I met Tom, my husband, back in ’81, and he already had this piece of property out here, and I came out here right away. I was a social worker in long-term care in Tacoma, and here would come these elders from the Key Peninsula, or I would meet people who had been living in one of those places but had grown up out here and lived out here. I could relate to their sorrow over ending up in town after a life lived in this community.
Then people started hearing about my profession and would call me looking for answers to their concerns about aging, resources, that kind of thing.
That was kind of the very beginning of it.
We started with a questionnaire and a booth at the Livable Community Fair about what people felt was needed to live here through the end of their lives.
What came up very quickly was the need for local residential care, so you don’t have to leave your community even if you can’t stay in your home.
There was this new model, the Green House Project, which spoke to me because it was person-centered and small-scale, and I felt that was the only kind of housing that would work for our community. Person-centered means instead of being institutional, it was home and everything in that model revolves around the individual. In the big facilities they don’t have choice. A person can’t decide whether they want to get up at 6 a.m. to wait in the hallway for a shower, or not, or to be in the dining room by 7 a.m. for a breakfast they don’t really like.
But here they can decide what they want.
And the word “facility” was outlawed when talking about the Green House Project. The word “home” evolved to mean “facility” in the past, but we’re taking it back and embracing the real meaning. It’s never going to be exactly like a person’s very own home, but the concept of care revolves around each individual and their preferences and their needs, their lifestyle, their skills and abilities, their memories.
In 2007 we got that little office in the clinic next to the library and got started. Incredible partnerships started falling into place. It just got bigger and bigger almost immediately.
We had to put a name to this, and I kept thinking of “silver” something or “gray” something, like the Gray Panthers, and it wasn’t working.
The parable of the mustard seed came up and the wording that got me is that the mustard seed is the tiniest of seeds and yet it grows to be the huge, sheltering bush for all the birds of the air. And there’s another quote that says if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you can move mountains. Somehow between the two of those, that was the answer because the vision was huge, and it would take every bit of faith to make it happen. And things were happening.
But then people were thinking you had to be Catholic, and it was totally nondenominational.
We served thousands of people over the years in a lot of different ways. Building this place is the other end of the spectrum of services. It begins a whole new era, but it also completes the vision I had.
It’s kind of unreal. We were so deep into this project, and then my time was finished (2018). I really didn’t know what would happen.
I always think of this one lady at Lakebay Community Church who, every time I saw her anywhere, would say “I’m going to be the first one to move in.” The original people who I knew and cared for and wanted to take care of there, most of them are gone. But there are many more coming along who will hopefully live there and make it their home. I hope so. I really do hope so.
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