When Louis J. Jenn, Hills native and successful entrepreneur, faced the tough situation of finding care options for his aging mother, Louise Jenn, in the 1970’s, there were no choices for care in her hometown of Hills, IA. Louis had to make the agonizing decision to place his mother, Louise Jenn, in a care center in Coralville.
Louis and his sister, Catharine Schnoebelen, conceived the idea of a local facility that would be a combination of apartments for senior citizens, capable of independent living, with a long-term health care facility for individuals with more intensive health care needs. Louis and Catharine believed this project would benefit the whole community and area residents, providing alternative living options for the area’s aging population who wish to remain close to the community they call home.
Louis, a successful businessman who developed the Jenn-Air Range, realized that funding for this type of facility would be an impossible undertaking, in a town of approximately 530 people at the time, unless he would be willing to commit a sizable portion of his own wealth, which he was willing to do. He then approached the local St. Joseph’s church, who owned a large plot of land adjacent to the church that Louis felt would be an ideal location for the project. After consultation with church authorities, an agreement to donate that parcel of land was reached with the stipulation that if and when the time came that the facility was no longer self-supporting, it was to be returned to the church.
Louise Jenn and her children: Catharine Schnoebelen, Helen Saxton, Louis Jenn, Harold Jenn, & Sister Yvonne Jenn.
Atrium Village Ground Breaking in August 1980. Louis Jenn is in the middle, his sister Catharine is to his left.
Louis’ dream was not to establish a moneymaking enterprise; rather it was to create a compassionate and caring living environment for the area’s aging population. Louis felt that no one, sitting in
an office somewhere, should profit from the operation of the facility and that the staff, maintenance and operations costs would be solely funded by the rental fees for the independent living apartments and the charges for patient care in the care facility. Furthermore, Atrium Village would be governed by a Board of Directors that would serve without compensation for the oversight of the operations. Having established those parameters, he was ready to embark on the construction of the facility that would take place over a period of 2 1/2 years at a cost in excess of 2.5 million dollars.
On October 1st, 1981 Atrium Village opened the doors to its apartments and on December 28th the care center admitted its first four residents.
Sadly, Louis’ mother, Louise, who served as inspiration for the project, passed on in June 1979, at age 91, just prior to the groundbreaking. Without the inspiration and dedication of Louis J. Jenn and his devotion to his mother, this opportunity for area families would never have come to fruition. Louis Jenn passed away on March 18, 1993. We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Jenn family for their much appreciated contribution to the community of Hills.
Laying Atrium Village Cornerstone, Louis Jenn on the left.