Philanthropy: the desire to promote the welfare of others, expressed especially by the generous donation of money to good causes. At Emmaus, we see the effects of philanthropy every day. Sometimes gifts to Emmaus are put to work immediately, sustaining our day-to-day work. Other gifts are used for projects that may be more complex and may take longer to come for fruition. In either case, we love seeing lives changed as we work together.

“Together” is the word that most characterizes one recent project at Emmaus to renovate a home so some of our clients could live there. In the end, the endeavor involved four donors/grantmakers, thirty volunteers, two partner agencies, four client families, and twenty Emmaus employees.

Two years ago, a long-time volunteer with Emmaus, Mae Silverberg, expressed a wish for her home to be donated to Emmaus so our clients could live there. Mae was no longer living in the home and wanted it to be put to good use.

Around this same time, four women living together as housemates were looking for a new home nearby since their house no longer met their needs. Denise, Terri, Linda and Gaela have developmental disabilities, so an accessible home with 24/7 support from Direct Support Professionals are important for their independence. When the women considered the opportunity to move into Mrs. Silverberg’s home, they thought it was a perfect fit.

Mrs. Silverberg took steps so that the women could move into her home. Mae was aided in this process by her dear friend, Julie Rhodes, who helped with many of the details. The home had lots of space and was in good shape overall. However, it needed modifications for accessibility and repairs to bring it back to ideal condition. There was also the opportunity to convert a sitting room into a fourth bedroom. The vision was clear: This could become a dream home perfectly suited for the four ladies.

Grasping this vision, the St. Louis Home Builders’ Association Charitable Foundation, the Saint Charles City Council, and the Schaeffer Foundation all joined in the effort by making grants for the renovations. Volunteers from MasterCard, and from Peace United Church of Christ in Rochester, MN helped with demo and yard work.

Emmaus staff worked closely with the four women and their families on a plan for the move. The Emmaus team also coordinated with the Department of Mental Health and the Developmental Disabilities Resource Board of St. Charles County to complete the necessary assessments and transition plan. The Emmaus facilities team worked with contractors on some of the renovations, in addition to completing much of the work with their own hands.

With so many parties involved, and important regulations to adhere to, it took a while for this home to come back to life. After 18 months of renovations, preparations, and eagerness for the final result, the ladies were able to move into their new home. After settling in, the four housemates proudly hosted a housewarming party so that everyone could see their beautiful new home and celebrate together. At the party, there was a palpable feeling in the air that everyone had won with this project.

Our clients won. Denise, Terri, Linda and Gaela have a community-based option for their home and their support services. They get to be part of the neighborhood and make choices about their home, such as the color of their bedroom walls.

Emmaus won. We are incredibly grateful that, due to our philanthropic partners, we only incurred 4% of the cost of the renovation.

Our donors won. They were able to make a real difference in their community and experience the joy of helping their fellow (wo)man. They patiently waited until the day they could see their gifts alive and active in their community.

The community won. A property that was not being used is now vibrant again. The neighborhood is more diverse and inclusive. The household contributes approx. $212,000 to the local economy every year. It also represents a dozen jobs held by the Emmaus team members who support the ladies.

This project exemplifies what we can accomplish when we embrace togetherness over isolation. It illustrates the values we hold at Emmaus: collaboration, integrity, customer-centerness and initiative. It is our joy and privilege to live these values out daily through our work and to include others in the process through philanthropy.

Share This