Kiwanis to show off updated building

In 1972, Kiwanis Manor opened its doors as a new senior housing center at 7 W. Market St., Tiffin. It was named for the service club whose efforts made it a reality. Club members, the board of directors, staff and management have worked to maintain and improve the 10-story building to keep it competitive in the housing marketplace.

Nearly $1 million has been invested in the property over the past two and a half years, according to Executive Director Beth McFarlan-Hutson.

Kiwanis Manor is to host an “After Five” open house 5-7 p.m. Aug. 19, in conjunction with the Seneca Regional Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Services. Light refreshments and tours of the apartments are available.

“We put on a new roof, we upgraded the fire alarm system, we upgraded all the elevator mechanics, all the wall coverings. We had a real estate assessment inspection – it’s a federal inspection – and a rent comparability study. From the time we had done the last one, there wasn’t one thing that was the same as the last time,” McFarlan-Hutson said.

The parking lot has been resurfaced, a vinyl fence has replaced a chain link fence and more landscaping is planned at the back of the property. Inside, new equipment was installed in the laundry room and the walls were repainted. McFarlan-Hutson said she selected custom-designed furniture and special surfaces on the lower hallway walls to resist wear.

“It’s institutional, heavy duty furniture … and they put in new wall systems that are basically indestructible,” the director said. “(Tenants are) really amazed by the metal art work we got. It’s very modern and trendy. I told them … nowadays, we have to appeal to your children not to you, because they’re deciding where you’re going to live.”

The first floor has offices, a small store, computer room and a dining room that accommodates activities and doubles as the meeting place for the weekly Kiwanis Club lunch meetings. McFarlan-Hutson reported full occupancy.

Behind the high-rise is a parking area for residents lined by a terraced, landscaped area bordering the Sandusky River. Residents Jim Stallard and Greg Brewer grow vegetables in the back and place the excess in a “free” basket for Kiwanis neighbors. Connie Romick heads the garden crew of resident volunteer to care for the flowers and shrubs behind and around the building.

“A lot of people have no idea that’s all back there,” McFarlan-Hutson said. “Connie puts a lot of work into that.”

An eight-year tenant at Kiwanis Manor, Romick said she started the garden area five years ago. For the past four years, men and women from CROSSWAEH have been coming to help with weeding, trimming, planting, mulching, watering and other tasks during the growing season. McFarlan-Hutson said Romick and her team usually provide cookies and milk for those coming from CROSSWAEH.

Sometimes Romick stages lunches and other projects to raise money for plants and supplies. People also make memorial contributions to her flower fund. Romick also likes to shop for garden sculptures and accents to place among the greenery.

“A lot of times she comes back saying ‘I was bad today,’ said McFarlan-Hutson. “I ground her every now and then.”

Under Romick’s direction, a barricade was built and soil was brought in to create terraces along the slope next to the river. The flower beds contain spring bulbs, many perennials and bedding plants. In the spring, Romick puts up fencing to keep the waterfowl from eating the seedlings. Last year’s harsh winter claimed a few items, but most reappeared when the temperatures finally rose enough.

“I like unique plants. I don’t like mundane,” Romick said.

She pointed out hardy gladiolias and hybiscus, honeysuckle, wisteria, witchhazel, weeping pea, red rooster grass, fire bushes and several kinds of hydrangeas and hostas. Many of them came from Molyet’s and Wagner’s in Tiffin. Others have been donated by residents.

“People bring flowers and say ‘My family got me this. Can you put them in the garden?’ I never want to tell anybody no … I always say my garden is an ‘abstract’ garden … It’s an abstract of whatever anybody brings me,” Romick said.

For information or to register for the event by Friday, call (419) 447-4541.