"It has been an absolute God-send,” explains Sarah whose mom, Pauline, just moved into Catholic Charities’ newest senior housing facility. “Mom’s a breast cancer survivor and pretty tough but with my dad’s Alzheimer’s getting worse we finally had no choice but to put him in a nursing home that specializes in that care. Mom used up most of her savings to help pay for it and with such a small fixed income, she couldn’t afford her apartment anymore.”
Cabrini Gardens in Coram provides 65 affordable apartments for seniors who might otherwise find no place in our expensive region to live with dignity, safety, and independence. Cabrini just opened, welcoming new residents in early July and officially joining our 15 other communities that 1,264 people call home. Its two beautiful, brand new buildings are the result of a 10-year struggle that required countless hours from staff at all levels of Catholic Charities, the support and influence of the board of trustees, and the commitment and backing of the Church from the local parish to the bishop.
I will spare you, dear reader, the agony of the details. There were many. If today we piled our Cabrini Gardens files in a stack, it would reach 13 and one-half feet, more than twice the height of J. T. Korth, our housing director. This does not include blueprints and electronic documents.
Broadly sketched, the first portion of the decade-long event entailed designing a facility that satisfied funders, regulators, and fit in with the community — which required multiple iterations. Second, Cabrini Gardens utilized modular construction, which is a more efficient, greener method of building such a dwelling. It was, however, a new thing on Long Island, and so additional assurances and a review of our plans were necessary before we could even begin to build. To top it off, we had to keep the project moving as construction costs skyrocketed (during the housing boom) and uncertainty subsequently took hold (during the housing bust).
So, you can imagine how proud and pleased we are now that Cabrini Gardens has opened and we can welcome seniors like Pauline to their new home. “Her new place at Cabrini means she can keep her independence,” her daughter says. “She can stay close enough to be with Dad, and I still have her close enough to keep an eye on them both. From a child’s perspective Cabrini gives me peace of mind because it means our family stays together. I’m right here for the both of them.”
Perhaps Catholic Charities’ work, like that of any apostolic ministry, could be described most simply in this way: We say “yes” to people to whom the world has given a “no.” Most days, my staff and I could have sat down and written a long list of reasons to abandon Cabrini Gardens while we only had one reason to keep going. Yet it was a very good reason. People like Pauline — our neighbors and God’s own children — need a place to call home. Today, because of thousands of “yeses” that our staff, volunteers, donors, and trustees uttered in the face of adversity, big and small, they have that home.
Cabrini Gardens has been a marathon. Looking back on the many challenges, big and small, we’ve overcome, I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul wrote, “Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly ... “ (1 Corinthians 9:25 – 26).
Without the prayers and support of all of you, our faith community, we would not have crossed the finish line. On behalf of all those who have a home because of our Church, we thank you.