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Ash Branch Manor opens for residents
ash branch dining
Ash Branch's dining room
In a sense, Pembroke’s Ash Branch Manor got its start 60 years ago in Ohio when four Presbyterian ministers founded what would eventually become National Church Residences because they saw an aging congregation in need of places to live. 

Since then, the nonprofit says it has grown to provide affordable housing to more than 43,000 seniors in more than 340 communities across the U.S. – including Pembroke, where Ash Branch Manor opened its doors in January to the community’s first residents.

 More residents are likely on the way. “We’ve gotten a lot of interest from potential residents in Pembroke, Claxton, Hinesville and up toward Statesboro,” said Todd Puhl, a vice president with NCR. “There’s just not a lot of affordable senior housing like this in the area.”

There was even less a few years ago, when Pembroke government leaders began looking at what they could do with the old Bryan County Elementary School, which the city acquired in 2014 from the school board for $812,500, a purchase that included the gym and playground, with the idea of a senior community.

The city’s investment and desire to build a community for seniors brought NCR to Pembroke, Puhl said.

“The city of Pembroke has been amazing to work with, from the beginning,” he said. “Just the synergies between Pembroke and National Church Residences has been great.” The gym is now used by the city for recreation. The school was demolished, and replaced with Ash Branch Manor, an L-shaped two story brick building with 70 apartments and a good number of bells and whistles. Those range from free wifi to raised garden beds out back for residents to use.

There is a community center and a wellness center where doctors can examine residents and meeting areas in hallways designed to get seniors to interact with one another.

“These are areas where residents can meet, play cards, have book clubs, Bible study, anything they want to do,” Puhl said. “We’ve found these spaces do get used. One of the things that happens when we age if we don’t interact with other people is we get isolated and depressed. That’s why we build these spaces in.”

There is technology wired in -- free wifi is one of the amenities -and there’s an Amazon Echo in the lobby for use by seniors. Puhl said he’s found Bible study is popular with many residents, who must be 55 or older.

As for cost, unfurnished one bedroom apartments rent for $734 a month, two bedroom apartments are $880, and that covers water and electricity. There is an onsite service coordinator to help residents connect with local services, and the manager, Markeysea Wells, talks Ash Branch Manor’s peace and quiet and small town vibe.

“The biggest wow factor for residents is going to be the greenery, the raised garden, the pond, the beautiful views we have,” she said.

An open house is scheduled for Feb. 17 and 18th from 10 a.m. to 3 the facility, 104 Ash Branch Road. RSVP is required. Call 844-795-6423.

For more information about Ash Branch Manor call 844-214-9336 or visit www.nationalchurchresidences. org.

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