Brandon Wilde Life Care Community opens
On Sept. 18, 1989, a crowd of more than 300 gathered under a tent in Columbia County to celebrate the groundbreaking of Augusta’s first not-for-profit Life Care Community: Brandon Wilde. The throng included about 100 of the retirement community’s charter members, along with family, friends, community leaders, and the heads of St. Joseph Center for Life and University Health Care System, the two sponsoring organizations.
The new facility was a dream come true for then-University Hospital Administrator Ed Gillespie. “To reach this point has taken vision, the common missions of University and St. Joseph, and a lot of teamwork,” he said to the crowd. But this was only the beginning.
Building a Life Care Community focused on wellness and quality of life meant incorporating many more services and amenities than typical retirement communities. Named after a 1750s Quaker settlement (Brandon, Ga.) and Augusta lawyer, politician and poet Richard Henry Wilde, “Brandon Wilde” was intended to “evoke the kind of quiet refinement and pioneering spirit” epitomized by the latest in a long line of University “firsts.”
Brandon Wilde would include a wellness center, complete with fitness equipment and pool/spa areas, as well as an arts and crafts area and hair salon. The main commons building included a “country store,” a chapel, a library and a post office, with a pond and putting green just outside. Beyond these amenities and comforts, gold-standard health care services were a major priority for residents and families.
While moving into such a community might be bittersweet for people accustomed to their independence, founding residents such as Richard and Margaret Daniel took comfort in the pedigree of the sponsoring institutions. “We knew that with those two institutions, it will be a quality organization, not only in its construction but also in the way it will be run,” Richard Daniel said. “That gives us a great feeling of security.”
That sense of security extends through the later years of residents’ life, when more health challenges typically arise. While much of this is now standard operating procedure for today’s retirement communities, in the early 1990s it was hardly the case.
Don Bray, University Hospital administrator from 1991 to 1998, touted Brandon Wilde as “a continuum-in-life care for retirees, where an individual or a couple would go in living independently, and then they would have the opportunity to move into different levels of care as needed as they grew older. It’s a wonderful concept, and we were the first to develop that in our area, and we’re very proud of that.”
In 2011, Brandon Wilde broke ground on the Windsor House Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Facility, Georgia’s first “small house” concept for these unique illnesses. Today, Brandon Wilde is still recognized as one of the best “Life Plan” communities for senior citizens in the United States, with more than 200 staff caring for more than 400 residents. These residents are enjoying their golden years nestled in a scenic and progressive campus that is much more than a health care facility. For them, it is home.