A Legacy for Aging New Yorkers: The Congregational Home Legacy Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation (Part II)
We spoke with Kendall Christiansen and Tom Bettridge, two of the advisors of the Congregational Home Legacy Fund, an Endowed Field of Interest Fund at the Foundation, to tell us about their experience opening a fund with Brooklyn Community Foundation. In this second part of our conversation, we discuss issues that interest them in the aging space, and how their fund will continue the original New York Congregational Nursing Center’s legacy in the borough and beyond.
Read Part I of our conversation here.
Pictured: New York Congregational Nursing Center, ca. 1930s. Photo courtesy of Kendall Christiansen.
How was your experience opening a fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation?
Kendall: The process of opening our Endowed Field of Interest Fund at Brooklyn Community Foundation was collaborative. The Foundation was flexible in working with us to understand what we were trying to accomplish, and then figuring out a fund structure and arrangement that would allow for that—including our active engagement as donor advisors.
What issues are you looking to explore through your Fund, long-term?
Kendall: Aging is a broad, expansive field, with lots of interesting work going on. And we're hoping to learn more and to begin to become partners with others in exploring how we can be helpful and make a difference.
If you asked me pre-COVID what I thought we might find interesting or useful to focus on, I would have one set of answers, which are entirely different now given the COVID experience. Certainly we’re interested in the future of long-term care services for the aging, given our direct experience running a skilled nursing facility, as well as what that sector will look like five or ten years from now, what changes will be influenced by the COVID pandemic, and the like.
Tom: As Brooklynites, we know that living in a very diverse community doesn’t just mean ethnically or racially diverse, but income-diverse and everything else. With our fund, we're trying to address the meaningful needs of older adults, and we’ll likely focus more on issues that affect people who are underserved. I think that issues of racial justice, income inequality, and health equity were all highlighted by the COVID pandemic and are issues for which Brooklyn is kind of a microcosm—and in some ways, will affect how we think about projects.
What’s one issue in the aging space that you find is generally overlooked?
Tom: One of the things that I just learned recently is that less than 3% of older adults actually end up in a nursing home.¹ So there's the issue of how to help people age at home, the issue of supportive housing or assisted living. These are areas that need to be looked into, that are under-supported, I would say, by the government, as well as the fact that nursing homes are frequently underfunded by the state and federal government.
Kendall: COVID also put a spotlight on who provides these services, and the challenges of recruitment, training, and retention of essential staff for both home-care and facility-based care.
Your work at New York Congregational Nursing Center was rooted in the Brooklyn community. How will you continue that legacy through the work of your fund?
Kendall & Tom: In the early 1900s, forty Congregational churches from across the city and region came together to create the Congregational Home for the Aged. Sadly, only a few of those churches still exist.
But the New York Congregational Nursing Center survived one hundred years, serving thousands of older New Yorkers with essential care, and providing New Yorkers with good jobs in the delivery of healthcare services in the community. In fact, we embodied the three Rs of longevity, as described by Jane Brody: resolution, resourcefulness and resilience.
We are mindful of continuing our legacy, both in honoring the original concern for sustaining and supporting the older adults in our midst, and in working with our neighbors in Brooklyn and across the city.