ALBION — In July 1978, the Lovejoy Health Center started taking patients inside a ranch-style house. It employed two young doctors, just starting out in their residencies, who did everything from routine check-ups at the office to delivering babies at the hospital.

“It was actually designed so that if we failed, they could sell it as a house,” said Dr. Paul Forman, who, along with Dr. Forrest West, manned the practice after the board of directors brought them on in 1977. “They could turn it from a doctor’s office back into a house and just put it on the market.”

But Forman and West did not fail. For years, they participated in fundraising parties, went to pot luck dinners and built relationships with townspeople in order to cement themselves and the center as part of the community.

And now, just five months shy of it’s 40th anniversary, the health center is celebrating the completion of its latest expansion project.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Forman, who retired in 2007, at an open house designed to show off changes to residents of Albion and other surrounding communities.

In the last several years, Lovejoy, which is one of 11 practices associated with HealthReach Community Health Centers, now has eight health care providers, including West, and has expanded its services to include podiatry care, adult psychiatric mental health, behavioral health consultation and care management. As a result, the center needed more space. Practically, the expansion allows for the practice to run more smoothly and provide better care to its roughly 4,000 patients from Albion, China, Freedom, Palermo, Thorndike, Troy and Unity.

About 50 attendees from the community roamed around the newly expanded center Sunday, taking in all of the new features, having their blood pressure taken for free and enjoying light refreshments of cookies, fruit and soft drinks.

What has perhaps made Lovejoy an outlier of other rural health centers, Forman said, is the longevity of its staff and providers. Forman spent 30 years at the practice and West is approaching the 40-year mark in July. But Forman pointed out many other staff members, past and present, at the open house Sunday as being with the practice for more than 10 or 20 years.

“It is very unusual to have the same providers there for such a long time,” he said. “Some of that is because you have to get a good match: people who like living in the country and get their satisfaction from the lifestyle; and some of it is the organization that supported us.”