Covenant Place marks major milestone

Covenant Place Executive Director Joan Denison shares a light moment with a few of the dignitaries attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony for on Tuesday for Covenant Place’s new.  At Denison’s left are County Executive Steve Stenger, and Covenant Place Board President Scott Malin. Photo: Eric Berger

By Eric Berger, Staff writer

The shiny floors and untouched rooms of the Covenant Place stood in sharp contrast to the cloudy skies and humid air outside at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday for the new senior residence facility in Creve Coeur.

About 100 lawmakers, Jewish leaders and Covenant Place residents, volunteers and staff attended the event despite the threat of rain.

The 101-room facility replaces the oldest of the Covenant Place buildings located next door on the I.E. Millstone Campus. The nonprofit organization started construction on the $21.9 million facility in January 2015, and the plan is to eventually also replace the two remaining Covenant Place buildings.

Speakers at the event emphasized that the project fills a need for affordable senior  housing in the area. Missouri Treasurer Clint Zweifel pointed to the significant number of Covenant Place residents over the age of 90 who are still living independently in discussing the importance of the new facility. 

“It’s a striking reminder of the evolving nature of retirement and the responsibility that we have from a public policy perspective to create policies, to put into place structures, that support that aging and do it with dignity,” Zweifel said. 

Other speakers included Missouri State Sen. Jill Schupp, St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger, Jewish Federation of St. Louis President and CEO Andrew Rehfeld, and Covenant Place executive director Joan Denison. 

A number of the speakers praised Denison, who is leading efforts on the $84 million three-phase project. 

“I get to work with many executives, all of whom are talented in their own way, and Joan’s talents to move this forward, to be patient as a community leader, are truly extraordinary,” said Rehfeld.

Denison said in an interview with the Jewish Light that challenges included fundraising, applying for tax credits and “thinking about every detail so that people are able to age successfully in their apartment and not have to move as they grow older and their physical needs change.”

“What’s so important about today is it really shows the caring of our community for all ages of people,” Denison said. “One of the mitzvot is to care for our elders and I think the (the new facility) shows that as a community that’s very important to us,” Denison said.

A week before the opening, the electricity went out at the old facility, and residents left their rooms and gathered in the lobby, where staff stayed with them until the power came back, said Dee Wolf, president of the Covenant Place tenant council.

“I bet no other complexes do that,” Wolf said. “The residents all feel so fortunate to live here and thank the powers that be that we have this new wonderful home.”