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Still no answer for previous site of Good Sam; former residents, employees reflect on closure

By Garrett Ammesmaki,


Demolition of the Good Samaritan Society facility in Lennox began in late September after months of uncertainty surrounding the structure’s fate. Photo: Garrett Ammesmaki

Demolition of the Good Sam facility began at the end of September after months of uncertainty surrounding the future for the building.

“We are currently exploring options for future use of the property in Lennox but no final decisions have been made at this time,” said Aimee Middleton, Good Samaritan Society vice president of operations.

After its plans to close were made public in June, the City of Lennox tried to purchase the Good Sam building and retain it as a home for the community’s elderly. Ultimately, Sanford kept ownership of both the building and the property.

Employees and residents were completely moved out by July. Residents were sent to other facilities ran by Sanford, and employees were either moved or forced to find new employment.

The loss of Good Sam will be felt throughout the community for years to come. The Lennox facility was home for many people in the area; not just the residents, but also the employees that took care of them.

“(Working at a nursing home) isn’t just an 8 to 5 job,” said Dana Hanson.

“You worry about the people when you’re not there, you pick up things for them when you’re shopping, and you pick up extra shifts … when you work in a job like that, it becomes a part of your world.”

Hanson now works as a social worker at Stoney Brook Assisted Living in Sioux Falls. Until July, she worked at Good Sam in Lennox.

While she has no hard feelings toward Sanford for the closure, Hanson was devastated by the announcement, and has spent the last few months in a process she can only describe as grief — not for the loss of just any other job, but the loss of a connection that felt like family with the people she cared for and the team that she was a part of.

And, no matter how hard the move has been on the staff, Hanson said it’s been even harder on residents that have memory issues or degenerative diseases like dementia.

For residents with those issues, they’re not able to adjust to their environment quickly, if at all, and that can result in increased confusion with nursing staff that don’t know them well.

While some residents may have very involved children that can pass that information onto new nursing staff, Hanson said, for a lot of people at the Good Sam facility staffers were the only family they had left.

Though they tried their best to inform new nursing staff themselves, they couldn’t stay with their former patients.

“For a lot of our residents, the staff knew them and knew them very very well, so they would know when someone was starting to get sick and wasn’t themselves” she said. “That kind of understanding doesn’t happen overnight.”

Vyona Bultena is quick to smile. Her fingers are bent over each other from the multiple sclerosis she has suffered from her entire life.

According to those that know Bultena, she has a sharp mind and is the type of person who will make the best out of any situation she’s in.

Her mother, Dorothy Hoffman-Jacobson, was a school teacher in the Lennox area. Her older sister, Verlyss, can track their family’s Norwegian ancestry all the way back to the 14th century.

Born and raised in the Lennox Area, Bultena spent her years working as a stay-at-home mom for three sons while doing the bookkeeping for a few businesses in Worthing. She also helped her husband with his income tax business.

As the couple aged, they planned on getting a condo in Sioux Falls, but their plans fell apart as Bultena’s MS got worse. In 2017, Bultena took up residence at Good Sam in Lennox.

When the facility closed in June, she was moved to the nursing home of Pioneer Memorial Hospital and Health Services, another Sanford-ran facility located in Viborg.

On her lap is a green soft-cover copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

The 79-year-old has read through each book in the Harry Potter series at least four times, but is still able to find something she hadn’t noticed before.

“It’s the grand journey of it” that keeps Bultena combing over the pages of the fantasy series time and time again.

“I love the unknown adventure,” she said.

While the transition hasn’t been easy, Bultena hasn’t been alone at the Viborg facility.

Her brother-in-law John Parson’s was a resident of the facility and, after two years, she was finally reunited with Vynita, her younger sister.

Due to COVID-19, they hadn’t seen each other since February of 2020.

“It was divine providence that we both ended up here,” said Bultena. “I didn’t know if I would ever see her again.”

Bultena was moved to the Viborg facility on June 14, 2022, one day after Vynita was checked in.

During the newly-found time they had together, the two would chat after breakfast and spent as much time as they could with each other until Vynita ultimately succumbed to her battle with breast cancer on July 10.

Bultena’s brother-in-law died at 2 am on October 3.

“It’s been very challenging,” said Bultena. “It’s been a lot — the move without expecting it, and my sister being so sick, and then her death — people getting sick and dying, it’s been a lot.”

While she admits the move was initially a shock, and it hasn’t been easy, she tries to keep her eyes on the things that matter. She doesn’t mince words.

“We never get out of these places alive,” said Bultena. “That’s just the reality of it.”

Her voice is soft and bright as she shares the reality check. Keeping her eye on the reality of the situation helps her take stock and be thankful for the blessings she receives with the time she has left.

At the end of the day, she’s happy with the new facility.

“I’m just thankful there are places for us to live and people who take care of us,” she said.


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