by Kate McEnerney
Special to the Leaven
OLATHE — This year marks Villa St. Francis’ 73rd year serving the Kansas City community’s most vulnerable, and its second year celebrating that mission while raising funds to support it at the annual Faith in Bloom benefit luncheon.
Sponsored by the archdiocese, Villa St. Francis offers long-term care, short-term rehabilitation and skilled memory care.
The Villa was founded by the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth in 1945 and, since its founding, has followed the same mission: embracing Christ’s love for all people by providing care to those in need with compassion, excellence and dignity, with a special concern for the poor.
“Changes in health care and the economy have required our administration to constantly re-evaluate and redefine that ‘special concern,’” said Rodney Whittington, CEO of Villa St. Francis since 2014.
“Today, that translates into us being one of the largest Medicaid providers in the state,” he said, “and one of the only communities in the area serving those whose Medicaid applications are still pending.
“In many cases, we’re able to provide five-star care to seniors with nowhere else to turn.”
“Medicaid covers a percentage of the cost of care,” said Duke Ondieki, director of operations. “In our case, that percentage stands today at about 90 percent, which translates into a monthly gap of about $65,000, which we have to find a way to cover.
“Without support from our community, the mission just wouldn’t be possible.”
But Whittington has been inspired by the community support.
“In my four years at the Villa, the growth and improvements that we’ve seen thanks to the hard work of our staff and the generosity of the archdiocesan and metro community have been incredible.”
Since 2014, Villa St. Francis has renovated the chapel, main lobby and memory care area. They have partnered with Catholic Community Hospice, who now has an on-site office to offer hospice care to Villa residents.
Staff tenure has surpassed industry standards, with 15 percent of staff members having worked for the Villa for more than a decade. Last year, the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) rated Villa St. Francis five stars in Quality Measures, a rating the community has maintained in the months since.
“Over the past four years, we’ve maintained an average of 95 percent occupancy,” said Tiffany Howell- Clair, director of community relations. “Every day, we’re able to provide care to an average of 160 residents.”
“We wanted a way to bring our community of supporters together to thank them and celebrate all this growth, and to show them the outcomes of these seeds they’ve been planting and sowing over the years,” said Whittington.
From this idea, the annual Villa St. Francis Faith in Bloom benefit luncheon was born.
“Last year was our first luncheon, and we had no idea what to expect,” said Whittington.
With a few staff members and a couple dozen volunteers, including members of the board of trustees, the auxiliary, the Ladies of Charity and the archdiocesan community, the first Faith in Bloom luncheon honored two men who had greatly impacted both Villa St. Francis and the archdiocese as a whole over their 50 years of service — Msgr. Thomas Tank and Msgr. Charles McGlinn.
The first luncheon was a success, tripling the initial fundraising goal and enabling Villa St. Francis to renovate the resident dining room and purchase new therapy equipment.
“The state-of-the-art equipment has had a huge impact on our residents in all levels of care,” said Kristie Onkoba, Quality Assurance and Performance Improvement (QAPI) coordinator.
“We’ve seen an overall increase in standing endurance and functional ability, and a decrease in hospital re-admissions,” she said.
“With improved mobility comes increased independence, giving residents a better quality of life,” she continued.
This year’s luncheon honoring Archbishop Emeritus James Patrick Keleher for 60 years of service to the church is scheduled for May 9 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Olathe Conference Center at Embassy Suites, located at 10401 S. Ridgeview Rd.
At the luncheon, the inaugural Joseph F. Naumann Sanctity of Life Award will be presented to a member of the archdiocese who has exemplified outstanding dedication to the pro-life mission of the church.
Individual tickets are $100 and can be purchased online at: FaithInBloom Luncheon.com.
For table reservations and sponsorship information, contact Tiffany Howell-Clair by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.