Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Heidi Freas: Nursing Home Owner, Rotarian, Youth Mentor

Heidi Freas
Photo courtesy of Welcome Nursing Home
Heidi Freas

Heidi Freas was born and raised in Oberlin. She is a third-generation owner and operator of Welcome Nursing Home along with her sister Jill. Freas graduated from Oberlin High School in 1993 and is an alumn of Wittenberg University and Washington University School of Medicine. She has a clinical background in occupational therapy.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

How long have you lived in Oberlin?

Pretty much my whole life. When my husband and I were first married, we actually bought property out in the country just west of town. We lived in town while we were getting ready to build our house and then realized that our hearts were rooted in the City of Oberlin. 

Tell me about the background of Welcome Nursing Home and your role. 

I’m a third-generation owner. My grandfather and grandmother on my father’s side started the facility back in 1945. While I was growing up, my parents ran it. My dad was the administrator, and my mom was the director of nursing. My sister and I have been working here since 2000, so coming up on 24 years. 

In my role, I balance my clinical knowledge with my administrative knowledge and do a lot of work with policy development, customer service, staff, and education. 

I usually start my day with our administrative nursing and leadership team to review the last 24 hours on anything critical that’s going on with any of our residents. Whether they’re long-term residents or short-term residents, we review anything such as critical falls, any incidents that have occurred, any clinical changes.

I spend a lot of my time managing people and building relationships with my team and with the families who are entrusting us to care for their loved ones.

I do a lot of outreach, such as our quarterly newsletter. I’m in charge of our quality assurance program. So monthly, we meet with our leadership team and then outside vendors. I’ve spent a lot of time implementing new technology to the facility. We have upgraded our call light system. We’ve added over $140,000 worth of air quality purification to our building to protect both our residents and our staff. We gutted and upgraded a whole tub room on one side of the building. We also added a security system that tracks who signs in and out of the building. We worked with the Lorain County Public Health on a grant that allowed us to add these technologies, which has really swallowed a lot of my time this year.

It’s kind of an unusual job, and partly because I’m an owner, I wear a lot of different hats.

Does your role involve community engagement? 

Welcome has recognized how important being engaged with our local and greater Lorain County community is. COVID-19 was a difficult time for both our residents who enjoy being out in the community and enjoy having community members come in.

Also, for our staff, it was very difficult because we became the primary caregivers, advocates, and their representatives. 

Our market is southern Lorain County including Oberlin, Wellington, and the surrounding regions. It really is a more isolated region that we pull from. 

Welcome is unusual because we’re a single-family owned and operated business, and we are, I think, now the last one, at least in Lorain County. All the other facilities have some type of corporate structure above them.

How has your involvement with Rotary International impacted your life?

My sister and I have always felt that being engaged in the community is critical to our survival. We’re active Rotarians, our grandfather was a Rotarian, our father was a Rotarian. That emphasis on service is truly how we’ve grown up, serving the community, and that is important to us. We are very involved in the business world here, but also in the schools and education. We spend a lot of time working with the City schools and the College.

I have a group that I work with at Oberlin High School, STRIVE, which I’ve done for almost 12 years now. I work with a group of high school seniors, and I help them navigate that transition from high school into whatever comes next. I help pair them with community mentors that might help them toward success. 

Recently, Oberlin College was having difficulty placing their pre-med students into Winter Term projects because people weren’t allowing anyone in. We were in a unique opportunity that allowed us to have volunteers in the facility during the COVID-19 lockdown. We brought in our first-ever group of Winter Term students, and started a relationship with the College and we’re going on our fourth year. Several of those students have turned into really great employees and volunteers here. It’s been a really wonderful opportunity to help college students explore different aspects of healthcare.

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