Giving Back: Ave Maria Home

Giving Back: Ave Maria Home

Ave Maria Home started in 1956 when a group of ladies wanted to create a retirement community for seniors. Known today as Wings of Ave Maria, that group still supports the home through volunteer and fundraising efforts. Ave Maria is a private, nonprofit residential and day community in Bartlett that stays true to its focus from the beginning: providing quality elder and senior care. But beyond its roots as a nursing care home, Ave Maria expanded its programs more than 20 years ago to also include services such as skilled rehabilitation, assisted living, memory care and adult day care.


In the early days, Ave Maria had 36 residents. Today, the facility cares for 170 on campus. And while some of those individuals call Ave Maria their home, many come in for shorter periods of care. “People will come in for two, four or six weeks and get physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech and then go home,” said Frank Gattuso Jr., executive director.


The adult day care program is one of those changes that was added in 1996. It’s a service that is convenient for participants and their families who can either drop off their loved one or they can be picked up at their home and taken back at the end of the day. It provides a valuable service that gives individuals an opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with others while also providing support to caretakers. Participants run the gamut from younger disabled clients to older individuals with dementia. While at Ave Maria, participants receive two meals a day and a variety of activities.


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An important aspect of Ave Maria is its spiritual care available to residents and families. Two deacons are on staff and Ave Maria provides a variety of services during the week, including communion and mass but also nondenominational opportunities. Ave Maria’s care goes beyond what it provides for its residents and day participants. It also focuses on the family members, including after a resident has passed. “Once they’re there they are always a part of the Ave Maria family,” Gattuso said. “We try to get to know our families and residents because you’re caring for both groups. We try to look at the whole person and care for the families just as much.”


Ave Maria’s Bartlett facility is part of the national Green House Project, which is a culture change in long-term care. The property contains nine cottages that provide housing for 100 total individuals. Housing 10 to 12 individuals each, the cottages have shared common rooms. In addition to the Bartlett facility, Ave Maria also operates St. Clare Health & Rehab in North Memphis. The long-term goal is to raise money for a new facility for those residents.


Ave Maria relies on volunteers, including the Wings group who devote as much as 2,000 hours to the home every year. Volunteer opportunities range from helping get individuals outside to enjoy the fresh air to playing piano or calling bingo. Fundraising events include an auction and concert in April and a fall golf tournament. “We’ve had people come and play Jeopardy against our residents or come in the warmer months and help some of the folks work outside in the garden,” Gattuso said. “It’s a wide range of activities.” For more information, go to

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