Laura Dean Bennett
Following Jud Worth’s retirement, Anthony Larson has taken the reins as Executive Director at Pocahontas Center, a Genesis Healthcare facility.
Larson is beginning his second week at Pocahontas Center, but he is far from a newcomer to the center or the county.
Larson is the son of Rudy and Karen Larson.
He grew up in Huntersville and graduated from Pocahontas County High School in 1995.
He started volunteering at Pocahontas Center 28 years ago, when he was 13 years old.
“I’m really glad to be back home in Pocahontas County and back at the Pocahontas Center,” he said.
“I’ve been at home here in the Center since I was 13 years old. My parents always taught me and my sisters to be of service to others. They encouraged me to take part in the “Adopt a Grandparent” program there.
“As it turned out, I ‘adopted’ an elderly gentleman – we’ll call him James for privacy sake,” Larson said.
“He and I had a great relationship. I discovered how important our friendship was to both of us. It was good for James and for me, too.
“It taught me a lot.
Larson found he liked working with the residents and the staff there, and they liked him, too.
In a roundabout way, this relationship played a large part in forging a career path for him.
“My parents were in favor of me working in a nursing home environment,” Larson said.
When he was 15, Larson worked part-time and got on the payroll at the center, and began to learn about the behind-the-scenes work that it takes to keep the facility going.
He worked as a maintenance helper, a dietary aide and a laundry aide through high school and continued this work during summer and Christmas vacations the first two years at Berea College in Kentucky.
“It worked out for me,” Larson said. “No one wanted to work during the holidays, so I always had a place there.”
After Larson graduated with a B.A. in history, he was encouraged to pursue work in the nursing home field.
“All of my life, my dad worked in the industry, and he recommended it to me,” he said.
“My mom is also a people person. She feels strongly about the importance of caring for others.
“Their values definitely steered me toward a career where I could help people,” “My dad, who’s worked as a property manager for Genesis HealthCare for many years and one of our former county commissioners, Dana Moyers, encouraged me to take the AIT course.
“That’s the nursing home Administration in Training course.
“I took the course at the Dawn View Center in Mineral County.
Genesis Healthcare is an industry leader. It is one of the largest nursing home chains in the nation.
“While I was taking that course, Genesis HealthCare found out that I have a knack for fixing things,” Larson continued.
“So, I’ve been traveling around from one nursing home to another as a trouble-shooter all these years.
“My job entailed going to different facilities, putting regulatory compliance, company policy and proven best practices in place,” he explained.
“And I was incorporating public relations – community involvement – which is so important for the psycho-social wellbeing of residents and staff of every institution.
“When you belong to a large group or you work for a large company, you should feel a sense of community support.
“That’s so important for the staff of an institution like a nursing home.
“Staff must be supported,” he insisted.
Larson has 20 years’ experience in his profession.
He spent 13 years with Genesis and then seven years with another company.
And now he’s come full circle – back to the Pocahontas Center, where it all began.
“I’m back to my hometown and back to my roots,” Larson said, smiling.
He and his wife are looking forward to settling down in Dunmore.
Larson’s wife, Crystal Spears Larson, is from Kentucky.
She’s an occupational therapist by training and has a very similar career, overseeing the nursing homes of Valley Health hospital system in Virginia.
They are renovating a home they have used as a “camp” in Dunmore.
The whole family is pitching in to help get it ready to be a full-time home.
Besides his mom and dad, Larson has two sisters – Keri Dunz and Jeannette Rittenhouse.
“The whole family has been helping me renovate the house.
“We originally bought it as a camp, and it’s now going to be our real residence so there’s a few things that have to be done.
“So far, they seem to be pretty happy I’ve come home,” he laughed.
“We’re looking forward to settling in and being part of the community.
“It will be fun to get in the rhythm of life here in Pocahontas County again.”
The Larsons have two children –19 year old Adam, who is in the Marine Corps, and 17 year old Savannah, who will be a senior this year at PCHS.
“I’m so glad to be bringing my family back to Pocahontas County – it’s a special place, just away from everything.
“I enjoy hunting and fishing, and it will be wonderful to be close to my parents and my sisters again – to have the whole family together,” he added.
Larson said there are lots of rewarding aspects of being on staff at a nursing home.
“We get to know our residents and develop friendships with them,” he said. They depend on us and we know it.
“So, of course, we do our best for them.
“We try to treat them just as we’d want a member of our own family treated,” he insisted.
Larson is getting to know many of the residents at the center already.
“Since I’ve been here this week, I’ve struck up conversations and friendships with two gentlemen,” he said.
“They’ve each come to know I’ll stop by and spend ten minutes visiting with them every day, just checking in with them.
“Ten minutes out of my day can make a world of difference to them.
Everyone at the center is glad that the COVID-19 restrictions are starting to relax with regard to in-person visits.
It is now permissible to visit with residents.
The visits are conducted outside in two separate areas where, to ensure safely, visitors and residents will maintain social distance standards and wear masks during the visit.
“Of course, our first priority is the health and safety of our residents, but it’s so important for them to have visitors.
“I will say that there’s been one silver lining about having the residents quarantined for these past months.
“It’s brought the staff and residents closer.
“With no visits allowed, the staff had to fill in as family for the residents, and it made them even closer to the residents.
“That’s a tremendous responsibility.
“And we take it seriously,” he said.
It’s also a big responsibility following in Jud Worth’s footsteps.
“I went to school with Jud’s kids. I’ve known him practically all my life,” Larson said.
“He’s so well thought of, so I know I have some big shoes to fill.
“One of the last things Jud was able to do before he retired was to increase nursing wages for the nurses and CNAs at the center.
The center, which is a 68 bed facility with 63 residents at the moment, is looking to add staff.
“Wages are key to attracting qualified staff,” Larson explained.
“It’s important to have qualified staff so that the residents will be well taken care of.
“Comparable wages allow us to draw local talent.
“Our wages are now comparable to those at facilities in Greenbrier County.
“If someone is considering a staff position in a nursing facility, they don’t have to leave home.
“They don’t have to go out of county for a job.
“It’s good for them and it’s good for us – which means it’s good for our residents.
“I’d say that if you have compassion and are looking for a job in the compassion business, call me,” Larson said.
“I firmly believe that if you take care of your employees, they’ll be better able to take care of our residents.”
The phone number at Pocahontas Center is 304-799-7375.