Oblate Jo-Anne Zimmer is overseeing the historic renovation of the Annex. As a retired self-employed general contractor who spent her career in new construction and as a kitchen remodel specialist, she brings tremendous skills and experience to the work. Her arrival as a live-in volunteer upon her retirement six years ago combined with emerging building issues can only be attributed to God’s grace.
“A person can retire to go play but I love an organized, Benedictine life with purpose,” she explained. “Once this project came along I feel like I really knew why God sent me here.”
The idea to remodel emerged when the community began to talk about the idea of cohousing, in which a group of women would live monastic life alongside the sisters. This meant remodeling the 5th floor dormitory-style rooms into suites with private bathrooms. Then what Jo-Anne calls the “pipe bomb” went off: a plumbing problem that revealed that the entire Annex system, that was meant to last for fifty years, was twenty years overdue for replacement. Add to that long-overdue asbestos abatement. Add to that the need to prepare for vocations with expanded living areas for all of the floors. A full-scale renovation was born.
On Friday, October 23, the sisters officially moved over to the retreat center for the next six months. Then the moving of furniture began for the first phase of demolition.
Jo-Anne is special projects manager. She wrote grants to Support Our Aging Religious for other improvements on the assisted living floor (and oversaw the work). For the Annex remodel, she works with architects, meets with our favorite local contractor Morris Arnzen, selects materials, keeps a project schedule, and more. She knows this project is a big deal. “This remodel will take us into the future and beyond,” she said.