At former Rolfe and Rumford Home, a haven for Christian Scientists
Kerry Reed, left, who runs the new home for elderly Christian Scientists, hands a basket of rolls to resident Julie Crooks, right, while sitting at the table for lunch with employees (from left) Mary Pieper and Connie Swan as well as other resident Priscilla Butterworth on August 26, 2013. The home is at the former Rolfe and Rumford Home for girls in Concord's South End.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Mary Pieper, an employee at the new home for elderly Christian Scientists in Concord, pulls out a peach and cherry pie from the oven on Monday, August 26, 2013. Pieper cooks, cleans and does other odd jobs at the home in addition to being a Christian Scientist nurser. The home is in the former Rolfe and Rumford Home for girls.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Priscilla Butterworth sits in her room after lunch at the a home for older Christian Scientists where she lives on Monday, August 26, 2013. Butterworth is one of the three residents living at the former Rolfe and Rumford Home for girls in Concord.
(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
Set back on a hill in the South End, the former Rolfe and Rumford Home for girls is alive with activity once again. These days, its residents are a bit older.
It is now a home for Christian Scientists, run by Kerry Reed of Bow. Now with just three residents – women between their late 70s and late 90s – the house will have another wing opening this fall to create a total of nine rooms.
While the residents are elderly, they do not receive medical care; Christian Scientists believe in spiritual healing.
Reed, a Christian Science nurse, described the residence as “a place for people who no longer wish or cannot live in their own home.”
The home is meant to feel like living at home with family rather than a nursing home, Reed said. The residents don’t have scheduled activities beyond the three daily meals served at the dining room table.
Yesterday morning, the residents sat reading or resting in their rooms as staff members moved in and out. Lunch preparations were under way in the newly renovated kitchen. Two small dogs greeted visitors at the door. (One is Reed’s and the other belongs to a resident.)
Hammers and drills buzzed in the background; the former girls’ dormitories are being transformed into two-room suites.
Nearly every room in the house has been renovated since last year. Reed said it was in a state of disrepair
when she purchased the property. The Rolfe and Rumford Home was a group home for girls founded on Hall Street in 1880, and later moved to the quiet, residential Rundlett Street.
It served as a home for girls who weren’t placed in foster care. But placements in the home decreased over time, and the Rolfe and Rumford trustees closed the home in 2009. They gave their financial assets to the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation to benefit groups that help boys and girls, and sold the property to Reed and her husband, George, last year.
But Reed said she still hears from women who grew up in the home. One woman called yesterday morning, after her son happened to drop off a load of sheetrock for the renovation project. Reed has another photo album that a former resident brought her, with old photographs of growing up at Rolfe and Rumford. Most of the women who contact Reed are sad the home is no longer full of young girls and regret that it closed. Reed said she can relate to the women who call, as she has been a foster parent. She said she hopes they understand the home’s new purpose also fills a need.
For Reed, the home is the realization of a longtime goal.
“I’ve wanted to do this for 30 years,” she said.
Reed and other Christian Scientists have two textbooks: the Bible and Science and Health, which helps them interpret the Scripture and follow the prayerful method of healing. That guide is written by Mary Baker Eddy, a Bow native and founder of Christian Science.
Reed trained for three years in Boston in the 1980s to become a Christian Science nurse.
She does not check blood pressure, take temperatures or offer medications. But being a Christian Science nurse is “pretty much what most people think nursing is, without the medicine,” Reed said.
She makes people feel comfortable and provides encouragement. She helps them bathe and eat and provides bandaging when necessary.
To be seen by a nurse, Christian Scientists must also have a practitioner praying for their healing. Nurses physically attend to the case, she said, and help create an atmosphere that will help people feel at peace to pray.
The home in Concord’s South End will provide an alternative to nursing homes for Christian Scientists who can no longer live on their own, Reed said. At nursing homes or assisted living facilities, they would be required to enroll in a medical treatment plan.
Residents will pay between $3,000 and $6,000 a month to live in the home, which Reed said is comparable to rates for local assisted living facilities. The home will run as a nonprofit and will also rely on donations. It is not subsidized by any state program, because no medical care is offered.
“A lot of people think that Christian Scientists are people who don’t go to doctors,” Reed said, but the religion is more than that.
Christian Scientists do believe in a system of healing, Reed said, by praying and aligning their thoughts with Scripture.
“It’s not an airy fairy thing,” she said. “It’s something that we practice every moment, every day.”
Residents moving into the Concord home must be able to walk, at least with the help of a walker or another person’s support. And even though residents are elderly, Reed said the goal is always healing.
In the past year, she took in a woman who had fallen and was in a wheelchair. But the understanding was her immobility would be temporary, and soon she was walking around and taking care of herself.
“This is a place for people who want to come and keep living,” Reed said.
Once the new wing opens, there will be nine residents. Reed said she has a waiting list of Christian Scientists looking for a place to live. For now, she has turned the living room, library and office into three bedrooms for the three ladies living there.
Live-in staff members have their own bedrooms on the second story of the brick-and-white house. Staff includes a cook, Christian Science nurses and a housekeeper who comes once a week. Others, like Reed’s 21-year-old daughter Elodie, help as needed.
Set back on more than 5 acres, the home will eventually be owned by the New Hampshire Home for Christian Scientists, a nonprofit that Reed began. Its board has not yet chosen a name for the house itself. The Reeds have borrowed money and paid for all of the renovations. The nonprofit will raise money to purchase the property and will continue fundraising to stay in operation for years to come.
“We’re in debt, but it is a labor of love,” Reed said. “And the ladies who are here now, they are paying to be here so that goes toward the operation.”
Walls have been knocked down in the long hallway of girls’ dormitory rooms to make two-room suites for residents, and the old girls’ bathrooms have been expanded to become more accessible. The house used to have several rooms with pink paint to fit its use as a girls’ home, Reed said. The old paint and furnishings are gone now, as almost every room in the main part of the house has been remodeled.
But it still has a home-like feel, which is important to Reed.
“It’s just a home like anybody else’s home,” she said.