Opinion

VCC: A stable financial future is in reach

I am blessed to have been born into a large, traditional and extended Italian family filled with deep respect, love and care for all, especially for the elder generation.

My grandmother was the oldest of 10 children, all of whom grew up and then settled in Rainier Valley. My fondest childhood memories include the many family gatherings filled with laughter, joy and much affection and where I often listened to my elder relatives sharing their wisdom about facing adversity and nurturing hope for the family’s future. The love and respect I feel for my family was my inspiration to serve on Vashon Community Care’s board of directors.

VCC has deep roots in the community, going back to the 1930s. In 1995, the old Island Nursing Home was about to close, forcing residents off Island. Thirty members of the community banded together to save elder care on Vashon by pledging $10,000 each to create a new non-profit organization that became Vashon Community Care.

The first challenge to the new VCC was replacing the old decrepit and inadequate building with a new facility. To do so, a mortgage was taken out at the prevailing interest rate of 7.68 percent. Over the years, VCC has successfully — albeit stressfully — operated on a budget that included monthly mortgage payments of over $55,000 while delivering the highest quality care to every resident who called VCC home. In addition, VCC has always provided that same level of high quality care to residents who deplete their financial resources and must rely on Medicaid.

Now there are new challenges. In 2011, 68 percent of skilled nursing and 31 percent of assisted living residents were covered by Medicaid, which paid only 79 percent (skilled nursing) and 49 percent (assisted living) of the cost of their care. At the same time, expenses have gone up and up. There have been extreme and unexpected reductions in federal and state funding for elder care.

And the downturn in the cost of housing has forced some who might otherwise move to VCC to stay in their homes — resulting in several years of low occupancy rates.

Over the past year, VCC has taken a number of steps to assure its long-term sustainability. New revenue generating services have been added, cost of operations has been reviewed and reduced, and a concerted effort to improve our occupancy rate has resulted in a waiting list for assisted living spaces. But more needs to be done.

A major initiative has been undertaken to dramatically reduce overhead by refinancing our 7.68 percent mortgage. By taking advantage of current interest rates, VCC can save over $20,000 each month or over $240,000 each year.  But to do so, we need your help.

To refinance, VCC has to raise $350,000 by the end of the year to cover the costs. Because the opportunity to refinance at the current low interest rate is so urgent, we are asking you to donate to this effort to help assure a financially stable future for VCC.

VCC has touched many lives on Vashon – elders in need of housing and services, families who need assistance caring for their loved one, the hundreds of volunteers who have helped bring joy into so many lives. Perhaps, you or your family are among them. If not, keep in mind that, like it or not, we’re all aging and that some day we might rely on VCC to help us through our later years. You see, we’re not here to serve just a few today, but to serve future generations as well.

While I’m fortunate to be part of a large and nurturing family, VCC is often that caring family for many in our community. Please, I urge you to dig deep and contribute to VCC at a time when it’s most needed.

 

— Linda Bianchi, a real estate agent on Vashon, serves on Vashon Community Care’s board.

 

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