2021 – A Year of Renewed Hope – you have made sure Kevin Guest House is always home
First, THANK YOU! Because of all of you, over 3,000 gifts kept KGH going in 2020.
Amid chaos, uncertainty and fear of the unknown, you provided families a warm bed, a hot meal and a community of others going through similar hardships. You have made sure families can be there for their loved ones during a medical crisis while also facing a worldwide pandemic, and that’s all that really matters.
In 2020, Kevin Guest House never closed its doors and implemented immediate procedural changes to keep our guests, staff and visitors safe. For our guests it was a year of not only the fear of going through life saving medical care and the financial burdens it brings, but the additional fear of how to safely isolate oneself while away from their home. We are proud to say we did our part to keep our guests safe and close to their care. For most of the year, we primarily served hundreds of immunocompromised families that were traveling for blood and marrow transplants along with other stem cell transplant treatments. It was critical that we worked diligently to exceed the additional guidelines put in place because of the pandemic. We are proud of the staff who came in every day to provide our guests their home away from home. This year we kept socially distanced and couldn’t hold our favorite in-person volunteer dinners, but we still created bonds amongst guests and staff that we will always remember.
Our year was spent working closely with our healthcare partners to develop a multi-phase approach to adhere to all guidelines. In March, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center deemed us essential for the care of their immunocompromised patients and we were continued to serve families from Kaleida Health, ECMC, VA Western New York Healthcare System, and Catholic Health over the past 12 months. As the only healthcare hospitality house with completely isolated spaces, most of our recovery apartments and suites remained full throughout the year allowing us to serve over 800 guests. Due to the demand for immunocompromised guests to stay with us, under the guidance of infection control teams, we limited the Garvey main house guest room occupancy to 2 out of the 10 rooms because of the shared bathrooms. This limited the number of short term guests we served, guests who were often able to make a donation during their stay. In combination of the lack of short term guests and the financial hardships for many long-term guests, we faced nearly 80% less lodging revenue than expected.
We have begun phase 2 of re-opening additional rooms in the Garvey main house where caregivers and non-transplant patients can utilize common spaces together. We have seen an increase in guests coming for in-person medical testing or elective surgeries, but we remain patient as we slowly return to normal capacity and continue to increase our disinfecting protocols. Increasing these protocols made it necessary to hire a full time housekeeper for the first time in our 48 year history, so we welcomed Leslie Weismore to the team. Leslie brings a positive outlook to her duties as our official “keeper of the house”. Additionally, Consolidated Services, an outside disinfecting cleaning company assist us on deep cleaning days of all our spaces.
While we miss all of our dinner volunteers and gathering together to bond over a warm meal, hundreds of individuals and groups have continued to deliver meals to keep our guests fed. Our new resident manager, Indira Ramaya works hard to portion out and deliver meals to each guest to enjoy in shifts. On days when there is not a meal donated, Indira takes it upon herself to whip up something delicious. We would be remised not to thank all the volunteers who have helped keep our gardens beautiful, collect much needed daily supplies, and even help renovate areas that are closed to guests. We were finally able to replace carpet in the main house hallways after several decades of wear and tear thanks to our Comfort & Compassion donors. Jeff, our House & Grounds Manager has been working in between tasks to renovate our garden apartment that, just in time for the pandemic, had major water damage. Through several grants including the Wright Family Foundation and Josephine Goodyear Foundation, we are taking one step at a time to deliver a brand new recovery apartment that is more suitable for immunocompromised guests and hope to have this available in the next few months to serve more families as our wait list continues for isolated spaces.
While we couldn’t host many of our in-person events, our virtual experiences seemed to bring us closer in some ways with all of you. Just before the shutdown, if we can remember that far back, we had our last
“normal” highly successful event, Bites & Brews, at 500 Pearl. Then the pandemic was in full swing which led Marianne Potratz, our Events & Marketing Manager, searching for ways to pivot each month – we tried new things like the virtual Spring Hanging Flower sale, Giving Hearts Take-Out Bingo, Adopt a Room Challenge, Anniversary Heart Award Parade, a new Celebrity Golf Classic location at Lockport, and the wildly popular take-home version of Supper from My Street where we got to see many of your own table settings. Marianne transitioned into her new role as Development Manager, and our new Events & Marketing Associate, Tori Menneto joined her just in time to help our young professionals group pull off their virtual Meat Raffle keeping the Bites & Brews theme strong. We finished off the year with a variety of holiday themed fundraisers including the Buffalo Family in Focus program, allowing families to capture their portrait this holiday season in a socially distanced way on our front steps. It was so successful that we hope to repeat it in future seasons. Additionally, we partnered with two local bakeries for our Cookies for Kevin project, which consisted of delicious DIY cookie decorating kits. And of course, our annual poinsettia sale was shifted to pre-order and contactless pick up so we could still enjoy the gorgeous poinsettias to at home or in the office.
While our revenue may have been down, it is because of all of you and your willingness to pivot, try new things or introduce one new friend to us that we were able to carry on and provide our mission to those who needed it most. The biggest accomplishment of 2020 was closing our first ever capital expansion at the Russell J. Salvatore Hospitality House. Thanks to the gifts from hundreds of donors – and our closing donor, the First Niagara Foundation – a project nearly 20 years in the making is complete, allowing us to now focus on improving our daily operations, making the rest of our campus more suitable for our guests, and strategically plan for our future sustainability.
As we move into 2021, we have a renewed hope that small steps are leading to big changes and we are excited to see the vaccine distributed to more people. For now, we stay busy working on the next “pivot” which is the 28th Annual Affaire of the Heart on February 26th. While it will remain virtual, we have a fabulous meal prepared by the famous JT’s Urban Italian, made possible by long time KGH supporters Henry & Judy Gorino. It will include a unique virtual wine tasting experience and some of your favorites like Mystery Hearts, Wine Wall, get-away raffles & a new set of exciting online silent auction opportunities. We hope you’ll remain an intricate part of the Kevin Guest House family and join us again in some way.
We are truly grateful for your commitment to our guests and look forward to seeing you in 2021!
Lynsey Zimdahl Weaver