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A Community Rises in Bigfork
Rising Mountains Assisted Living opens Feb. 1
The model living room of a unit at Rising Mountain Assisted Living at Bigfork on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon
BIGFORK – The hallways and apartments of Rising Mountains Assisted Living might look like just that, hallways and apartments. But to founder and owner Charlene Dale, it’s anything but.

“It’s like a little town here. The hallways are the streets, the apartments are the houses, the dining room is the restaurant and there’s a place to go to church and shop,” she said. “That’s why we call it a community.”

On Feb. 1, Rising Mountains Assisted Living will open its $4 million, 25,000-square-foot facility just north of Bigfork. The building has 30 apartments, a large dining hall and a spa. And rooms are already starting to fill up. Registered nurse and healthcare director Ginger Nairn said many people have called to inquire about availability and five people have already committed.

“This gives everyone a chance to ease into it, so it’s good we’re starting small,” she said. “But it will also be nice to get to know the residents on a personal level.”

A dozen people are employed at the facility, including six certified nurse assistants, three kitchen employees and an activities director. Nairn said the facility has the option to expand in the future, but that will depend on the owners’ plans.

Charlene and Bill Dale began working on the project in 2011 and soon after purchased a five-acre lot behind the Pope John Paul II Catholic Church in Bigfork. The Dales are familiar with the assisted living business – they started Prestige Assisted Living in Kalispell and Riverside Senior Living, now known as The Springs in Whitefish. The couple recognized the need for assisted living in south end of the valley since similar facilities in Flathead Valley are in Kalispell or north of there. Overall, there is a growing number of senior citizens in the area. According to the Montana Census and Economic Information Center, the state is one of the oldest in the nation and will see its 65-and-older population increase by 104.8 percent between 2000 and 2030. Flathead County will see its senior population increase by 200 percent. Charlene said now seniors will not have to leave the area they love or their families to go to another assisted living home.

While Nairn said the staff would be able to provide basic medical care, helping seniors maintain an independent lifestyle is the primary goal.

“This is not based on a medical model, it’s a social model,” Charlene said. “That’s why our slogan is ‘adding years to life and life to years.’”

After the Dales purchase the property, they worked with the Bigfork Land Use Advisory Committee, Flathead County and the Catholic Dioceses to rezone the land from agricultural to residential. Construction began over the winter of 2012 and 2013. The construction was financed with loans and $1 million in privately raised capital.

The dining room at the Rising Mountain Assisted Living at Bigfork on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014. - Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

Last week, workers were rushing around the property, putting the finishing touches on it before the Feb. 1 opening. Outside, workers were installing the last windows and furniture was being brought in for the rooms. Each apartment has an open kitchen and living room area and a separate bedroom and bathroom.

Lending a helping hand was consultant and friend of the Dales, Mike Felt. He helped the owners with the construction of the building and said seeing its completion was rewarding.

“The Dales are special people,” he said. “They’ve worked in this business for a long time and this was their dream. Here it is.”

For additional information about Rising Mountains Assisted Living, call (406) 837-2698.
On 01-30-14, haugini commented....
Rising Mountains has a very warm and home feel to it the minute that you step in the door. Char and Dale have poured there hearts into this community and it really shows. Sincerely, Chuck Haugen.
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