Love blossoms at the Bensonhurst Center

Everything is coming up roses at the Bensonhurst Center for Rehabilitation and Healthcare.

Not only is the facility under new management with major renovations underway, two residents found love there and were married at a beautiful ceremony in the center’s chapel.

Father Guy Sbordone, pastor of nearby St. Frances Cabrini Church, presided over the matrimonial mass of Richard Nugaard, 70 and Frances Buttel, 57, calling it “a day of dreams” to a jam-packed chapel, on Tuesday, July 31. This is the first marriage for both.

The happy couple met at the center three years ago when Nugaard moved in.

“It’s good to start off as friends first,” Buttel, who has been a resident for seven years, said. “I love him so much and finally we can live together as husband and wife. Maybe we can finally have some privacy.”

Nugaard said living at the center with his new bride is like, “Heaven on earth. It’s a wonderful place to be.”

After the ceremony, there was a festive reception in the newly renovated community room, followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly redone rehab room. Elected officials including Borough President Marty Markowitz, community leaders, and Pam Brier, CEO of Maimonides Medical Center, were on hand.

This paper was given a tour of the center by Charles-Edouard Gros, from the Center Management Group, which manages the home. It was previously run by St. Vincent’s Medical Center, which has since gone bankrupt.

The second floor of the center features a gym and rehab room. “Patients get three hours a day of therapy. They can relax. It’s like a spa almost – resort rehab,” Gros said, adding that the chapel is on the same floor. “Some go to pray. The whole floor is about therapeutic activities.”

Gros showed off a “mini-house,” which is part of the rehab process and has a bed, washing machine and dryer to help patients become acclimated to every-day tasks.

“When you get ready to go home, there are things you don’t think about,” he explained. “Everything is designed specifically to help you reach your highest potential.”

The center’s goal is to send home 1,000 patients a year. The average stay for rehab is 20 days or less. Currently, there are 150 permanent and 50 short-term residents.

Inside the rehab room, there are state-of-the-art tools to help get patients back on their feet. A model car uses hydraulics so those recovering can practice getting in and out of a Jeep or sedan. Residents also learn how to cook in a spacious kitchen.

Family members can watch their loved ones make progress through the windows of the rehab room. “The family has to be part of the recovery,” Gros said. “It’s all in the little details.”

Many of the rooms are designed with circles, representing constant forward motion, that Gros says helps with recovery.

Eventually, the whole building will be renovated, starting on the eighth floor and moving down. Once called the “Happy Hut,” residents will soon be able to enjoy a meal with family in a beautiful new dining hall on the first floor.

“It’s very much like a restaurant with china,” Gros said. “We want to make it look like a home.”

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