by Ken Horner
“No one knows what CCRC stands for,” is what Dennis Koza says whenever someone passes by Cathedral Village, 600 E. Cathedral Road, and describes it as an “old folks’ home.”
If you asked Koza, the new president and CEO of Cathedral Village, he would tell you that the facility in Andorra, the resort-like home to 367 residents including roughly 45 former Hillers, is a continuing care retirement community: a facility that allows its residents to live a completely independent lifestyle while offering a wide range of health care services.
“One observation that makes our community unique,” Koza said, “is that the residents are extremely active. They book their own entertainment, plan their own trips, maintain a college curriculum and have their own social events.”
Typically, residents will enter a CCRC in their mid to late 70s with the knowledge that they will most likely spend the rest of their lives there. Residents can live freely day-to-day while seeking medical attention if a need presents itself.
Cathedral Village, which opened its doors in 1979, is a nonprofit, nondenominational and multicultural CCRC that occupies 40 acres of property, features 293 separate apartments and is equipped with an on-site skilled nursing facility called Bishop White Lodge.
In addition, residents have access to a host of amenities, including a fitness center, swimming pool, library, horticultural center and art studio.
After 26 years under the direction of the late William Owens, who passed away in November 2010, Cathedral Village, its residential board of directors and Residents’ Council began the search for someone to fill the role of president and CEO and to continue building upon the atmosphere that Owens had fostered for so long.
They found Dennis Koza, who served as CEO of Medford Leas, a CCRC in Medford and Lumberton, N.J., between 2005 and 2010. Koza coincidentally had been looking for a new job opportunity when he saw an advertisement for the open position at Cathedral Village.
“They seemed to be looking primarily for a head-type person,” Koza said, “which makes sense after being used to the same person and culture for 26 years.”
Luckily for Koza, the board of directors’ search committee and Residents’ Council were highly impressed by the list of credentials he brought to the table.
“He had a perfect background and oodles of experience,” said Judy Borie, 76, president of the Residents’ Association, who was blown away not only by Koza’s ability to do his homework before being interviewed by the two committees but also by his height.
“You can’t leave from meeting Dennis and not think he’s pretty tall,” she said. “Other than that, he knew who we all were and seemed incredibly smart. He even seemed to have read our annual report and financial statements, and that made him stand out from the other candidates.”
Combined with his stature, Koza’s 16 years of experience working in the CCRC field left him standing above the competition.
Since taking over on June 1, Koza has made it a point to fully integrate himself into Cathedral Village’s community. In the first few weeks at the helm, Koza has had extensive meetings with his approximately 250-member staff and 367 residents to begin establishing personal relationships and to gain a better understanding of the needs of the community.
Emmy Starr, 73, a former Hiller and current resident of Cathedral Village, was particularly excited about how Koza handled his first few weeks.
“I thought it was very wise that he set up a number of small resident meetings to share his immediate goals with the residents and to let them know that his door would always be open to them,” Starr said.
Senior Vice President Lorie White, who began her tenure at Cathedral Village at the same time as former president/CEO Owens, thought that Koza was taking the right steps after stepping in shoes held for so long by one man.
“I’m certain that it must have been difficult for Dennis to come into a situation replacing Bill Owens after 26 years,” White said, “but he has done it with a great deal of tact and has been very considerate of the total population of residents and staff. So far, Dennis has fit in beautifully. Everyone has nothing but positive comments about his first month in his new leadership role.”
While Koza admitted building a good rapport with his residents was still a work in progress, he was eager to begin laying out a long-term marketing strategy to deal with the many uncertainties that face Cathedral Village and CCRCs in general.
“Right now, my plan is to plan,” Koza said when discussing the unknown future of the economy, Medicare and the problem of balancing the needs of a multigenerational residential community that is preparing to welcome more and more baby boomers.
Edwin Sheffield, 89, who has lived at Cathedral Village for seven years and has been a member of its board of directors since its inception, felt comforted by Koza’s long-term outlook.
“As the CCRC industry changes, we’re looking for his help and guidance going into the future,” Sheffield said
Koza was adamant that no matter what happens going forward, resident satisfaction will be key to the marketing success of Cathedral Village.
“My job is to make sure the residents have the greatest quality of life and that I run our community in a very fiscal way.”
For more information about Cathedral Village, visit www.cathedralvillage.com.