Here are the facts about Carriage House Manor's owner Arvis Tanton and his family:
Arvis was raised in Emory;
He has worked in the nursing home industry since 1974;
He worked for the state of Texas for 14 years;
He's served as administrator of nursing homes in Sherman, Honey Grove, Cooper and Terrell;
He came to Sulphur Springs as administrator for Carriage House Manor in July of 1992;
He and his wife, Sulphur Springs native, the former Sheila Baxley, purchased the facility in October of 2000;
Carriage House Manor has 120 beds; The Cottages at Carriage House have 24 beds, 12 in each cottage;
The Tantons’ two daughters, Sharla Tanton Campbell and Shandra Tanton Dunn, work at the facility; and
Tanton's sister-in-law, Charlotte Baxter, also works at Carriage House Manor.
Here's everything else you need to know about The Tantons:
They love their work.
“My very first job was as a social worker,” the patriarch said during an interview in his office last week.
Tanton and Sheila moved to a small rent house in Canton, where he was assigned to three nursing homes – one in Wills Point, one in Grand Saline and one in Canton.
“I remember going home for lunch one day and told my wife, 'We need to buy a nursing home,'” he remembered. “She said, 'Well, how will we do it?' and I said, 'I don't know.'”
Obviously, they figured it out. Not only did they realize their dream –?the couple has brought their family along for the ride.
Daughter Shandra is the facility's speech therapist.
“She started working with kids here in town, and then came here,” Arvis said. “She's absolutely amazing with the residents.”
Daughter Sharla joined the team after graduating from college.
Arvis invited her to the interview to “keep me from saying anything stupid.” Their working relationship seems to be based on mutual respect and a lot of laughter.
“I kept changing my mind on my major,” she explained during an interview in her dad's busy office. “I didn't think I wanted to go into the nursing home business.”
After accepting her father's offer of a job at Carriage House, Sharla began taking classes for her masters degree in business administration.
“I started in hospital administration, which got me into health care administration,” she noted. “Then I got to the gerontology classes. They were talking about changes in the long-term care industry and raving about 'green homes.' It was enough to spark my interest.”
As Arvis explains it, “She had a dream.” Sharla wanted to build a green home as an extension of Carriage House Manor.
After looking at several models, the Tantons put their heads together and came up with an idea. The Cottages at Carriage House opened in April 2012. The Tantons are the first owners of a for profit skilled care facility in the state of Texas to do this small home concept. They decided not to license the new building as a “green home” due to increased cost and a mountain of regulations.
According to Arvis, traditional green homes are made to look like a neighborhood home, but The Cottages are much more.
“They're larger than an average green house,” he said of his 9,200 square foot facility. “Most green homes are 8,000 square feet.”
At the Cottages, everybody has a private room. Everybody has a private toilet, and everybody has a private shower.
“It's very home like,” he noted.
There's a large family-style dining table and a family-style kitchen where residents and their families can cook. There's a breakfast bar and an imitation fire place with gas logs, where residents can sit, visit and watch television. The Cottages also features a small game room and a “nice little conference room,” according to Arvis.
The Cottages broke away from the traditional green home when it came to overall layout, however.
“One of the complaints I heard about green homes was that everything opened into the common area,” he explained. “Our rooms open into a large hall very close to the common area, but not right into it.”
The Cottages filled up pretty quickly after opening.
“It's a good thing when people from Dallas are calling and asking ‘How can I get in there?’” Sharla commented.
The Cottages is a skilled nursing care facility, offering everything that Carriage House Manor does, including rehabilitation and other therapy. It also offers a bit more privacy for residents.
The Cottages is licensed for one bed in a room, but the next time they build, Arvis says they'll probably put in a few rooms for couples.
Sharla noted that studies have proven “when you're in a home setting as opposed to an institutional setting, you're happier and you're more motivated, which means you're going to get better faster.”
And, that, she says, is the purpose of The Cottages.
“We're trying to redefine and change people's opinion of 'nursing homes.'”
“I don't think we've had anybody from out there go home unhappy,” Arvis noted with a laugh. “Actually some people didn't want to leave.”
When asked why his operation has been successful, Arvis has a ready reply.
“It's locally owned and operated, and we are here every day,” he said. “I don't have an 800-pound gorilla corporate office to answer to. Other homes have that corporation to feed. Corporation gets fed first.”
At Carriage House Manor and The Cottages, it's exactly the opposite, Arvis notes.
“Our residents get what they need – whatever it is – equipment, Internet, a free beauty shop,” he said. “We provide whatever they need to help them live a healthy happy life.”
Another point of light in the organization are the employees.
“I've been here 20 years,” Arvis said. “Some of our employees have been here for 19 years. Our nurses, dietary and housekeeping staff are real stable.”
Arvis has put his money where his mouth is when it comes to his own family, too.
“My mother was here until she passed away,” he explained. “My wife's parents are here now.”
And, Arvis' door is always open.
“I'm here every day,” he said. “A resident or family member can come right in and sit down and spend time with the owner.”
They might want to get in line, as Arvis wants to spend more time with Sharla's 2-year-old son, Andrew, as she moves from billing to administration.
“I have my license and we're in the process of trying to transition to where I can be more management and less billing,” Sharla explained. “I'm training someone [to do the billing].”
That's just fine with Arvis.
“And, I'm trying to transition into staying home and taking care of her son,” he beamed.
Once Sharla gets comfortable with her new duties, Arvis might be spending less time at the office, but he will remain involved in charitable activities.
Last year, he and Sheila were co-chairs of the Lights of Life Gala, the largest social event in town. The gala benefits the Lights of Life Foundation, which in turns supports Hopkins County Memorial Hospital.
“It was a lot of fun,” he recalled. “The gala committee is an amazing group of people. It's a beautiful thing to watch them work.”
The Tanton family is happy to continue doing what they love.
When asked if the reality of owning a long-term care facility has been all he hoped for in 1974.
“It's been everything I wanted and so much more,” he answered.
Carriage House Manor and The Cottages are located at 210 Pipeline Road in Sulphur Springs. For more information, call 903-885-3589.
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