1. Who are the Little Sisters of the Poor and what do they do?
The Little Sisters are an international congregation of women religious, vowed to caring for the needy elderly. The Little Sisters worldwide family is comprised of 199 homes for the aged in 32 countries around the world. The Little Sisters have been caring for the needy elderly of Maryland without interruption since 1869.
The Little Sisters mission today is based on the founding vision of Saint Jeanne Jugan, whose faith led her to say, “Never forget that the Poor are Our Lord … Making the elderly happy, that is what counts!”
The Little Sisters care for the elderly poor in a spirit of humble service, welcoming the elderly as they would Jesus Christ himself and serving the elderly with love and respect until death. The Little Sisters mission of hospitality is based on two deeply held convictions:
- the inherent dignity of every human person, regardless of their role in society
- the reality that, as God’s children, we are all brothers and sisters, members of one human family
2. Who is served at St. Martin’s Home?
St. Martin’s is home to approximately 80 needy elderly persons in various levels of care, including independent living apartments, assisted living and skilled nursing. The Little Sisters welcome the elderly of low-income without regard to race or religion.
Beyond the Residents themselves, St. Martin’s is “home” to many dedicated volunteers and staff members whose lives are enriched through their participation in the mission of Saint Jeanne Jugan.
Envisioned in the reconstruction project is the addition of a “Senior’s Club” for local older persons who wish to volunteer or to participate in the social and spiritual life of St. Martin’s while remaining in their own homes.
3. What is unique about St. Martin’s Home and the care given by the Little Sisters?
A friend of St. Martin’s recently put it this way: “The Little Sisters give premium care to those who can’t afford even discount prices.” This underlines the two unique aspects of the Little Sisters mission of hospitality:
- St. Martin’s Home provides long-term care to those who cannot afford it elsewhere
- And the home offers a continuum of care that is individualized and holistic.
The Little Sisters and the staff strive each day to follow the counsel of Saint Jeanne Jugan: “Making the elderly happy, that is what counts!” They do this in a family atmosphere where the spiritual and emotional needs of the elderly are taken just as seriously as their medical needs, and where each person is treated with love and dignity, regardless of their disability, background or socio-economic status.
4. Where do the Little Sisters get the operating funds to run St. Martin’s Home on an ongoing basis?
Approximately 50% of the funds needed to operate St. Martin’s are generated by the Residents, with about 90% of this coming from Medicaid reimbursement for nursing care. The remaining 50% of the needed income is generated through fundraising—everything from direct mail campaigns, church collections, legacies and grants, to the numerous fund raising events held each year.
5. What is the minimum dollar amount needed to complete the reconstruction project required to keep St. Martin’s Home open?
This is a difficult question to answer. The cost of the overall project is estimated at $25 million. Of this, approximately two-thirds represents essential upgrades needed to bring the building up to current life safety code standards and to replace systems that have grown inefficient and obsolete through 40 years of constant use. However, these essential upgrades alone would not provide the much needed improvements to the functionality of existing spaces, including the Residents’ bedrooms and bathing areas, and areas for socialization and activity.
6. The home is beautiful the way it is—why do you need $25 million for a reconstruction project?
As mentioned above, major elements of the building’s infrastructure are no longer functioning adequately and are no longer in compliance with current Life Safety Code standards. In our present situation, the cost of ongoing maintenance and repairs is unmanageable. For example, when the air conditioning chiller gave out during the summer of 2009, the Little Sisters were forced to rent an emergency chiller at a cost of about $64,000 for the remaining months of the summer. Replacement chillers, which must be in place before summer 2010, represents an investment of $500,000.
Most importantly at this point, the St. Martin’s building is not equipped with a sprinkling system to protect the home and its inhabitants in case of fire. The Little Sisters have been given a mandate by the State of Maryland that St. Martin’s must have sprinklers by 2013 to comply with current Life Safety Code standards and to retain the operating license.
In addition to the pressing issues related to code compliance and infrastructure problems, the “pod” concept upon which the 1969 building was based—with six independent residential units—is isolating and no longer meets the social needs of today’s elderly … and those of tomorrow. The reconstruction project will create a friendlier, brighter environment more conducive to socialization and an active lifestyle for tomorrow’s seniors.
7. How can you justify so much money being spent on relatively few (80) people?
First ask yourself, if your mother or father were a Resident, could you really put a price tag on quality of life and quality care? Would you want him or her to receive “budget” care or the highest quality care possible in the best environment possible? Don’t the poor deserve the same quality of life in their last days as those who can pay for “premium care”?
Second, the funds are not really being spent on only 80 people. The Little Sisters have cared for over 15,000 needy seniors in Baltimore since their arrival in 1869. As they undertake this project, they are making a commitment to the elderly of Maryland and to the Church far into the future. Although the Little Sisters have only about 80 Residents at a time, many more than that will make St. Martin’s their home in the future. The reconstruction plans will serve thousands of needy seniors who will live at St. Martin’s for many years to come.
Third, the impact of St. Martin’s Home cannot be limited to those who will be Residents of the home. Through the Senior’s Club, the Little Sisters will extend hospitality to many older persons in the community. Beyond that, the Little Sisters believe that St. Martin’s—and the work of hospitality that is carried out here—have a spiritual radiance and an impact far beyond Maiden Choice Lane. The lives of individuals and entire families are touched by the care given at St. Martin’s—the Residents’ loved ones, those who share in the Little Sisters’ work as benefactors and volunteers, those who come to St. Martin’s as part of their training in health-related fields, and those who count on the Little Sisters’ prayers.
Finally, the Little Sisters believe that in their own quiet way, St. Martin’s Home is contributing to the building up of the Gospel of Life. St. Martin’s gives a valuable witness of the inviolable dignity and worth of every human life in the heart of the Church and the world.
8. What will the “new” St. Martin’s Home look like?
Three key elements will be manifest in the look of the “new” St. Martin’s Home: light, space and social activity.
Light: Entering the current building, one is struck by the effusion of natural daylight in the long main hallways. It is beautiful, but because of the current design, most of this light is limited to the hallways—it does not reach the Residents’ rooms and the inner activity areas. The new design opens up spaces throughout the home to welcome more light through the expansion of the exterior windows in the Residents’ rooms and the use of glass throughout the central Main Street area of the building.
Space: The new floor plan represents a 20–30% increase in floor space in each Resident’s bedroom or apartment. For the nursing areas in particular, this will allow each Resident to enjoy more personal living space, while enabling the staff to provide needed care in a better equipped, more efficient manner.
Social and activity spaces take center stage: The first thing anyone entering the “new” St. Martin’s Home will notice will be the central Main Street area, which will occupy the core area between the two first floor courtyards. Main Street will include several areas for dining, a library and computer area, a hobby room and ample space for socialization. The new physical therapy area, which will be housed in one of the six households, will include an exercise area for the more active Residents in addition to the more traditional physical therapy modalities. The new therapy suite will incorporate ample daylight, which is totally lacking in its present location.
9. What could my loved one expect as a Resident in the “new” St. Martin’s Home?
Your loved one can expect the same loving, dignified and individualized care that Residents of St. Martin’s have always enjoyed. In addition, he or she will enjoy a brighter, more spacious single-occupancy bedroom, more private bathing facilities and several dining and activity options in his or her household and the Main Street area.
10. Will the reconstruction make the home more energy efficient?
Yes, the reconstruction will make St. Martin‘s considerably more energy efficient. Currently St. Martin’s experiences significant problems with heating, cooling, plumbing and other important functions on a regular basis. The old doors and single-pane windows create uncomfortable drafts and the lack of natural light in many areas requires substantial lighting, even during daylight hours. The “new” St. Martins will be much more open to natural light via thermally improved windows and the new lighting fixtures will be more energy efficient. More importantly, a central plant equipped with “high efficiency mechanical and electrical equipment,” a new roofing system and “building automation systems” will reduce energy demand, operations costs and long-term maintenance costs. These changes are estimated to reduce the annual utility operating costs by 20%.
11. What guarantees can you offer that the Little Sisters will still be operating St. Martin’s Home in 10 years? 20? 30? another 40 years?
The Little Sisters have always trusted in Divine Providence and the goodness of others to help sustain their mission. They already have a long history in Baltimore; begun in 1869, this was the fourth establishment in the United States. The Little Sisters look to the future with a lively awareness of their history and the needs of tomorrow’s seniors—and with great confidence that if they are faithful to their mission of service to the poor, God will provide.
The re-establishment of the Little Sisters postulancy program in Baltimore—after many years in Chicago and then Washington, D.C.—attests to their commitment to make Baltimore an important part of the Little Sisters’ history still to be written.
12. Why should I give to the Little Sisters as opposed to another charity? My favorite charity? Why should I give in these bad economic times?
Only you can answer that question! But the Little Sisters cannot emphasize strongly enough that, as Baby Boomers begin to reach retirement and our general population is aging, the needs of the elderly are steadily increasing. At the same time, the economic downturn has significantly impacted senior services, making it more difficult than ever for low-income elders to access the services they need. Because the Little Sisters are committed specifically to those who cannot afford care elsewhere, they meet an important need that would go unfilled in Baltimore if St. Martin’s ceased to exist.
By contributing to the Caring Today, Building Tomorrow Capital Campaign, you are making an important statement that every person counts—no matter how frail or impoverished—and that everyone is a someone for whom the Son of God entered the world, suffered and died.