On the site of the city’s former community hospital has sprung a community landmark that has bloomed brightly now for 25 years.
Lighthouse Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center is celebrating its 25th year in business this fall, looking back at a lot of good times and excellent care.
“I know they’re a really great organization and we are certainly proud to have them in Revere for 25 years,” said Mayor Tom Ambrosino. “We certainly get a lot of calls in this office asking for help to get into the Lighthouse. I, for one, hope they are here another 25 years and beyond.”
The home at the top of Proctor Avenue recently went through a change of administration, with long-time administrator Roger Marks taking a part time role while another long-time administrator, Mary Jeanne DiChicco, has taken the reins last year.
The transition has been smooth and DiChicco is poised to lead the home into a new era.
She said she was very excited for the anniversary this year.
“The Lighthouse is the classic small business with 200 employees, big enough to have a better economy of scale, but small enough that if someone up high says something, everyone down low knows it immediately,” said DiChicco in a recent interview. “It is a family atmosphere here – which can be bad – but in our case it’s very good. We support each other in good times and bad times.”
The home was once the Revere Memorial Hospital, which came about through fund-drives by the owner of the D’Orlando Chocolate Factory. It opened in 1947 under Revere General Hospital – mostly focusing on maternity and live births. In 1963, the owners tore down the building and constructed a new one. However, by 1968, the Revere hospital couldn’t keep up and had to close its doors.
From 1968 to 1986, the property was mostly vacant, except during the Vietnam War when sailors would stay there while on leave – many times having rowdy parties to the disgust of local neighbors.
In 1986, the Lighthouse was born when AtlantiCare bought the building and rehabilitated it. It was immediately successful.
The Lighthouse has always shined in state and federal evaluations, becoming one of the premier nursing homes in the area and the number one facility in the state. Most Revere residents have had a loved one in the Lighthouse, or have plans in the future to try and get a loved one in the doors. The non-profit home is owned by The Guardian Foundation of Atlanta, which operates one other Massachusetts home and 19 in other states.
The company purchased the home from AtlantiCare in 1995, but has pretty much left much of the administration in local hands. DiChicco said that is one reason the home has thrived in Revere and has been able to customize its care to the residents.
“It’s very decentralized, with I’d say 95 percent of the decisions being made by people in the building here,” said DiChicco. “We know what we want and what Revere is like. I think that’s why the company has been so successful here.”
Another area where the home has found success is in keeping employees for the long-term, which the administrators interpret as a sign that working conditions are accommodating and pleasant. That’s not always the case in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers.
DiChicco said that 47 percent of their staff has been working at the Lighthouse for at least five years.
Up until last year, there were 12 employees who had been at the home since it started in 1986. Many of them retired last year, but there are still four that remain.
They are Barbara Labbe, CNA; Lorraine Parsons, receptionist; Tina Picariello, laundry; and Eileen Merullo, receptionist.
“I remember passing by the building when it was a private home owned by the D’Orlando Chocolate Company,” said Merullo. “Then it became a private hospital and later a temporary lodging for the longshoremen. One day I noticed that the doors were open and I walked in and applied for ‘whatever was suitable.’ I was hired as a part-time receptionist at $5.60 an hour. I never regretted walking through those doors. Where else could you receive a beautiful birthday card every year with a friendly note and a lottery ticket, a turkey at Thanksgiving, a special employees’ dinner and a lovely greeting from the administrator.”
Added Labbe, “The Lighthouse has been my home and my family for 25 years.”
DiChicco said that it’s a matter of creating an environment that people will know is sincere, whether it be for employees or residents or their families.
“You have to gather numerous professional people who love old people,” she said. “You get the right environment and the right mindset and follow your vision. Everyone has a job to do, but you have to do it and feel it. If you don’t feel it, the success won’t come. People will see through it…You build a reputation like ours up slowly by making decision after decision and act after act. You try to do the right thing as often as you can.”
And certainly, the Lighthouse has done right by Revere.