NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Now in his eighth month on the job, Lantern Hill's new executive director Craig Karczmer said he has settled into his role. The New York native said he feels right at home in New Providence and is focused on continuing the culture and care that makes Lantern Hill an outstanding retirement destination in Union County.
TAPinto recently sat with Karczmer to talk about his new job, his previous experience and the services offered at Lantern Hill. As executive director, he is responsible for ongoing project development, operations, and providing vision and leadership for the Lantern Hill community.
Karczmer's 22 years of leadership experience in senior living services has prepared him for this new role. He joined Erickson Living in 2014 when he was recruited for the position of associate executive director of Cedar Crest in Pompton Plains. Later, he moved to Ashby Ponds in Ashburn, VA to assume the role of executive director.
He is very familiar with the Erickson culture and said he is "focusing on how people feel -- how does the staff feel? Are they happy, are they not happy? If they aren’t happy then what can we do to change that?" ... Erickson Living wants to meet that expectation. "We never have a conversation about, how can we make more money? Instead, conversations are about how we can do better, how can we be better, how can we be smarter and how can we provide the best for our residents," he said.
What made you passionate about senior living?
"It snuck up on me to be honest. I didn’t choose it, it chose me -- this field. -- I kind of moved towards that direction," said Karczmer, adding, with many careers, you graduate college without a specific direction -- and your career is built from job experiences. He said he followed the advice of his father and pursued many different experiences to give him a broad background.
He received his bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Oswego and later received his masters of public health care administration at Long Island University.
Right out of college he worked in publishing for Time Magazine. From publishing, he went into sales and product management which led to administration. "I can see the big picture because I have been in all areas," said Karczmer.
As an Administrator for a psychiatric day treatment program, "I would visit assisted living facilities and my job would be to offer mental health services for seniors and bring them to a day program,” he said.
Karczmer said he was astounded by the results. He witnessed first-hand what happened when residents received the proper services, treatment and socialization --inactive residents become fully active and engaged.
That experience took place in the late 1990s, a time when assisted living was a growing industry. Karczmer said, "Assisted living was exploding in North Jersey and I applied for an (administrative) job with a national Assisted Living provider.” He was hired and today credits the experience of working with a team as they performed the many tasks of opening five new facilities, including the hiring and training of employees, before having keys to the building, left him with a deep-seated respect and understanding of the issues involved in senior living.
He said his goal was to take on larger multi-level operations, so when Erickson Living recruited him in 2014, it was a natural fit. He came on board as associate executive director at Cedar Crest in Pompton Plains, then was named executive director of Ashby Ponds, which at the time was a growing community with several residential buildings and 1,500 residents.
Then the call came asking him to come back to New Jersey. "They said, 'We need you.' How do you say no to that? ... Lantern Hill is a beautiful campus with exceptional amenities and a dedicated staff -- and overall the reputation is very high," he said.
Karczmer enjoys being a member of the Erickson Living and Lantern Hill team. "Our mission is to provide residents with outstanding senior housing and services through operational excellence, integrated senior health and wellness, and a commitment to the Erickson Way culture and values," he said.
Lantern Hill's independent living section is 100 percent occupied [with a priority list of 400 that continues to build], and the 5-star continuing care neighborhood is at 95.5 percent occupancy, which is higher than the industry standard, he said.
“We are excited to open our new independent residential building, Bell Pavilion, in October,” said Karczmer. “Bell Pavilion features 168 apartment homes, plus a wealth of exciting new amenities including a new restaurant and bar, outdoor bocce courts and fire pits.”
"We provide a vibrant retirement lifestyle," said Karczmer. "Once they come and see it, and feel it, they can feel the difference."
While Karczmer is on call 24/7, he does love to spend time in New York City and is a self professed "foodie." He lives in Jersey City for its proximity to New York and enjoys running along the promenade by the water.
About Lantern Hill:
Lantern Hill, one of 20 continuing care retirement communities developed and managed by Erickson Living®, is situated on a scenic 26-acre campus in New Providence, New Jersey. The community is located in Union County and is home to 390 residents.
Lantern Hill, which opened its independent senior living campus in 2016, is on schedule for the fall opening of Bell Pavilion. The new residential building features 168 apartments with amenities that includes a bistro style restaurant, additional fitness center, outdoor bocce court, and fire pits. Bell Pavilion pays homage to the inventive spirit of their neighbor, Bell Laboratories.
The continuing care neighborhood at Lantern Hill opened in early 2018 and just received the highest score in the Five-Star Quality Rating System administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS created the Five-Star Quality Rating System to help consumers, their families, and caregivers compare continuing care facilities more easily and to help identify areas they may want to ask questions about. The on-site continuing care neighborhood provides assisted living, sub-acute rehabilitation, nursing care, and memory care. This is in addition to the 275 maintenance-free, independent living apartment homes.
Lantern Hill provides a vibrant lifestyle to seniors with abundant amenities including three on-site restaurants, an all-season pool and fitness center, art studio, library, theater, transportation, on-site medical center, concierge services and secure underground parking. For more information, visit www.lanternhillcommunity.com.
Lantern Hill is a not-for-profit organization, developed and managed by Erickson Living®. The community is governed by its own board of directors affiliated with National Senior Campuses, who provide independent financial and operational oversight of the community.