by Kate McEnerny
Special to The Leaven
OLATHE — Next month, Villa St. Francis will host its third annual Faith in Bloom benefit luncheon, celebrating the ministry’s growth in its 74 years of operation, thanks to the support of the Kansas City and archdiocesan communities.
“When we hosted the first luncheon in 2017, we didn’t know what to expect,” said Villa St. Francis CEO Rodney Whittington. “We hoped to bring our community together to thank them for their support and to show them the impact their dollars were having on the daily life of residents.”
These hopes, said Whittington, were exceeded. The first luncheon nearly tripled its fundraising goal, and support continued the following year.
“The generosity was humbling,” he said, “and that support has been integral to the care we’re able to provide Kansas City seniors.”
Sponsored by the archdiocese, Villa St. Francis was founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1945 with the mission of serving seniors in the Kansas City community who had nowhere else to turn. Today, Villa St. Francis provides long-term care, short-term rehabilitation and skilled memory care to 170 seniors, regardless of their financial situation.
“It’s not just what we do that sets us apart,” said Tiffany Howell-Clair, director of admissions and community relations at Villa St. Francis. “It’s who we do it for. Around 70 percent of Villa St. Francis residents rely on Medicaid, making us one of the largest providers in the state.”
Although expansion of the Kansas Medicaid program appears to be on the horizon, the program today covers just a portion of the cost of care.
“The remainder comes to about $37 per resident each day,” said Villa’s director of development Michelle Carlstedt, “which leaves us at a deficit of about $1.4 million annually.”
In addition, Villa St. Francis provides approximately $500,000 worth of care each year for those who, due to lack of family support or financial documentation, are unable to qualify for Medicaid at all.
“No one has to leave because they can’t afford to stay,” said Carlstedt. “Without the support of the community, this simply wouldn’t be possible.”
“Serving those with limited financial means has been at the heart of our mission since day one,” said Whittington. “And the goal of providing that care with excellence has been a key focus over the past five years.”
That’s when Whittington, along with director of clinical operations Duke Ondieki, joined the team.
“We’ve worked hard to create a culture,” said Ondieki, “that’s truly mission-focused — one that empowers staff to put our mission first and their to-do lists second, regardless of their title or department.”
The team feels this has made all the difference.
“It’s caused a broader shift towards making sure every decision is resident- centered, which impacts the way we look at care,” said Ondieki. “From a 24-hour open-dining program, to technology training for residents, to programs that help alleviate symptoms of chronic diseases and dementia — which in the past often required medication — our focus on caring for the whole person has led to improved outcomes for Villa residents.”
These outcomes haven’t gone unnoticed. Changes like these, explained Ondieki, have helped make Villa St. Francis one of just a few communities in the area rated five stars by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this year.
“It is a good feeling,” said Howell- Clair. “But it’s the positive response from residents and family members that tells us we’re really doing something right.”
This year’s benefit luncheon will be held on May 8 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Olathe Conference Center. At the luncheon, Archbishop Naumann will present the Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann Sanctity of Life Award to Sister Vickie Perkins, SCL, for her lifelong dedication to the pro-life mission of the church. For more than 50 years, Sister Vickie has worked to provide tools for success to low-income children and families — from shelter, to education, to transportation and job training.
“Her ministry illustrates the depth and breadth of the term ‘pro-life,’” said Carlstedt. “She inspires us all to work to defend the sanctity of every human life, which is really the core of the Villa St. Francis mission.”
For more information about the luncheon, ticket purchases and sponsorship options, visit the website at: FaithIn BloomLuncheon.com, or send an email to Kate McEnerney at: firstname.lastname@example.org.