Jefferson Terrace: A fond farewell

Jefferson Terrace is a high-rise apartment building towering over First Hill, just across the street from the Harborview Medical Center. Built in the 1960s and operated by Seattle Housing Authority, it is home to more than 300 low-income older and disabled adults. Jefferson Terrace is a bustling community of neighbors who look out for each other.

The familiar entryway and sometimes-working fountain.

And for 35 years it’s been Full Life Care’s home.

All that came to an end this week. Full Life administration moved out of its central offices and is distributing operations between its three other offices in the Ravenna and Columbia City districts and Federal Way.

Staff and a few clients affectionately called the location “JT.” When Full Life first moved into the offices in 1986 it symbolized the convergence of Seattle Day Center for adults and other small adult day health providers that merged under the banner of ElderHealth Northwest, becoming the largest provider of adult day health services in Washington State. Over the years JT acted as the incubator and headquarters for a growing suite of programs to advance our mission.

Much of the innovation and active relationship-building and bonding that has shaped Full Life Care over the past four decades was grounded in this space where administration and program services mingled and informed one another on a daily basis.

The 1990s and early 2000s brought many innovations to Full Life Care, including incorporating the ElderFriends Volunteer Companionship program, extending adult day health to adults of all ages, including the Heads up Program for those with acquired brain injury and Get Active Program (GAP) to engage those with developmental disabilities.  Our Memory Care Homes and Home Care program also began at Jefferson Terrace, followed by the development of Community-Based programming, such as behavioral health  services and specialized programs focused on housing stability.

Hundreds of ElderFriends volunteers, Home Care Aides and scores of AmeriCorps members have been trained at JT.  For decades, Seattle University students took service learning and internship placements at the day health center in Jefferson Terrace – a short (though uphill) walk from campus seemed easy enough to fit the schedule. Many would later realize that they had stumbled into a life changing, even career launching experience.

Moving day at ‘JT.’

Adult day health services at the site ended in 2010, but administrative offices remained, as did the sense of community that Full Life Care and Jefferson Terrace residents had cultivated over the years. Home Care services continued for residents there, AmeriCorps members held social coffee hours and supported wellness programming, and longtime staff and longtime residents checked in while passing one another on the street or meeting in the hallway.

Full Life staff were invited to the residents’ annual BBQ picnics and holiday parties, offering musical entertainment for several years as a band of merry (if slightly off tune) carolers.

Our move out of Jefferson Terrace will allow creation of more affordable housing at the facility – a goal we share with SHA. While this is a positive move for both organizations, it is still bittersweet to say farewell to JT and the residents there. The sense of community that we created with the residents of the building will be missed. Our partnership with Seattle Housing Authority has only grown over the years and our service relationships will continue, but we’ll miss the unique opportunity to work among these wonderful residents and to be integrated into community life.

Sean Walsh, a strategic advisor in the Human Services Department for the City of Seattle is former Clinical Operations Manager for Full Life. He was at JT last month to facilitate a COVID vaccination clinic for the residents. He had fond memories of the place and wrote to some of his former Full Life co-workers:

The great room where Adult Day took place at JT.

“As I arrived … to prepare for the upcoming COVID Vaccination Clinic …, I saw the signs of impending change: moving boxes, recycling bins, empty office spaces, and with that slightly melancholy feeling of time and history passing on,” Sean wrote. “Since it is unlikely, unwise, and for some of us, impossible to get together to properly de-commission our former working space and properly honor the great work done there — I just wanted to … let you know that I’ll be thinking of each of you, and many others, as EHNW/Full Life Care’s community room hosts perhaps its final event:  a COVID Vaccination Clinic that hopes to inoculate 250 residents JT residents — potentially saving many lives, and protecting many more. A fitting finale and legacy for a place where so much good work has protected and saved lives for the past 50 years — not to mention creating indelible memories and relationships.”

Tara Shively, a former Lead Home Care Supervisor for Full Life and now a senior counselor with the City of Seattle Human Services Department, also had great memories.
“Thanks for sharing this Sean – a perfect sendoff for a place that holds so many great memories. There will never be another workplace that compares to JT — the coworkers, community members, and of course the space itself 😊. Definitely a special place.”

A special place, indeed!  We close our time at Jefferson Terrace with gratitude, looking forward to the next chapters to be written, knowing that we’ll embrace new opportunities, partnerships and challenges with the same spirit of perseverance and grounding in community that we’ve honed over our years at JT.

The fountain.