By Chad Frey
Newton Kansan
One process has been completed, and now another begins for Schowalter Villa of Hesston and Kidron Bethel Village of North Newton.
For several months the operating boards of each organization have been listening to constituents and moving through a decision-making process — Thursday night the boards finished that process and chose to merge the management of the two retirement centers.
“Our goal is to remain service-oriented while keeping costs as reasonable as possible,” Schowalter CEO and President James Krehbiel said. “We expect our newly integrated organization to be more efficient, and to improve our ability to proactively address the future needs of our residents and communities.”
The combined organization will be the second-largest continuing-care retirement community in Kansas.
Discussions by both boards about a possible merger began in December 2010, in response to the continually changing and increasingly challenging health-care environment, including anticipated reductions in Medicare and Medicaid payments. The final vote came after both boards solicited input this fall from their constituencies — residents, donors, supporting churches and the community.
“We announced in October the merger was being considered,” said Susan Garofalo, public relations director for Kidron Bethel Village. “That was in invitation for our constituents to have input. We listened to churches, residents, donors, the community and everyone. Last night the boards voted to merge.”
Some things will not change as a result of the merger. Donations will benefit the campus to which they are or were designated. Both campuses will continue to operate at their current locations, and their current names.
“Most of it will be behind the scenes for the next few months,” Garofalo said.  “There shouldn’t be any real noticeable change for residents or staff.”
The merger combines administrative operations and governance. Operation of the two retirement and health care organizations will be directed by a single management team and board of directors. Krehbiel will become the CEO of the organization, a choice made easy when Kidron Bethel Village CEO and President Cindy Vanover announced she wished to not to be considered for the position.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve as President and CEO of Kidron Bethel Village,” Vanover said. “However, after prayerful consideration, I decided not to be a candidate for the position of CEO in the newly organized company. I decided to withdraw my name in the interest of facilitating the smoothest, healthiest transition possible. I am confident that the new company will continue to thrive under the capable leadership of James Krehbiel.”
Kaye Penner of North Newton will chair the new board of directors, which will include six people chosen by Schowalter and six selected by Kidron. New board members chosen by Schowalter include Barth Hague of Newton, and Ellen Samuelson, Yvonne Sieber, Marcy Thiesen, LuAlan Willems and Bruce Weaver, all of Hesston. Kidron’s representatives on the new board include Rosie Goering Brandt, David Burns, Paul Harder, Penner, Ron Peters and Melvin Voth, all of Newton or North Newton.
Kidron Bethel Village and Schowalter Villa are affiliated with Mennonite Church USA.