By John Fulton
James Dean of Schoolcraft has been volunteering at Kairos Dwelling almost since its founding 15 years ago. Dean is a volunteer and serves on the board of directors. Dean also knows first hand the quality of care and the family atmosphere that is created at Kairos, a four-bed facility for the terminally ill under hospice care.
His wife, Diana Dean, was a resident and under hospice care when she passed away in 2009. A cousin of Dean’s also was a resident at Kairos Dwelling. “The time of death is very spiritual. You can see it, you can feel it, it is visible on people’s faces. It is beautiful” Dean said. Dean knows; He has been with his mother, wife and uncle at their time of death. He understands the role Kairos Dwelling and hospice play in this process and how to help families cope with the dying process.
Dean started out as a cook at Kairos Dwelling, bringing meals to residents. Dean stated, “I feel God has given me gifts to serve in this area and it would be a sin not share my gift of hospitality. I knew this was where I was supposed to be. Kairos Dwelling offers a warm and caring environment and is available to people of all faiths, cultures and religious preference without charge. There is even a little chapel available on the second floor for residents and family to use.” The Deans had discussed what would happen if one of them ever needed to be under the care of hospice and where they would want this. They both wanted to be at Kairos.
Kairos Dwelling is a non-profit organization which accepts contributions and donations from the public, organizations and residents. It does not charge for staying there. Kairos provides a home for people that generally have less than three months to live; hospice services are provided there by organizations not affiliated with Karios.
Currently the four-bed facility has three residents; it’s sometimes full and occasionally vacant. In 15 years of operation, it has served over 1,000 people. The youngest person to pass away at Kairos was 24, the oldest, 104. Kairos has seen sets of husbands and wives pass away. It once held a wedding for a resident.
The limit to four beds protects the facility from licensing requirements under state and federal regulations. It does not charge or bill insurance companies even if the resident has insurance. The philosophy is to provide a warm, comfortable environment that is made to feel like home so residents and their families are comfortable. They have a kitchen that is stocked with many food items, including excellent homemade cookies. There are over 70 volunteers and a small paid staff led by Director Sue Shaw. Shaw has been there since the beginning in 1998. Volunteers include nurses, social workers , lawyers, teachers and others from all backgrounds in life. They serve at Kairos Dwelling in many areas such as resident care, grounds care, bird feeding and general maintenance. Many neighbors bring food to comfort residents and volunteers.
Karios Dwelling was founded in 1998 by Sister Maureen Metty, a Sister of St Joseph. She wanted to create a place where the dying could spend their last days being supported and nurtured without financial worry. The building was donated and over $60,000 was raised by business, churches and service groups in the area to get started.
Ongoing support is received from memorials, donations, grants and annual fund raising events like the Kairos Dwelling Fall Solicitation and a Benefit Golf Scramble. Families may also purchase a brick honoring or memorializing a loved one. Support also comes from the Kairos Dwelling Endowment begun in 2003. Metty stepped down in 2002 and Shaw then became the Director. Kairos places a strong emphasis on celebrating life in the midst of the dying process. With a current budget of $270,000, 82% of the budget goes directly to program serving residents. The remaining budget is spent on fund raising and management.
Shaw said, “The reason people volunteer is to give back. To be involved in the end of life care is a privilege. We are all on a journey and there is something beyond today. Kairos Dwelling volunteers get to help residents and their families through very difficult times. We know they are here to die. Death starts a celebration of their life. We can sit and talk about that life afterwards and how special it was with the family.” Shaw also mentioned, “When the phone rings, somebody needs us. We answer and do it because it is the right thing to do and to help others. People know Kairos is here if needed. The coffee is always on and we are always ready for a visitor. This is a really good place.”
The organization welcomes contributions other than cash: stamps, soft drinks, dishwasher liquid, paper towels, tall kitchen bags, dryer sheets, Lysol spray, laundry soap, diapers and many other items a household needs to function and take care of the family. New volunteers would be welcomed as well. Kairos Dwelliing is located at 2945 Gull Road in Kalamazoo. Director Shaw can be reached at 269-381-3685 or via email, firstname.lastname@example.org.