daughter were also equally devastated.
“I was shocked and saddened. It was heartbreaking news. I think the Webbs were just as surprised as we were,” King said. “It was just a real letdown. We’re just so sad about it. Really, it's tragic because we need more of these kinds of organizations for adults with disabilities that are very functional.”
Webb said she and her husband are trying to stay as optimistic as possible and have been actively reaching out for leads on a new space or, possibly, acquiring the space they have now. However, such a move isn’t likely to happen quickly.
Even still, they’re trying to keep their heads up — not just for them but their residents as well.
“We don’t always know why things happen. It may take quite a while until we get that answer,” Webb said. “You can bet that things happen for a reason and one day we’ll have this figured out.”