A house to call home

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2011

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Yakena Jenkins is the owner and operator of Wharlest House Assisted Living on Minor Street in Natchez. The location will be home for up to six residents.

NATCHEZ — Wharlest Jackson Sr.’s former house on Minor Street in Natchez will soon be home to six new residents.

Yakena Jenkins, owner and operator of Wharlest House Assisted Living, has renovated the location to serve the community. The grand opening was April 9.

The house, located at 11 Minor St., has undergone a cosmetic and structural overhaul since early February.

Residents can watch TV, read and relax in the living area.

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“The house looked nothing like this when I got it,” Jenkins said. “The biggest challenge was getting the house in order before the grand opening on April 9. We had to get it up to living standards. I had a lot of help from my stepdad and a couple of close friends, Brian Marvel and Shereda Williams.”

Opening an assisted living home has been a dream of Jenkin’s since she has been working as a medical assistance for 10 years, traveling around to different clinics to draw blood in the Mississippi area. And, Jenkins has a heart for the elderly.

“I have been working with the elderly a long time,” Jenkins said. “A lot of elderly people are lonely and just need attention if their family members have their own lives and careers. They might not have time to tend to them.”

Jenkins has planned plenty of weekly activities for residents, including visiting to the Natchez Senior Center, swimming three times a week, shooting pool, going to the library twice a week and barbecuing in the backyard.

“I will provide beds, meals three times a day, administer medication and transport them to doctor’s appointments,” Jenkins said. “Residents are allowed to have visitors between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.”

Jenkins said she is most looking forward to spending time with and getting to know the residents.

Men and women will be separated in cozy bedrooms.

“I am looking forward to knowing everyone’s personalities,” Jenkins said. “And I want them to know people still care.”

Larry Jackson and Oliver Allen own the property, which Jenkins will rent to own. Jenkins said in the future she is planning to add a couple more bedrooms and bathrooms, and down the road move into a bigger facility.

“That is my five-year goal,” Jenkins said.

Two certified nursing assistants and one registered nurse are one staff at Wharlest House. “Residents will receive medical attention by licensed professionals,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins, who has the first two residents moving in next week, designed a screening process for potential residents.

“I will interview residents first,” Jenkins said. “We will check their background for a history of drugs or alcoholism. We will also check their income and screen their personality and see who matches with each other.”

Jenkins said Wharlest House will take Medicare, Medicaid and insurance.

The sunlit kitchen will seat six.

Jenkins said she is thankful to her family and friends who supported her goal.

Up to 50 people attended the grand opening on April 9. Jenkin’s pastor the Rev. LeRoy White blessed the house. Wharlest Jackson Jr. spoke and told the history of the house.

“Wharlest Jackson Jr. said it didn’t look like the same house,” Jenkins said. “He said it was a good business to bring to Minor Street, even though it has a bad history. It’s quiet down here.

“There is a need for this (business),” Jenkins said. “We don’t have enough assisted living facilities here for the elderly. A lot of family members want their loved ones in private homes instead of a nursing home.”

Rosalie W. Hawkins has lived across from the Wharlest House since 1919. Hawkins is thrilled to see the house become an assisted living home, and she is especially impressed with Jenkins.

“I admire this young lady,” Hawkins said. “It’s a mansion for this block. This young lady could not have thought of a better thing to do than to take care of old people. Most young people only think of themselves, but she is a wonderful young woman. God will continue to bless her.”

Jenkins said she wanted to dedicate her business to her mother, Betty Jean Jenkins, who died when Jenkins was 10.

Jenkin’s daughters, Jaimya and Beyonce, like her friends, are proud of her too.

“My oldest daughter said I’m a successful woman now,” Jenkins said. “And my brothers and sisters say the same thing. They are all proud I accomplished my goal that I tried to achieve for the longest. My favorite teacher, Betty Minor, used to say, ‘Work towards your goal and one day it will be yours.’”

Jenkins’ own motto lines up with the well wishes from friends and family.

“Work hard, dream big, put God first and anything is possible.”

To reach Jenkins at Wharlest House, call 601-334-3061.