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Living her dream at a cherished place
It is a special place, offering everything that could and should be for seniors.
A peaceful spot, spread over 20-plus acres in bucolic Auburn, containing three adult family homes, a developing activity center, a large garden, paved pathways for wheelchairs, big lawns, long white fences and a tidy courtyard.
The kind of hamlet Jenny Hendrickx imagined when she was a girl, a dream she lives today as a caretaker, owner and operator in the senior residential care business.
She wanted something more to offer seniors, something beyond the customary, sometimes inadequate nursing home.
"I feel like I'm creating an idea, and I would like to be a part of a new culture that sees what's coming down the pike with all the cutbacks (and uncertainty in health care)," Hendricks said between phone calls in her busy office. "This is just a small example of what I envision senior care should be – that they should be listened to ... that their needs should be met."
Cherished Acres Estates – by Cooper's Corner – is an ongoing labor of love for Hendrickx, a licensed dental hygienist who left her work in private dental offices and nursing homes to establish the adult family care business nearly nine years ago.
"My husband said, 'You're crazy,'" Hendrickx recalled of her pursuit. "People stated that nobody would come. They said, 'You're out in the country. ' But they did (come). We were full in six months."
In time, business and services grew. Jenny and Jeff Hendrickx ultimately bought three homes when they became available. One neighbor sold their home to the couple to retire in Florida.
The houses, which connect triangularly but are separated, were subsequently converted, licensed into adult care use, and named Wisdom, Grace and Faithful.
The couple has since opened an activity center and is entertaining further expansion ideas.
Jenny Hendrickx, 45, remains the heart and soul of the operation, a "Jill-of-all-trades" who runs errands, solves problems, even cleans and adjusts many of her residents' teeth from the comforts of a donated dental chair on site.
"She had a purpose in life. This is her passion," Jeff Hendrickx said. "She's the best."
Jeff Hendrickx, a Port of Seattle firefighter, emergency medical technician and CPR/First Aid instructor, has helped shape what Cherished Acres Estates is today. The couple-owned and -operated adult care homes support 16 residents and a staff of 22 – from certified nursing assistants to a registered nurse, from an administrator to a groundskeeper – providing a wide range of services.
Providing such a place for seniors was born from a sixth-grader's imagination. Jenny's teacher had asked his students to write about what they might be doing in 25-30 years.
"I still remember it vividly," she said. "I wrote about seniors and how I wanted to have a bus to take them on activities and to care for them."
Hendrickx had lived off and on with her grandparents growing up. She enjoyed listening to their stories. She wanted one day to provide for family and seniors as much or even more than what they meant to her.
She eventually would make that happen.
"It's far better than I ever thought, but it's a lot harder," she said of her consuming, yet rewarding work. "This is so needed ... they need the care.
"It's not rocket science. It's about listening, I mean really listening to what they really like, want and need."
Her story has come full circle. About five years ago, a gentleman came to Wisdom House, looking for a home to care for his father.
"I knew the voice but I didn't recognize the person," Hendrickx said of the visitor. "He toured the place, then he sat next to me ... and I said, 'Mr. Miller, by chance did you teach at Renton Park Elementary sixth grade?' And he just looked at me and said, 'Jenny, is that you?'"
Just as she wrote in Mr. Miller's class, Hendrickx was living the tale.
"I'm living my dream to do this," she said. "(Mr. Miller) gave me hope as a kid ... now, my goal is to give these seniors hope of what could and should be."