There's a sense of community at Village Crest Center for Health & Rehabilitation in New Milford.

And it's not just within the walls of the nursing home/rehabilitation center formerly known as New Milford Health & Rehabilitation Center.

In the year-plus since National Health Care Associates took ownership of the nursing home/rehabilitation center, the facility has meshed into the fabric of the community.

"We have become much more integrated into the community in the past year," said Village Crest administrator Pete Evangelisti during a recent interview.

Administration and staff of the 99-bed facility are participating in more activities and programs in New Milford and the surrounding area, and residents are showing their support for the town in a variety of ways.

For example, therapeutic recreation director Rose Dodge leads a group of residents in preparing a meal to donate each week to the town's soup kitchen, Loaves and Fishes; the center's Red Hat group periodically greets visitors in the lobby and encourages them to donate non-perishables for the town's food bank; and residents have supported St. Francis Xavier Church's Armed Forces collection drive.

Staff member Lori Chuisano describes the programs as a way for "residents to remain part of the community and feel that sense of worth."

Mr. Evangelisti said a staff member recently participated in a community education series on aging held at the senior center.

Beyond the sense of community in and out of the facility, Mr. Evangelisti said Village Crest continues to make improvements to make the center more comfortable for its short- and long-term residents.

Renovations of nine hotel-style private rooms on the sub-acute unit on the second floor were completed last year. Now work is underway to renovate the long-term rooms on the third and fourth floors, Mr. Evangelisti said.

"We do our best to make the environment a home," he said.

The administrator cited Village Crest's "caring staff that's been here a really long time."

In addition, the feeling of home stems from the facility's belief in having consistent caregivers so the staff gets "to know the residents and can identify when changes occur and the residents like it because they can connect with the person."

Other steps are being made to continually improve the facility's care and rehabilitation programs.

Ms. Chuisano was hired to make clinical evaluations. In this new position, she visits potential short- or long-term residents in the hospital or at other locations and educates the patient and his or her family about the care that would be available at the 99-bed Village Crest.

"It gives the ability of the facility to have a face out there in the community, to share who we are, what we do, talk about our services and help people feel at ease," Ms. Chuisano said.

Her work helps "make for a smooth transition" for residents, Mr. Evangelisti said. "It can be frightening and it's a big decision to make -- where you're going to live short- or long-term."

Also new is the facility's addition of a consulting wound-care physician, who makes rounds with an on-staff wound-care specialist.

Mr. Evangelisti said care on the sub-acute unit that caters to short-term residents has increased over the past year, with the average stay ranging from weeks to months, depending on the care needed.

Rehab is available seven days a week.

Dr. John Mullen is a consultant for the sub-acute patients, while Dr. Jonathan Beck is the center's medical doctor.

"We have the best of both worlds," Mr. Evangelisti said of the doctors.

IV therapy and Hospice care, in conjunction with the New Milford Visiting Nurse Association, are among the services offered at the center.

"Our staff often speaks very highly of the staff at the facility" and their care of Hospice patients, said NMVNA Director Andrea Wilson.

"They're professional and have been there a long time," she said.

For more information about Village Crest, call 860-354-9365 or visit www.villagecrestrehab.com/newmilford.