Modesto’s Sundial residential care facility has new owners and a new name

06/05/2014 8:52 PM

06/05/2014 11:24 PM

A new owner has taken over the former Sundial residential care facility on McHenry Avenue in Modesto, renamed it and paid for renovations to bring the place back to life again.

People who are nostalgic about the former Sundial Restaurant and Lodge may wince at the new name – Stacie’s Chalet Modesto. But the new ownership has done extensive renovations and kept the senior care center from going under, after the state cited the previous owners for numerous violations last year and replaced them with interim management in November.

Executive Director Evelyn Mendez said the new owner changed the name of the Modesto landmark to stay consistent with the two other Stacie’s Chalet senior care facilities in Stockton and Sacramento. The Modesto center is managed by Redding-based Northstar Senior Living, the firm that provided interim management. Its website says the company provides management and consulting services to senior living communities in six states and two countries.

Mendez was the interim manager during the state-monitored rescue and has stayed on as facility director for Northstar. She said staffing has increased from a crisis level of 14 employees last year to more than 60 workers.

The new ownership, which took over in April, laid new carpet, repainted the interior in brighter colors, and refurnished recreation rooms and a library. Workers replaced water-stained ceilings and removed an indoor palm tree that had broken through the glass ceiling of the atrium.

The grounds behind the former lodge were spruced up, and a tree service Thursday was trimming the large oak that overhangs the north wing. Mendez did not disclose dollar figures on the property purchase or cost of renovations.

The McHenry Avenue center has 58 residents between the assisted living and memory care units, and is leasing rooms. It has capacity for 96 residents.

“I worked hard with the state to make sure the doors did not close,” Mendez said. “Many of the residents did not have anywhere to go. ... The key was to identify all of the issues and address them one by one.”

One resident, Dellora McReynolds, was getting her hair done in the center’s salon Thursday. “It is much better for us than before,” McReynolds said. “Everybody seems to be cooperative. I can’t complain. When we ask, we get help.”

The director said the new owner wanted to maintain reasonable rates for the residential facility. Monthly leases for assisted living are about $1,345 for shared units and $1,800 for single rooms, with the memory-care rates starting at $2,900. Prices include meals, housekeeping and activities.

The California Department of Social Services took action against the former owners, Hilda and Mary Manuel, after finding that Sundial Palms Manor was severely understaffed, failed to provide sufficient food for residents and left elderly clients unsupervised in the 36-bed memory care unit. The department documented far worse conditions at the Manuels’ residential care facilities in the Bay Area and has sought to revoke their licenses for life.

An appeal hearing for Hilda and Mary Manuel was set for this month.

Mendez said Stacie’s Chalet hired an activities director and has a dietitian to ensure proper meals are given to diabetic residents. It plans to equip an area with computers so residents can talk with family members on Skype or send emails to loved ones. To retain a nostalgic sense, the management wants to decorate with old pictures of Modesto and images from the glory days of the Sundial Lodge, Mendez said.

The manager said she was trying to understand the original lighting on the lava-rock wall inside the former lodge; it might be something else they can work with.

For 42 years, the Sundial Lodge was a premier dining establishment and hotel, serving as a venue for celebrities and a meeting place for local power brokers. It closed in 1998 and was converted to senior living.

During the recent rescue of the facility, Mendez said, community members showed they cared when they came to ask about the needs of residents who had not left, and they volunteered to help. “On Christmas Day, the lobby was a sea of gifts,” said Mendez, noting it was one reason she decided to continue as director.

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