–by Sylvania AdVantage Staff

Charter Senior Living owners Kim and Keven Bennema and Sylvania administrator Sue Johnson greet guests at the open house on Jan. 24.

After graduating from Aurora University in Illinois with a degree in criminal justice, Keven Bennema thought his career path would lead him to law school and eventually to service with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. However, a trip to Catawba Island in 1993 to celebrate his grandmother’s birthday became the first step down a totally different road.
A relative invited him to employ his expertise in developing safety and security protocols for a state-of-the-art nursing home, rehab hospital and Alzheimer neighborhood, Heather Hill Hospital, Health and Care Center, in Chardon, Ohio.
Bennema completed the task and became intrigued with the industry. He spent the next several years working in every position at the facility as an Administrator in Training. “It was during the year I spent as a caregiver that I had that ‘aha’ moment and I knew this was the path I was supposed to travel,” he recalled.
While in the Cleveland area, Bennema earned an MBA and a Master’s in Health Care Administration from Cleveland State University while working at the nursing home and with his wife, Kim, raised a family of three young children.
Six years later, the Bennema family relocated to Naples, Fla., with a larger senior care company. There Bennema worked his way into a management position of a multi-regional operation and became involved with developing communities.
Later moves took the family back to the Chicago area where Bennema’s experience in the industry continued to grow as the chief operating officer of Senior Lifestyle Corporation.
However, nearly two-and-a-half years ago, he and his wife made the decision for him to leave the corporate world and follow their dream of creating a boutique-style senior community. They both wanted to create a culture and environment they felt was most valuable. “I wanted to focus on people. I found that it is important to take care of our employees who take care of our residents,” Bennema stated. “This business model is focused on that emphasis, yet so many companies don’t make that connection.”
Bennema successfully recruited the necessary investors who loaned the funds to help him realize his dream beginning with the acquisition of four existing facilities. That number quickly grew to 12.
“Kim and I fell in love with everything nautical while we were in Florida and decided Charter Senior Living was an appropriate name for our new company. Kim designed our logo, which includes a helm riding on waves. There is a lot of symbolism from ‘charting your course, your journey, your way;’ ‘charting the next part of your journey;’ and ‘many hands on the helm’ … representing the collaboration between families, residents and our team, and the local community,” he reflected.
According to Bennema, the Charter Senior Living community at Oak Openings, on the corner of McCord Road and Sylvania Avenue, is the first new construction the company has undertaken.
Now open, the facility offers 24 assisted living apartments and 36 memory care studio apartments in the single story facility.