WRITER | NICOLETTE CHAMBERY
PHOTOS | KRISTIAN WALKER PHOTOGRAPHY
Partnering to Make a Dream Come True
Keith Crowell, CEO of the Home Builders Association of Western Michigan, learned of the campaign and asked how the HBA could help. Ken Klok, who has been instrumental in dozens of other community projects, and Bernie Mein, both experienced builders, stepped forward to be the project managers on the build. Crowell, Klok, and Mein connected with colleagues at the 2016 International Builders Show. Ultimately, they enlisted the help of many of the nearly 400 members living in the seven-county region, who donated nearly half of the materials and labor for the first cottage, which was expected to cost $1.5 million.
“We were looking for a community project that would have the largest impact on the greatest number of people. We knew this had the capacity to impact the lives of thousands of people over the years to come,” said Crowell.
Klok and Mein echoed similar sentiments as they shared their motivation for donating so much of their time to this build. They felt the Kalamazoo community had given them so much over their careers, and they wanted to give back.
“This project has been so fun. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s so worthwhile when you’re partnering with this many people to make it happen,” said Mein.
“Some of the most gratifying comments we’ve heard are from hospital workers who currently don’t have a place close by to send family members. Many end up sleeping in waiting rooms and anywhere else they can stretch out. Now they’ll be able to offer a free and welcoming option right across the street,” shared Crowell.
Efforts to build the first of two handicap-accessible cottages began in the spring of 2016. A little more than a year later, in late July, the house was completed – a beautiful, 8,500-square-foot home featuring seven bedrooms, ensuite baths, spacious gathering areas, and a children’s playroom – all carefully crafted with the help of many builders, designers, tradespeople, craftsmen, and volunteers from throughout the area.
With the help of a generous community, the House accommodates hundreds of overnight guests a year (683 last year alone), providing basic groceries and personal care items, kitchen and laundry facilities, and a clean and comfortable environment for people of all ages who are attending a loved one receiving medical care in Kalamazoo.
Judy Markusse Paget is the executive director of HHH and shared her own stories of why this program and this new build has meant so much to her and those who come to stay.
“We recently had a guest who represents about a third of the people we serve at the HHH. She came to Kalamazoo from her home an hour away to deliver her baby three months early and who was born weighing just one pound, two ounces. The baby went straight into the neonatal intensive care unit, and the mother was able to stay at HHH the entire time as she learned how to care for her premature baby, without having to think about hotel and restaurant bills.”
For the parents of that premature infant or the family of a critically ill child, for the parents of the horrific automobile accident victim, for the wife of a heart patient, for the family facing end of life decisions, for the West Michigan Cancer Center patient/guest – for all of these people, the HHH experience can be life-changing.
On what draws her to this work, Paget shared her own experience taking care of her parents battling dementia and Alzheimer’s.
“I took this job six years ago after spending five years taking care of my parents. I spent many sleepless nights bedside at the hospital, and people would offer me the hospitality house. It made me appreciate the situation of those coming from out of town who were in the same predicament because I understood how draining trauma rooms can be. It’s very important to take care of the (family) caregiver, too.”
What is most astounding about the HBA and the team responsible for this project is their uniform vision for what a house like this would provide: a comfortable, welcoming place for those in need – people they would never meet, but considered their neighbors all the same. “So many of the people who participated in this project have shared their own experience with a place like Hospital Hospitality House or talked of a time in their lives when one would have been a blessing. They understand the need and were eager to help,” says Klok. Their unified, selfless efforts to build something meaningful will have an impact on the community for years to come.
HHH and HBA continue to accept donations in support of this effort.