Community Input is Requested
Slayton, Minn., July 15, 2020 – The sudden closure of the Slayton Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center last July disrupted the lives of many families as they had to quickly find new homes and services for parents and loved ones. Residents who had called Murray County home for most or all of their lives moved away from family and friends. Over fifty employees lost their jobs. A local reporter called it “a punch in the gut.”
Local attorney Lynn Johnson and Cal Wurpts, former Slayton mayor, were two individuals who quickly stepped up to explore options to house and provide services for our older adults. The now-empty Rehabilitation and Health Care Center was considered but they found that the ownership was not interested in selling and even if available, the property would need a significant amount of money to bring it up to current codes.
Ms. Johnson met with local leaders and contacted regional and state officials to research options. She discovered that situations like ours are a nationwide problem. She assembled a number of these leaders for a well-attended listening session on December 30, 2019. "The future is geared toward collaborative community efforts," said Ms. Johnson, explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to hear ideas from community members about how to provide better elder care moving forward. The response to that meeting was the impetus for action. “I was overwhelmed with the community response,” she said. “we need a place where people can grow from cradle to grave.”
Since the December 30 meeting, a lot of work, research and planning has been under way. Before the pandemic, many small group meetings were held as interest continued to grow. The initiative was named Operation Prairie Venture (www.operationprairieventure.org).
One of the first steps was to establish a formal organization – a 501 (c) (3) non-profit with a board of directors, a mission, strategic plan, website, and Facebook page. Four concerned volunteers including Cal Wurpts, Molly Malone, Leeny MaloneBeach and Connie Humphrey Shaver joined Ms. Johnson on the board. The City of Slayton stepped up with funds to retain the services of the Southwest Regional Development Commission to work with the board on a strategic plan. Church leaders, other organizations and individuals pledged financial support. Ms. Malone wrote a successful grant request to the University of Minnesota Extension's Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership. This grant will support a 13-week architecture and design internship for the development of a model neighborhood that provides housing options for older adults. Information from the community will help with planning.
In addition to the website, Operation Prairie Venture (OPV) has a Facebook page: Facebook.com/OperationPrairieVenture.
The U of M graduate student, Rajeev Atha, will explore building styles and needed services during his work on the project. This includes gathering information from the community. As part of the OPB Board’s planning efforts with Southwest Regional Development Commission and the Southwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, a survey has been created for community input. The survey can be found online through Operation Prairie Venture’s website and Facebook page. A printed survey will also be distributed in various locations around Slayton. Please take the time to complete this survey. It will help with planning. Donations may also be made directly through the OPV website and Facebook page.
The OPV Board is working on a public open house within the next month. Date and location will be announced and posted on the OPV website and Facebook page soon. Please make plans to attend.
OPV's mission is “to build innovative services and spaces for older adults that enable all generations to live and thrive in a vibrant community." To fulfill this mission, feedback, leadership, and energy from a wide range of people in Slayton and beyond will be needed.
With this information and support, Operation Prairie Venture will continue its initiative to address housing and service needs in the region.