LITTLETON — Betty Pinelli and Benjamin Bokuniewicz, the first residents of The Landings of Lake Gaston assisted living, cut the ribbon during the ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday.

The couple moved in May 4. Something they like about the Landings is it is very clean, Penelli said.

Victoria Bedard, Life Enrichment coordinator, said the two are fabulous and a great asset to the facility.

“In the mornings they will ask me if we are doing water balloon toss,” she said. “They love going out. When they first came they told me, when the wheels are moving, we want to be in it.”

The couple has been together 28 years, and are both nearly 90 years old, Pinelli said.

When asked for some advice in living a long, healthy life, Penelli said laughing, “You have to take it as it comes.”

Debra Dunlow said Bedard has been very key in drawing the residents out of their rooms and having activities, parties and trips so they can feel young and alive. Her father Wallace Brown is a resident.

“Everyone has gone above and beyond to make him involved,” she said.

Bedard said the facility held an early Independence Day celebration with food, music and a water balloon fight. On a regular basis she leads the residents in exercises and sometimes a staff member tells them a corny joke of the day.

“They love it — it is never a dull moment,” Bedard said. “I tell everyone, ‘I do the fun stuff.’ ”

Executive Director Heather Foster, a Roanoke Rapids native, said Bedard really excels in her job.

“She really deserves a lot of accolades for what she does,” Foster said.

“It’s my passion — if I could move in, I’d have me a room,” Bedard said. “It is just so rewarding walking in here. If I can make just one resident smile, I did my job for the day. We have such a good time — we really do. I learn so much about residents and their pasts and what they like.”

Foster said they have nearing 30 residents and are licensed for 60.

“We get calls all the time from people who want to tour the facility, because they have a loved one they think would be perfect for living here,” she said.

Foster earned her health care administrator’s license in 2019, she said.

“I have always had a place in my heart for caring for the elderly,” she said. “One of my first jobs was as a CNA at a nursing facility when I was 18, so this has been a long-time passion of mine.”

Another employee, Liz Hudson, is the transporter for the residents at the Landings. She takes them to appointments, to the bank and shopping.

“We’ve been taking mystery rides, when they don’t know where they are going,” she said. “We are trying to build up the momentum more and get them outside the building.”

Hudson said she loves her job because she loves the people.

“My heart is to the residents,” she said. “The workers are great, they tend to these residents here and are 100% behind them. I’m a happy-go-lucky-person and I try to keep them laughing by telling them a corny joke. I love every minute of it.”

Debra Richardson, The Landings of Lake Gaston director of new development and acquisition operations said, “I could not do this job without my staff, which I appreciate a whole lot.”

Richardson said she oversees each project from start to finish, remaining on about six months after the opening of each facility, making sure everything is compliant and running properly. The work begins with finding land, getting plan approvals and obtaining permits.

“It seems like it takes a long time but it doesn’t,” she said, with 15 new projects on the horizon. “When I first started, we had 80 buildings and now we have close to 200. We are the largest provider in the state of North Carolina.”

ALG Senior, formerly Affinity Living Group LLC, is headquartered in Hickory. According to Argentum’s 2021 Largest Providers Report on U.S. assisted living, independent living, memory care and continuing care retirement community: ALG Senior is listed as ninth, with 12,863 total units in 155 U.S. communities, comprising of 7,819 assisted living; 1,767 independent living; and 3,277 memory care; employing 7,000 people. The report names Charles Trefzger as President and CEO.

The Landings of Lake Gaston is owned by Lake Gaston Holdings, and ALG Senior serves as the project developer and consultant for the community. 

Richardson said her joy is hiring the staff and training them.

“And meeting all the residents and giving them that initial love and making sure their care is exactly what it needs to be and they become a family,” she said.

Leanne Patrick, Lake Gaston Regional Chamber of Commerce president/CEO, said she is happy The Landings of Lake Gaston decided to “land” in Littleton close to the lake.

“It’s a perfect addition to a community that is so rich in values, so rich in its belief in taking care of the aging population,” she said