Cleveland Manor Completes Renovation

Three words were on the tips of many people’s tongues Friday afternoon as they  tried to maneuver between the raindrops in the courtyard at Cleveland Manor - commitment, community and family.

Those in attendance at the Open House/Carnival were celebrating the completion of the much-needed upgrading of the 55-year-old Cleveland Manor I, an independent, senior housing complex for people on limited incomes designed by Alden Dow. It's located at 2200 Cleveland Ave., near Haley and Eastlawn. Since its inception, it has been supported by Midland’s local community foundations and by generous community grants and donations as well.

This project was no different. Ben Griffiths, assistant director of Cleveland Manor, the non-profit overseeing both the 105-unit Cleveland Manor I and the 91-unit Cleveland Manor II, says local foundations committed the majority of the $4.4 million needed for the project that began in April 2022. Cleveland Manor II houses both seniors and people with disabilities on limited incomes. It offers both market rate and adjusted rents for lower-income individuals.
New sewer line installed at Cleveland Manor
Mike Schaller, vice president of the board of directors, and a former chemical engineer at The Dow Chemical Co., has overseen the project as owner's representative, and explained its scope. What initially began as work to upgrade the 50-year-old cast iron plumbing and 40-amp electrical systems quickly grew into replacing all the basic infrastructure, including the sewer mains and laterals that ran under the concrete flooring, which was causing seepage and plugging throughout the entire building and disrupting tenant lives. 

It would have been a shame, he says, and a costly one, not to coordinate the work and give the building 30 to 50 more years of life. Now, the building has all plastic, PVC piping throughout.
Three Rivers Corp. was hired as the design and construction management firm and for site supervisor Doug Cook, it became a second home. Working with ESCON Group of Bay City and Case Systems of Midland, along with Sugar Construction and Reliable Plumbing and Heating, Three Rivers team remodeled the 15 efficiencies, 84 one-bedroom and 6 large one bedrooms.

ESCON upgraded the electrical system to a 100-amp system and Case provided at cost new cabinets with sliding storage drawers to make it easier for residents to retrieve stored goods.

The remodeled bathrooms included walk-in showers and 28-gallon water heaters replaced old 20-gallon ones in the kitchen by Reliable.

The construction and management team also worked through the complicated issue of addressing the problems involved in removing and replacing the cast iron piping while maintaining occupancy, Schaller says.

Renovated bathroom at Cleveland Manor
Trudy Laufer, executive director of Cleveland Manor, has spent the past for 19 years at the complex and is passionate about helping aging adults and people with a disability, says Earl Soules, who spent the past nine years working with her on the project as the board’s maintenance committee chair and has watched her establish the needed relationships to get it done.
Trudy Laufer, executive director, and Earl Soules, former board member

“She is a fantastic leader of the team that she has put together,” he says “And her relationships with the residents are pretty special.”

Those relationships were on display Friday as some of the benefactors toured the apartments and offered kudos , including Jenee Velasquez of the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, Sharon Mortensen of the Midland Area Community Foundation, and Kim Baczewski of the Charles J. Strosacker Foundation

“Residents loved the day,” Laufer says. She notes that 66 residents turned out for the carnival.  “It has been a long journey. We’ve developed great relations with Doug Cook on site and between the contractors and the residents. I could not be happier with the way it turned out.”
Don Hammond and daughter, Mary Laffey, have served on Cleveland Manor's board.
For Cleveland Manor board president Mary Laffey, the Open House/Carnival served as a reminder of the work her family, as well as the larger community, has served for the residents. Both her father Don and mother Sally Hammond served for years as board members also.
“This event is truly a celebration – of our residents, of our project partners, of our staff and of our community supporters who made this renovation possible,” she says “ Yes, it is raining – downpouring! – but that hasn’t dampened anyone’s spirits!”

Ellen Jerry, formerly a Hemlock resident who worked at Quest Diagnostic, moved into Cleveland Manor five years ago after her husband died and she developed multiple sclerosis. She and her daughter determined she could no longer live alone, and they picked the Midland complex because of the people and its community atmosphere
Cleveland Manor resident Ellen Jerry loves the remodeling of the senior apartments, especially the walk-in showers. She fended off the rain at the Open House/Carnival on July 12, celebrating the work.
“They care about their residents,” she says, as both she and the interviewer watched the water from the afternoon thunderstorm gush out the nearby drainpipe. The self-admitted socialite (“I’m not one to sit in my apartment very well.”, takes advantage of all of the activities staff provides, such as euchre, bingo and arts and crafts.

Last fall, she and her Shih Tzu, Bella, helped to begin what she hopes is an annual affair - a “dog parade,” with various prizes for each participant. She hopes it continues this September..

Among all of the changes brought about by the construction, she likes the walk-in showers the best, she said. But she appreciates them all.

 “It is the first time I have been able to feel safe in the shower,” he says. “It brought us from the ‘60s to the 2020's,” she notes.

A complete list of local groups contributing to the effort included: Herbert H.& Grace A. Dow Foundation, $1.2 million; Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, $1.115 million; Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, $1 million, Cleveland Manor Inc. 400,000; Harry A. & Margaret D. Towsley Foundation and Midland Area Community Foundation, $100,000 each; Dow Chemical Co. Foundation and Consumers Energy Foundation, $50,000 each, #Team Up for the Great Lakes Bay Region, $4,500 and individual donations, $1,025.

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at