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Assisted-living facility has grand opening

Ironton welcomed its first assisted-living facility Tuesday.

Close to Home III, located on Center and Sixth streets, officially opened its doors with a grand opening and ribbon-cutting Tuesday afternoon.

The 100-year-old building, which was formerly home to St. Lawrence O’Toole School and later became a community center, has been renovated into a 35-unit facility.

Students from St. Lawrence Elementary School sang the National Anthem and Father David Huffman said grace for the afternoon’s festivities.

“This is a great day,” said Bob Smith, director of the Greater Lawrence County Area Chamber of Commerce. “We ought to have someone lead us in a cheer.”

The center brings with it much-needed jobs, Smith said.

Mayor Rich Blankenship agreed.

“(The facility) provides jobs and that is what we need here,” he commented after the ceremony. “We are so glad that they are a part of our community.”

The facility’s co-owners are Charles Kunkel and Sharon Hartwig. The two also own facilities in Middletown, Huntington, W.Va., and Ashland, Ky.

“It’s wonderful,” Kunkel said after the ceremony. “Absolutely wonderful.”

“There’s so much community support,” Hartwig said. “It’s unbelievable.”

Pending licenses and applications going through, residents may start moving into the facility next week.

The building first opened as the catholic school in 1909 and served as the school until the 1980s, Huffman said. After that the structure served as a community center for several years until it fell into disrepair, he said.

“The parishioners are delighted,” Huffman said of the newly remodeled building. “The feeling of the congregation is that this is a good use of a building that is no longer needed (by the church),” he said.

Renovating a 100-year-old building posed a challenge, said general contractor Ron Dorsten of H.A. Dorsten Inc. He admits he was skeptical at first when Kunkel approached him with the idea.

“I said, ‘Charlie, are you crazy?’” Dorsten recalled.

“It came together better than we expected. To do something like this is so unusual. It’s not something you get a chance to do everyday.”

The company is based in Minster, which is about half way between Lima and Dayton.

Horsten’s staff took a special interest in the project because it was so unusual, he said.

“Everyone came together and that’s what made it happen,” he said.