The idea began with a 1972 conversation on a Vail, Colo., chairlift between Tom Glodek and Al Hofstede (soon to be Minneapolis mayor, then the youngest leader of a major U.S. city).
“Albert, we need to build a nursing home,” Glodek recalled saying, as he and Hofstede chatted about Northeast needs on their way up the mountain.
Catholic Eldercare (CEC), a lauded Northeast Minneapolis-based institution, celebrated four decades of service to the elderly and those in need with a 40th anniversary luncheon on Sept. 27 at Jax Cafe.
The dream started rolling when an initial leasing agreement from the church made it possible to begin to turn the former St. Anthony of Padua into a nursing home. Ten years later, through a combination of connections, many hours of work by the founders, a multitude of vital volunteers including architect Chuck Sullivan who convinced his firm Kirkham Michael to provide pro bono work, the idea became a reality that continued to grow.
CEC is also a story about Northeasters coming together. Founders Glodek, Hofstede and Bob Hannah (who was the treasurer for Hofstede’s mayoral campaign) attended St. Anthony of Padua Church as kids. The fourth founder emerged when Hofstede asked Archbishop John Roach for help. Roach responded by appointing Sister Ruth Roland, O.P., a Sinsinawa Dominican nun, who Glodek described as the “heart and soul” of the operation. With a background in long-term care, experience working with older adults and a persistence in organizing the group, she was also called the quarterback. Hofstede’s charisma, Glodek’s experience in the funeral home business and Hannah’s financial acumen were the other cornerstones.
Financially, the $5 million project benefited from an initial million-dollar loan from restaurant owner Rose Totino, and additional money that Sister Ruth inspired Totino to give after a speech about CEC at Immaculate Conception. Other early sources included donations, fundraisers and pull tabs from Elsie’s.
The group was later offered a municipal bond with an unfavorable 15.25% interest rate, locked in for five years. Faced with this unwelcome news, Glodek said he looked at Al, who said, “I guess we gotta do it. God’s going to take care of us.”
CEC opened in the summer of 1983 as a full-service senior housing and nursing care complex. By September, said Glodek, they were 100% full. It was one of the first senior care operations of its kind in the area, if not the state, and a forerunner in an industry that has mushroomed.
“It was a sense of that’s what you had to do,” said Glodek in a phone interview. At age 87, he is the last remaining of the four founders. “Everybody helped one another. Nobody had a lot of money in Northeast, and there was a need to help people live with dignity.”
This idea, along with serving seniors and honoring the ageless spirit in a Catholic tradition, have been the enduring philosophies behind Catholic Eldercare.
Among the luncheon’s more than 260 attendees were clergy, CEC staff and board members, politicians, church and Northeast community members as well as the founders’ friends and family and those with relatives who had received CEC care. There was one table full of people who came in honor of Sr. Ruth Roland.
Anniversary luncheon remarks came from Greg Baumberger, CEC’s President/CEO as well as Glodek and CEC board president Nancy Utoft and Tom Glass, the CEC Foundation director. Trish and Gary Hartlaub received the Ageless Spirit Award. A welcome and a thank you came from Father Don Piche, with a closing thank you by Deacon Joe Michalak. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey was there to proclaim it Catholic Eldercare Day, along with City Council members Michael Rainville and Elliot Payne. Frey cited the enduring tradition of people loving the Northeast community and wanting to live here for the long haul; and coming to Jax for celebrations.
CEC is now a groundbreaking combination of senior assisted and independent living, nursing, memory and transitional care, in addition to adult day services. Its facilities have expanded to include Mainstreet Lodge, Wyndris, River Village East and North and the Albert J. Hofstede Care Center.
Utoft, in a phone interview, commented on CEC’s 40 years. “We’ve become broader and more complex, but when you think about the founding, the story of the chairlift and leaders tending to community needs, the spirit remains the same. For me (and others) CEC was the answer to ‘My mom needs a place to live.’”
Utoft’s mother was about to turn age 90 in CEC care when she passed in 2020. Utoft remembers that during the challenges of the pandemic, the staff was very attentive to connecting residents with family through outdoor and online visits.
“They came through so beautifully. I know how important it was for my mom,” she said.
When asked what impact the Northeast community had on CEC’s founding, both Glodek and Utoft cited the area’s early immigrant character, the importance of faith and a neighborhood of close families who helped each other.
“My dad was an immigrant from Ukraine,” said Utoft. “The place was full of immigrants. The churches were important, and the different ethnic groups came together to form a beautiful and rich community of all backgrounds and faiths. There’s something about that character. Now, new immigrants have moved in and young people are gravitating toward the area.”
The luncheon was an opportunity to come together in a moment of reflection and thanks. Glodek said, “I’m proud of the fact that we persevered and that we were able to start a facility that has grown and had such an impact. It’s about taking care of people. And that’s our best feeling. We put a lot of time into it, and it got more complicated. It was a struggle for a while.”
Glodek has simple yet crucial hopes for the future: “I hope that the people in the community maintain that charitable aspect and continue to share their wealth with those who don’t have it. I know Al, Bob and Sister Ruth have said the same thing. We want a continuation of what we started. There is something in Northeast that’s pretty special. I hope we never lose that.”