Warm Hearth Village Celebrates 50th Anniversary

March 20, 2024

Warm Hearth Founders, Wybe (Vee-ba) and Marietje (Mar-ee-cha) Kroontje (Croon-cha) emigrated to America from the Netherlands following World War II. Their story and aspirations are compelling not only because of what they survived but because they were determined to build something meaningful and lasting in their new homeland.

Determined to repay the American people for their liberation, in 1974, after becoming educated and established, they landed on a vision for a retirement community unlike those of the current time in the U.S. They modeled Warm Hearth Village (WHV) after communities in the Netherlands where seniors were viewed as valuable assets always contributing something to their family and community no matter their age or physical condition. This determination to preserve dignity and respect while ensuring seniors were viewed as valuable community resources drove their 100-year plan and mission for an innovative nonprofit community in Blacksburg.

Kroontje was a true visionary enlisting the grass roots support of friends, colleagues and community leaders with donations of time, money and land for the new development. He knew early on the importance of connections to higher education and the medical community forming relationships that have stood the test of time and evolved as the community has grown and the needs of seniors have changed.

Now 50 years into that 100 year plan, employees at Warm Hearth Village strive to keep the Kroontje’s vision and values alive and instill them in all who become part of the Warm Hearth family. “Our culture here is unique and deliberate,” says William Lester, President and CEO. “We value innovation, diversity, teamwork collaboration, community and we work hard to ensure this is reflected in our leadership and decision-making. Being a nonprofit community also sets us apart as our focus remains on the residents and their needs first and foremost. This results in high satisfaction among employees and residents, high retention and occupancy and ultimately a higher quality of care,” he adds.

The Warm Hearth Foundation which was founded to support the mission of the retirement community has become an integral part of Kroontjes’ vision to take care of seniors from all walks of life. The Foundation aids seniors in need of financial support for housing, healthcare, and basic necessities, and over the last several years has expanded funds to support the recruitment, retention and educational and emergency needs of employees. With the support of many loyal individuals and businesses, the Foundation is able to innovate alongside the organization and strengthen its commitment to the nearly 1,000 employees and residents.

Long-time resident Bridget McMahon moved to America from Ireland in 1954 when she was a child. After her husband died, she decided to move to WHV in 2003 for a one-year trial because she knew the Village had so much to offer. “I fell in love,” McMahon said. “The people here are great, we have a fitness center, we have transportation, all sorts of activities and music; we have everything. That is why I am still here after 21 years and I intend to stay. I am known as the most likely resident to have a pet leprechaun in her closet,” she added.

Warm Hearth Village is hosting a year-long series of events that are open to the public and designed to recognize and thank the many and varied partners throughout the community. A full calendar of events is posted on retire.org and most events are open to the public free of charge. Some of our favorites include:
• March 6: Dr. Simone de Bruin, a Windesheim University of Applied Sciences professor in Zwolle, took us back to our Dutch roots and provided insight into the innovative strategies and programs there for seniors with dementia
• April 20th: Grand 50th Anniversary Celebration for the entire community with live music and fun
• July 20th: An intimate audience with Conductor David Stuart Wiley, Music Director and Conductor of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra
• September TBD: Partnership with Montgomery Museum to showcase Warm Hearth’s role in the greater community and economy for more than 50 years
• September 28: Fall Heritage Festival featuring outdoor vendors, food and entertainment
• TBD: Great Dutch Bake-Off where participants will compete to prepare a favorite Dutch dish on the clock and with a vague recipe and instructions
• August 10: Our biggest and best Cheeseburger In Parrot-Dise fundraiser with proceeds advancing the legacy and innovation of the Kroontjes’