Early today, I wrote a piece about the challenges of helping the residents of the Mansion, on giving and letting go.
The Mansion is a Medicaid facility, not a private nursing home or assisted care institution. To quality for Medicaid the residents must divest themselves of almost everything they own.
But they are not poor, donating to them is not the same as donating to Goodwill or other charities. They have all worked hard in their lives, lost savings to health care and drugs, most have access to some resources and to family members and friends.
I want to be helpful to the many loving people who want to help them. So I want to continue writing about the realities of the Mansion and the needs of the residents.
Clothes: Only a few of the residents need clothes, and the clothes they need are very specific to their size, health and circumstances. Many people are offering to send used and old clothes, and some already have, but truthfully, that is not helpful.
Two of the residents are currently in need of clothes, and I have given the staff a check to go out and buy precisely what they need, the money has come mostly from your donations. Sending old jeans and shirts and clothes is not really useful right now, it just means the staff has to sort through it and bring it to thrift stores or Goodwill or the American Legion Collection Box.
Clothes needs are specific, I can handle them, and if I need specific help I will ask. They are not expensive.
I think boundaries are important. Some of the residents love romance novels, but not all of the residents are able or interested in reading books. So unloading old bookshelves and shipping them isn't necessary useful or relevant.
Your generosity is overwhelming, but it's important to focus our help in ways that count. I also don't want to burden the staff with extra chores.
My idea is that the Army Of Good fills the holes in the residents needs and care – right now, soap and shampoo, in one or two cases, romance novels, sometimes a window air conditioner or the money for an extra oxygen tank or a picnic table. This morning, I went to an art store and bought Jame some watercolor kits and a couple of others for the Activity Room.
These are not things the Mansion has money for or can afford. The residents needs are very specific, no two or three people need the same thing or can use it. I think the best and most helpful thing to do is to wait for me to identify the specific needs – this week it was soap, shampoo or body wash. Next week it will be something else. It is never static.
I put all donations for the Mansion in my special fund for the Mansion and the refugees. This keeps it separate and accountable. If people send me donations through Paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org) I immediately deposit the money in the special account or transfer it there. Please make sure to mark your donations for the Mansion, if that's your intent.
You can also send donations to P.O. Box 205, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816. Right now, I have enough money for these small emergencies (holes,) there is about $1,100 in the account. We have taken care of the clothes problem, the soap and shampoo and the need for water color kits. The cat is spayed and has all of her shots and sleeps in the Mansion every night, in a different room of her choosing.
Any donation of any amount is deposited in the special account and is used when needed. The donate button at the bottom of this post is for the blog, but if you want to send money that way, please mark it for the "refugees" or the "Mansion."
The van is working well, the picnic table outside has been used several times. We've hung a half dozen paintings on empty walls. We bought a new boombox and computer printer. We jammed the closets with art supplies and some relevant activity books.
I guess the point here – sometimes, your generosity is just humbling – is that we need to be specific in our support, not general. Your clothes may not help the residents, some of your books might, some not, there are some puzzles that can be used, others that can't be.
It's not a one-size- fits- all kind of thing, everybody is different. We have to take it one step at a time.
I will offer the most specific information that I can, but I think the best help is to fill these holes in the system, and to do so in a targeted way. I depend on the staff and the residents themselves to guide me. Many thanks.
As always, your letters and messages are extraordinarily valuable, you can write to the residents at The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.
You are just wonderful, and I am in awe of what you have accomplished.