BEATRICE - A Beatrice assisted living and retirement center housed in a downtown landmark building, will be closing.

Friday was a difficult day for those at the Kensington, owned by Agemark Senior Living…when leadership, staff members and residents were told of the decision.
" was a huge shock to everybody...lots of tears...lots of tears...lots of people saying what can we do to make this can we do this, what about our residents....just a lot of fear."

The company that owns the Kensington, a multi-story facility at Sixth and Court, says it will close, as of April 15th. Executive Director, Jill Strouf said the impact of Covid-19 was a significant factor.

"We had our first big hit, I would say probably in December...but prior to that, nothing really. We were still trying to get extra staff in here..but just nobody was applying for jobs. I think a lot of people were not working at that time because of fear about Covid and they didn't want to come here because they didn't want to get sick. I think a lot of it is we were having to have some outside staffing agencies come in to assist us. Then, we ran into some burnout...we also did have a couple of people who were off due to surgeries and other issues. That, and then with the food prices and everything going was just like one thing after the other."

The Kensington employs 45 people and currently has 43 residents who call the center home. It began operations in Beatrice in the late 1980s and celebrated 30 years, in 2019. Strouf says employees have been committed to staying with the center “to the end".  Strouf came in for work on Saturday, helping families with other living arrangements.

"We currently have 16 already placed, so we have a few more that we're working with. A lot of families were very active about it and had a plan...but some still don't know what they're going to do. I made it a priority to get this done. Just because it's the weekend and we've got this bad news, you don't have to wait until Monday. I think that's what says a lot about Agemark and the company. We all do what's best for the residents. That's our number one focus, number one always has been."

The company will be working with employees to find new jobs....either with Agemark, finding other health care positions or other employment. Agemark has 26 facilities across the U.S. Three of the closest centers are in Lincoln.  One hallmark of the Kensington is the activities the center has offered to residents and their family members....and Strouf says, she'll especially miss being able to provide that.

"That kind of set us apart from other places. We'd go to a Kansas City Royals game, we'd go to the casinos...wherever they wanted to go, we would take them. We did hot air balloon rides, we did helicopter rides. When they would move in, we would say what are three things you would put in your bucket list or wish list? And, we would try to accommodate at least one of those for each resident. That's going to be hard, to just not be able to do those things, again."

The Kensington, formerly known as the Paddock Hotel, is nationally registered as a historic structure, one of four Agemark operates that have historical significance. Company officials said the top two priorities are taking care of residents and employees. It will focus on sale of the building later.