Heritage Christian Services embarks on record campaign

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With a fundraising goal of $9.1 million, Heritage Christian Services plans to renovate or build 12 homes to further support the changing needs of its residents as they age. The human services provider for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities kicked off its largest capital campaign, Homes With Hearts, last month.

Based in Rochester with a presence in the Finger Lakes region and Western New York, Heritage has more than 100 locations. Within its residential program alone, 65 of these locations are community homes that offer 24-hour staffing support for 300 to 400 people. In addition to residential programs, the organization offers many services, including day programs to foster lifelong learning, respite programs for short-term care, and one-on-one community rehabilitation. 

Heritage’s annual revenues topped $120 million in 2022, its annual report states. Residential services account for nearly half of its expenditures. The organization employs more than 3,600 people.

As the organization has grown, so have the needs of the people it supports. Heritage has seen increased medical complexities and challenges–more than half of the people served are over age 50. By updating its homes, the agency plans to give those it supports the option to age in place surrounded by people who know them and can care for them through all stages of life.

The money raised from the capital campaign will be used to update eight current residential properties and construct four additional homes, built intentionally to support residents’ independence and choice. Renovations and building plans include constructing single-story homes and making universal adaptations, such as widening hallways and entryways for people who use wheelchairs, and adding railings to assist with mobility.

The organization also plans to continue prioritizing building a compassionate workforce to ensure high-quality care.

“These new and renovated homes will improve the livability and accessibility for people and their families, while also making us more efficient,” says Marisa Geitner, Heritage president and CEO. “This is about ensuring that those we support may be afforded the same high-quality options to age in place and receive the end-of-life care at home that you and I want for ourselves and our families. We’ll serve people through every stage of life and meet the more complex needs of those coming to us in the future.”

Planning for the Homes With Heart campaign has been four years in the making, beginning in 2019. The campaign’s fundraising goal is the largest in its 39-year history. With an ambitious financial goal comes challenges and a need for community engagement.

“One of our challenges is that some of the people we support are outliving their family members, and while that’s significant, not all have loved ones who can join the campaign,” says Geitner. “That’s why we’re reaching out to the community asking for help to bridge the gap to $9.1 million. 

“We’re finding just about every person can relate to wanting the option to age in place, and be surrounded by people who matter to them, through the end of their life,” she adds. “We’ve been able to touch the lives of thousands of people over the last four decades thanks to community partners and their generosity, and we’re inspired by the support we’re seeing now.”

A large source of community support for the Homes With Heart capital campaign comes from Rochester Clinical Research founder Patricia Larrabee, and her sons, Adam and Brendan. For every dollar donated to the campaign, the Larrabee family has pledged to donate two more.

The family became involved with Heritage during 2020, when Patricia Larrabee’s sister Mimi chose the agency to support her needs. Mimi and her family have found their experience with Heritage to be not only positive but crucial.

“One of the things Mimi has said about Heritage is that ‘It’s nice to feel special,’” says Patricia Larrabee. “That is something I think the Heritage staff is skilled at. Everyone wants a place to call home. Everyone wants a place where they’re wanted and known. Everyone wants to feel special. 

“Mimi is also an artist, and they’ve shown quite a bit of her artwork throughout the campaign. She has also said, ‘It’s nice to be recognized.’ When someone is able to be uplifted, recognized as an individual, and treated with kindness and respect, they are able to excel in the gifts they can give all of us. This has been something that has blossomed in Mimi with Heritage’s care.”

Patricia Larrabee with her sister Mary Ellen “Mimi” Dundon (Photos courtesy of Heritage Christian Services)

Following Mimi’s positive introduction to the organization, Patricia Larrabee became a board member. When the board was discussing a way to get the word out about the capital campaign, Larrabee thought Mimi’s story was the way to do so. 

The Larrabee family plans to continue to support the campaign through upcoming events, such as Heritage’s Golf Classic in August–Adam Larrabee serves on the planning committee. The family sees value in gifts of any size and hopes to spread this message to the community.

“We all have to do our part, and as members of this community, we want to give back to this community,” says Adam Larrabee. “It takes people living in communities to see change through. Heritage’s work is an example of community members coming together and making an impact.”

Adds Patricia Larrabee: “A philosophy we have at our company Rochester Clinical Research is ‘better together,’ The healthier, the more engaged, the more vibrant our community is, the stronger we are going to be as individuals.” 

Evan Coleman is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer and a recent University of Rochester graduate. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

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