If you only read one thing I write on my blog, please make it this one.
I’m pulling the curtain way back today, and I’m asking each of you to help out some folks in a time of great need.
For the past six months or so, I’ve been working at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House, a nonprofit senior housing facility right on the U.S./Canadian border in Vermont. I began working there as the Saturday lunch cook, and now I’m also the assistant manager.
The Homestead & Carriage House provides low-income housing to people age 55 and up, and we’re facing down significant financial issues in the wake of COVID-19 and skyrocketing insurance costs. The task before us now is to raise $15,000 in a very short period of time.
To speak very frankly, we need donations, and we need them now. I was just going to post our fundraising letter here, but you all are thoughtful readers, and I wanted to share more. More on what we need in a bit, but first, a little history.
Franklin Homestead & Carriage House has been around for over 30 years. In the beginning, there was Franklin Homestead, a housing facility that provides 20 affordable one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors. And that’s what Franklin Homestead remains to this day. Low-income housing. Nothing beyond that. Several years later, Franklin Carriage House was added. The Carriage House offers 18 studio apartments with full bathrooms and kitchenettes. Additionally, residents at the Carriage House are provided with three meals a day – home-cooked in our kitchen – along with cleaning and laundry services. Homestead residents have the option of buying lunches from the Carriage House.
We exist in a gray area at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House. While we provide certain services, there is a clear line in the sand, and we cannot provide medical assistance to our residents. Whatever physical and mental health needs our residents have are provided by outside resources.
This means that when COVID-19 hit, we did not qualify for assistance to provide our staff with hazard pay. There was no overlap in the Venn diagram of our guidelines and hazard pay regulations. Despite this, our board overwhelmingly and graciously agreed that it was of the utmost importance to increase wages.
So that’s a challenge, right? But it could be dealt with the rural Vermont way, with spit and baling wire. Then the second punch landed.
Based on whatever alchemy is involved in such calculations, our insurance costs went absolutely bonkers. Remember those regulations I mentioned that we have to follow so closely with our residents because we’re not a nursing home? Well, insurance doesn’t care about those, and we get charged at rates commensurate with traditional nursing homes. This didn’t used to be the case, but here we are.
Rent and service fees at Franklin Homestead & Carriage House are among – or quite possibly are – the least expensive in the state. We traditionally charge service fees below where we could to accommodate low-income applicants.
A bit about our residents …
They are a mix of locals and folks from away. Ages run the gamut, up to near 100. Rooms are occupied by individuals and couples. Fixed incomes are the order of the day for our residents, with some living on a shoestring. Many have lived at the Homestead & Carriage House for several years. Sometimes, residents meet there, fall in love, and get married. The backgrounds, interests, and needs of these amazing people vary widely. For a relatively small facility, it’s a surprisingly strong reflection of northern Vermont.
Also, our residents have collectively taken their lumps this past year. We have been fortunate enough to avoid the presence of COVID-19 in our buildings, but that success comes at a cost. Since late spring, indoor visits have been largely limited to medically necessary individuals. Meals are eaten in residents’ rooms to minimize risk, rather than in the dining room. And every day, there’s some new, unexpected stressor, thanks to the pandemic.
Family and friends have been able to visit residents outside in good weather, wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Now we’re back to window visits. Trips made outside the Carriage House, aside from individual walks, require quarantining upon return.
As winter sets in, it’s brought frustration, depression, and anxiety with it. Thanksgiving came and went with a special meal, decorations, and whatever meaningful support our staff could provide, but not the rich family traditions that, in some cases, our residents began in their homes decades ago. And now Christmastime is upon us as winter deepens, with an even greater sense of loss, isolation, and frustration setting in.
So what is to be done? Well, I’m asking for your help in three ways. I’m hoping all of you will do at least one of them. Preferably two. Ideally all three.
Easy one first. Share this piece on your social media or through email or however you’d like. Help us out by spreading the word.
Next, connect with our residents. I’m starting a card and letter-writing campaign called Warmest Regards to get us through winter. Not through Christmas, but up until springtime returns. Days here are short, cold, and gray. More so this year, given all we’re facing. If you’d like to reach out to one of the amazing folks I work with between now and April (winter is long in northern Vermont), please send your card or letter to Warmest Regards, c/o Franklin Homestead & Carriage House, 142 Homestead Drive, Franklin, VT 05457.
Finally, if you can, please donate to support our fundraising campaign.
Under the best of circumstances, $15,000 is a lot of money, and we’re trying to raise it in the midst of a pandemic that has knocked the wind out of so many people economically. There’s exactly zero that’s easy or fun about making this ask, but it’s a necessary one. Anything you can give will make a difference.
Donations can be made online by clicking this link or by sending a check to Franklin Homestead, Inc., at 142 Homestead Drive, Franklin, VT 05457.
For whatever it’s worth, I’m doing most of this fundraising work pro bono. I’m in the office two days a week (and the kitchen on Saturdays), and there’s so much other stuff that needs to be dealt with to keep things running smoothly during these strange days. So when you donate, you won’t be donating to a fundraiser to pay the person raising funds.
If you’ve got questions about any of this, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for reading this. It was way longer than I expected it to be, but I guess I had a lot I wanted to share. And thanks in advance for supporting the wonderful people I work with. It’s appreciated more than you’ll ever know.