Brian Center Alleghany Named Among Best in Nation

The Brian Center Alleghany has been named among the top skilled nursing facilities in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The Brian Center has received five stars, the highest rating given in the 2014 rankings. The Virginian Review newspaper out of Covington featured The Brian Center on the front cover of the paper today to showcase the honor. The ratings are given based on state-conducted health inspections, how much time nurses spend with their residents and the quality of medical care provided in the facility.

Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund CEO Tom Clarke Receives 2014 A. Willis Robertson Conservation Award

The Virginia Chapter of The Wildlife Society, the professional society for wildlife biologists in Virginia, recognizes exceptional contributions to wildlife conservation in the Commonwealth by awarding the A. Willis Robertson Award.  The A. Willis Robertson Award is named after the Congressman and Senator from Virginia that cowrote and sponsored the Pittman–Robertson Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act that established the funding source for all fish and wildlife agencies and triggered the wildlife biology profession in the 1930’s.


The 2014 A. Willis Robertson Award was presented to Tom Clarke, CEO of VCLF, on February 4, 2014 citing the historic transfer of the Natural Bridge property, donation of a conservation easement to protect the property, and establishing a path to transfer the property to become Natural Bridge State Park.  This notable work will protect 1600 acres of habitat, key cave systems, a large portion of Cedar Creek, and the iconic rock formation for which the property and Rockbridge County are named. 

Kissito’s Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund Purchases Virginia’s Natural Bridge

Natural BridgeNatural Bridge, VA- A newly formed conservation nonprofit called the Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc. has purchased the Natural Bridge of Virginia with the intent of improving the property and establishing it as a Virginia State Park.

Thanks to a major donation by the owner, Mr. Angelo Puglisi, and a significant loan from the Virginia Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund Land Conservation Loan Program, the Natural Bridge will for the first time in its history be transferred into public ownership.  The transaction could not have taken place without the hard work, cooperation, and commitment of the state and county government, local nonprofits, and individuals who all played a role in pulling together this unusually complex and important project to benefit the citizens of Virginia now and in the future.

“This is truly an historic day for an extraordinarily special place.  Thanks to the efforts of many individuals and organizations, this priceless natural and historic wonder will be available for the enjoyment of generations to come,” stated Faye Cooper, Executive Director of the Valley Conservation Council, a regional private land trust that has provided technical support for the project since its inception.

“Our vision for Natural Bridge is to be the center piece of the state park system. We want Natural Bridge to become a family destination resort that represents the essence of outdoor recreation, historic preservation, and environmental conservation in Virginia.”, Tom Clarke CEO, VCLF.

Natural Bridge will undergo a transformation of the buildings, grounds, and land to emphasize the history and ecology of the site plus develop the outdoor recreation potential of the property.  The mission of Natural Bridge is the conservation of geological and biological attributes of the property; education of the  public regarding history, geology, ecology, and biodiversity; and to provide outdoor recreation opportunities for the public to become more active and engaged with the outdoors to improve health and connect with the outstanding natural beauty of western Virginia.

The Natural Bridge, Hotel, Caverns, and Gift Shop will reopen in mid to late March 2014. Reservations can be placed by calling the hotel at 1(800) 533-1410

About the owner:

Virginia Conservation Legacy Fund, Inc. (“VCLF”) is a nonprofit organization which seeks to conserve Virginia’s natural resources for public access and enjoyment. Our work in preserving and restoring wildlife habitat is also designed to create economic activity through the recreational and mixed use of Virginia’s forests and open spaces. VCLF is a member of the Kissito, Inc. portfolio of companies. Kissito is a 25-year old Roanoke, Virginia-based, nonprofit charity working both domestically and internationally in Health, Aging, Nutrition, Natural Resources, and Human Development. The relationship between health, nutrition, and our natural environment is well documented. VCLF and Kissito seek to blend these three disciplines to improve the quality of life for the people of Virginia while sustaining our natural resources.


Kissito PACE opens with great awareness in Roanoke

Willie Amos pulls busOver 175 community members and state dignitaries made the drive over to Kissito PACE in Roanoke to witness a rather unconventional grand opening. Speakers included Terry Smith of the Department of Medical Assistance Services, House of Delgates member Onzlee Ware of the 11th district, global anti-poverty pioneer Cabell Brand, Tom Clarke CEO of Kissito, and Sean Pressman Executive Director Kissito PACE. The theme and the message was heard loud and clear: PACE is the alternative to a nursing home and our seniors now have the option and the services available to them to age in place in their home and community.

Kissito PACE TeamThe day started off when Sean Pressman warned everybody that “Kissito was a non-conventional organization and the grand opening they chose to attend would be a non-conventional break through event.” Boy was was he right. Willie Amos the the 11th strongest man in the world strapped on a harness and started the event by pulling the 28,000 pound Kissito PACE participant bus single-handedly out from in front of the PACE center entrance.

Speakers then went one by one touting their own personal experience and beliefs about how PACE is the answer to remaining safely in the community for seniors. Cabell Brand, founder TAP at the ripe age of 90 spoke eloquently about the need for PACE and the pleasure he feels now that he knows the communities of Southwest Virginia finally have all inclusive care for their seniors. Terry Smith and her team from the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services spoke of the importance PACE has in the healthcare system and how PACE is the only coordinated care for the elderly that is local and not fragmented. Tom Clarke CEO of Kissito spoke of the journey and the passion it took to get the reality of PACE and thanked many individuals and teams that made it all possible.

willie breaks through wallJust when you thought all 175 were headed for a ribbon cutting and something to eat inside the Kissito PACE center, Wham-O! Willie Amos comes crashing through a 7 foot cinder block wall with words spray painted on it that symbolized the barriers that existed up until now for seniors to be able to receive the coordinated services they need to remain safely in their homes.

Busted up cinder blocks littered the ground. Everybody was in shock and awe of the spectacle. Symbolic blocks and pieces were scooped up by dignitaries and guests alike as a memento of the occasion.

The event wrapped up with tours and delicious catered food, photo opps and media interviews. A great time was had by all.

Here is the TV coverage:

WSLS News Channel 10

WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

WDBJ 7 News

A New program in Roanoke is trying to break down the walls of traditional nursing homes

A new program in Roanoke is trying to break down the walls of traditional nursing homes and provide an alternative option when it comes to caring for the elderly.

Forget the ribbon cutting, Kissito Pace made a unique entrance on its grand opening with a truck pull.

PACE, which stands for Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, opened its doors for the first time on Concourse Drive on Wednesday.

It’s a Medicare program for older adults and people over the age of 55 living with disabilities. It provides community-based care and a service to people who otherwise need nursing home level of care.

However, PACE allows people to stay in their actual homes.

“Ultimately I think everyone would prefer to stay at home,” said PACE Executive Director Sean Pressman. “Not too many people would choose to reside in a nursing facility and those services are necessary as we age and if we can keep a person in the community for as long as possible and ideally forever, until the end that is our ultimate goal.”

Enrollment has already started for the program. The facility is scheduled to be up and running by November 1.

You can join PACE if you meet the following conditions:

  • You are 55 years old or older
  • You live in the service area of a PACE organization
  • You are certified by the state in which you live as meeting the need for the nursing home level of care
  • You are able to live safely in the community when you join with the help of PACE services

Copyright © 2013, WDBJ7

What’s In a Name? When It Comes to Kissito Village, Everything

Naming, or renaming things, changes them. It defines them. Names can determine our character and our future. Native Americans named their children after observing something that happened at the time of their birth thus: Running Deer, Kneeling Bull, or New Moon. Nicknames bestowed on us by our friends often highlight some aspect of our strengths or character, often forcing us to live up to the name. Biblical and religious names are carefully chosen in order to ensure an infant lives up to their destiny—God instructed Mary and Joseph what to call their son, and throughout the Bible told characters what to name their children. Names are powerful things, capable of changing a person, or even a building.

KissitoVillage CommMtgOn Saturday Oct. 5, Kissito renamed Hawthorne Towers, once a name synonymous with crime, filth, decay and poverty. They christened the towers “Kissito Village,” a name Kissito CEO Tom Clarke equates with community, hope, security and family.

Clarke told a group of approximately 50 residents that the name was taken from Kissito’s work in Africa.

“We’ve learned from Africa that it takes a village to accomplish anything of importance,” he said. “So that’s why we’re calling this Kissito Village. It will take all of us to make this our village our home.”
Clarke also explained that Kissito’s experiences around the world suggest there are better ways of caring for the frail elderly, disabled and financially challenged in America, other than through institutional settings such as nursing homes. The 1884 house was Kissito’s first Roanoke venture into affordable housing. They’re also working with the University of Texas and Harris Health System to establish a community-based program of care for the elderly in the Riverside District of the City of Houston. They closed on the purchase of Hawthorne Towers, making Kissito Village their next community based project. The property will be senior friendly but not age restricted. Rent is expected to be around HUD levels $345/month before utilities.
While not all elders can be safely cared for in a community setting, a significant number of those currently institutionalized want to—and could thrive in the community, if adequate services were available to them. Clarke said Kissito has learned that institutionalization rates can be half of the U.S. average with the right programs and housing in place.
All new landscaping has been installed at Kissito VillageResidents agreed, cheering, clapping and jumping up to ask questions and engage with Clarke and John Surprenant, the CEO of JMS Building, the company doing the Kissito Village building renovations.
Deborah Williams smiled, laughed, clapped her hands and wiped tears from her eyes as Clarke spoke. She said she loved the idea of the building being a village. Williams doesn’t currently live in the building, but her brother, George Turner, has been a resident for seven years. She visits him regularly. Both she and her other brother, Richard Turner, want to move into the building as well. The move would not only provide affordable housing, it would bring their family together again, proof that Kissito Village was living up to its new name.

Williams was a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) at Salem Health Nursing Home for eight years. She said she was laid off due to a disability and now spends much of her time visiting her brother George at the building.

Elizabeth Wright, a very elderly Kissito Village resident sitting with Williams, and Shapla Maden, a 22-year-old woman were happy to hear that every unit in the building will receive new appliances, including a full-sized refrigerator, new floors, ceilings, paint jobs and air conditioning.

Kissito Village and Kissito now own 144 apartment units. It’s not just Kissito Village Clarke is excited about. Kissito was officially approved to enroll seniors over the age of 55 into their PACE organization, allowing them to help seniors age in place, live independently, and transition out of the nursing home and back to the community.
As beautiful and comfortable as so many in the Roanoke Valley are, there are still hundreds of seniors living in nursing homes that have been abandoned, have no one to care for them, or who can’t maintain their homes due to age, infirmity or poverty.
The numbers just don’t add up, Josh McGilliard, Vice President of Business Development said.
“In Oregon and AZ about 1.7% of all people over the age of 65 are institutionalized in a nursing home. In Virginia that number is 3.4%. That means it is entirely possible that over half of the long term care nursing home residents could transition back into their community if not for the lack of affordable housing and coordinated services to keep them safe…until now. Kissito has a solution. By using their Money Follows the Person (MFP) transition coordinator status, PACE, and the newly acquired 144 apartments in Kissito Village, formerly Hawthorne Towers; a person could transition out of a nursing home, return to their community safely, live in their own affordable apartment, and have all the healthcare needs coordinated and delivered by PACE.”
New name. New PACE Center. New days dawning. Change takes a village and now Kissito has one.

Kissito to Manufacture Improved Cook Stoves

Greetings from Mbale, Uganda! After staying in Uganda for the past two weeks, my fears of not having anything to eat have been totally squashed. Chapati, Matoke, and G-Nut Sauce are my favorites but the staples of rice and beans are fantastic as well. Many of the women in the villages of Uganda cook these delicious foods, not with 4-burner stove tops and ovens, but with a three stone fire pit and open flame!
The conventional three stone fire on which these women cook lead to many negative side-effects. The two worst problems are increased upper-respiratory infections suffered by children inhaling all that smoke and a drain on natural resources from the inefficiency of this cooking method.
Kissito is working with partners in Africa to renovate a building in the town of Nakaloke that will be used to manufacture Improved Cook Stoves. In cooperation with the local government in Nakaloke, Kissito has secured a building to lease rent-free for five years. This will allow Kissito to focus all financial resources on production and distribution of the stoves.
Improved cook stoves in the Uganda marketThe production of the new cook stoves will:
• Create jobs in Nakaloke. As with any community, jobs are key to a successful economy.
• Reduce smoke inhalation. The new stove model releases less CO2 into the atmosphere and will be better for breathing conditions within the home.
• Require less firewood. The benefit here is twofold, more trees will remain in the environment and it will cost less for the average household to purchase firewood.
• Improve hygiene. Many villages do not have running water. The ability to quickly heat a pot of water to use for bathing will dramatically increase the frequency with which the average villager is able to bathe.
In addition to the benefits above, Kissito will also be able to sell Carbon Credits for each improved cook stove we distribute and monitor. These Carbon Credits translate into funding for future projects in Uganda.

Contact to learn more.