In 1990, the founders of Heritage Pointe had the ideal space for their new retirement home in Mission Viejo. It was built by the Avon Corporation, right down the street from Mission Viejo Hospital and near the Mission Viejo Mall. It was the perfect location. However, despite the charter sponsorships, they were short several million dollars they needed for the purchase, and they had to find it in 90 days.
It was because of this that a group of community members got together and decided between them to fund the money for a bridge loan so the home could open its doors. They signed on the dotted line – at great financial risk.
Now, 20 years later, Heritage Pointe is celebrating its anniversary and the men who started it all. Allan Fainbarg, Arnold Feuerstein, Michael Gordon, Leonard Mandel, Leo Pinsky, Hank Schrimmer, and Bob Teller will be honored together November 14 at the Island Hotel in Newport Beach as a part of the organization’s 20th Anniversary Gala.
“Without these gentlemen, we would probably not be here,” Pamela Davis, director of special events for Heritage Pointe, said.
Davis has been with Heritage Pointe since July 1990, one month after the building opened. She has been able to see all the developments to the facility over the years, from obtaining the license to provide residential care to the building of many different wings, such as the Ruth Feuerstein Residence, a memory care facility dedicated to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory-related illnesses.
No matter what, throughout the years, Davis said that Heritage Pointe has been a place brimming with life and joy.
“What our residents say is, ‘I didn’t come to die. I came to live my life,’” Davis said. She added that Heritage Pointe prides itself in having plenty of activities for residents to get involved in, from yoga to “Ballet for Bubbies.” The facility has even invested in technology to help residents preserve their memories through specific computer games, which Davis referred to as, “physical exercise for your brain.”
Davis feels that Heritage Pointe is very welcoming, and encourages people to visit the home and meet the staff, which she says is filled with warmth and love.
“People come to live here, and they can’t believe the difference,” she said. “It’s a home. It’s not a facility. Every staff member interacts with every resident. It’s an incredible atmosphere, not institutional in any sense of the imagination.”
In addition to their advanced care, Heritage Pointe also prides itself in being able to provide for community members who may have not been able to cover the cost of living there – something that was very important to the founders.
“From the very beginning, Loretta [Modelevsky] and Meryl [Schrimmer] said that we have to provide for those who can no longer provide for themselves,” Davis said. It’s because of this that Heritage Pointe has a “scholarship program” that helps residents either pay all or part of the money necessary to live there. The home has to raise at least $1 million a year in order to provide these opportunities, which it does through a variety of special events.
Davis added that the best part about this program is that the recipients of this money are kept top secret by the home – that way, these residents will never be singled out, embarrassed, or mistreated by others.
Ellen Weiss, director of development for Heritage Pointe, said the organizers have been so successful in fundraising in the past that the mortgage has been retired on the building. That way, the money that they raise is dedicated to those who live there.
“We’re really proud of the last 20 years, and we have learned a lot,” Weiss said. So much so that the organization is already looking towards the next generation of elderly care for the senior citizens of Orange County.
One of the ways it is looking forward is by Heritage Pointe’s Tzedakah Box project. Gary Rosenthal, a welder celebrated for his Judaic artwork, was commissioned to design a tzedakah box for outside the home’s synagogue with a quote from Anne Frank. It was put up at the 20th anniversary open house, and because of its beauty, replica sizes were made for people to use in their own homes and are available for sale through Heritage Pointe’s website.
“You can never have too many tzedakah boxes,” Weiss said.
In addition to this project, Heritage Pointe is starting to work with Jewish Federation and Family Services in Orange County in order to provide services for seniors who live outside of the main campus, including social events and medical care.
According to Weiss, the senior world is changing. People may not choose to move into a residential facility like Heritage Pointe, but would rather be more comfortable staying in their own homes or possibly closer to their families and friends, often referred to as “aging in place.” Although the project is still in the works, Weiss feels that this is addressing an important need for the senior population, especially as baby boomers begin to come into their golden years.
Since working with Jewish Federation and Family Services, Weiss said it’s crucial to engage all the members in the community in working with Heritage Pointe, ranging from teens and young professionals to their parents.
“We are gathering interested community members who would like to join in the conversation,” she said, adding that they would be interested in doing events with different organizations. Weiss said that since the home is coming into its second generation of residents that it’s important to, “involve the next generation with this new one.”
Meanwhile, the facility is looking forward to its big night in Newport Beach, complete with a swing band, live auction, good food, and a special toast honoring the men that made the home possible for the Jewish community of Orange County.
“We want it to reflect 20 years of success,” Davis said. “Of what the community helped us build and grow.”