JOHNSTOWN – The Willing Helpers Home for Women is set to shut down on Monday when its last five remaining residents are relocated to other assisted living facilities.
“I’ve worked with every single family, and we’ve had no complaints,” Willing Helpers Director Fawn Quinn said on Wednesday. “You know, it’s the opposite of (what would normally be) my job. It’s not what I should be doing as an administrator, and this is the first shut-down I’ve ever had to do, but I can say that because we acted quickly, and communicated with other administrators in the area we were able to find each and every one of our residents a home that they are all very happy with. They are all doing very well.”
Quinn said the New York state Dept. of Health approved a closure plan for the nonprofit on Nov. 14. She said the original goal for the organization had been to get the residents relocated before Thanksgiving, but ultimately it wasn’t possible to relocate all of them until Monday.
“We have very strict rules and policies that we have to follow for our closure plan,” Quinn said. “A lot of people have been asking ‘Why didn’t you say anything? Why didn’t you do anything?’, and it’s because we were following the instructions of the Department of Health to a tee. I started working right away to find homes for the ladies that are comparable to here, and that’s what I did.”
Quinn said she was told in September the 20-bedroom facility at 226 W. Madison Ave. would likely be closing when the Willing Helpers Home for Women board of directors informed her that the finances of the organization were going to force the entity to shut down operations after 114 years of providing permanent housing and care for elderly ladies in the community.
“What was explained to us was, at the start of COVID the finances were already starting to be kind of offset a bit,” Quinn said describing financial troubles for the nonprofit. “There was a nest egg of money left for the home to continue that was established in with some investments, and when the COVID pandemic happened and the economy tanked, so did the return on the investments, as well as not being able to take any admissions due to COVID.”
The Willing Helpers Home for Women has operated as an adult home with staff that provide help with tasks like laundry, driving residents to different locations and helping them take medications, but was not a nursing home with onstaff nurses.
Quinn said she’s seen a number of questions from people about the closure posted to social media, including why it was happening around the holidays or what happened to the organization’s money and why didn’t it’s board of directors do something to prevent the closure.
“They did, they have been trying their hardest, but it was very hard, very hard, a lot of tears from everyone,” she said. “We have all supported everyone through this transition, and there was not one avenue that we did not try. The reason we chose the time of year that we chose was because that’s what was best for the families and the residents and that’s what they wanted to do, and also finding a safe and secure place for them to be together that’s local. It’s very difficult to find an adult home that’s local where you can find a place quickly for that many people at one time.”
The most recent 990 nonprofit tax form posted to www.irs.gov for Willing Helpers Home for Women Inc. was in 2020, reflecting the organization’s 2019 financial information.
Willing Helpers’ 2020 990 form shows the nonprofit in 2019 had gross receipts totaling $1.2 million, but the organization’s total expenses exceed revenues by $55,928.
The biggest change in Willing Helpers finances appears to have come from a steep drop in investment income. In 2018 Willing Helpers had $223,831 from investment income, allowing the nonprofit to have a net gain of $92,091, but in 2019 investment income dropped to $69,959.
The 990 tax form shows Willing Helpers ended 2019 with $807,412 worth of assets or fund balances, down $86,503 from 2018 when it finished the year with $893,315.
Willing Helpers’ annual salary and employee benefits for 33 employees in 2019 were $537,511, of which a combined $88,793 went for “current officers, directors, trustees, and key employees.”
Quinn said she was hired in December 2021 to replace 20-year veteran executive director at the facility Tammy Kruger, who now serves on the nonprofit’s board of directors. Quinn said when she took over the facility the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic had dwindled the total number of residents down to nine. She said she worked to increase the number of residents at the facility.
“They were just starting to be able to take admissions again,” Quinn said. “From there I think it took me a couple of months and I had us up to 15 residents, and then we were told from there that even if we had full capacity that there would be no way to recover from what the pandemic and the economy had done to our investments.”
Quinn said she operated with a peak number of 21 staff members during 2022, but that number is now down to 12.
“As residents have gone, the need for the same amount of staff has depleted,” she said.
Quinn released a brief history she wrote of the facility earlier this week that detailed the origin of the organization.
“Mrs. Catherine D. Wells founded the Willing Helpers’ Missionary Society of the First Presbyterian Church of Johnstown, NY in December of 1883,” wrote Quinn. “In October of 1904, one hundred dollars was given to the Society in memory of Mrs. Wells, who had died the previous year. The members then decided to incorporate the society in the memory of Mrs. Wells, to be known as the Willing Helpers’ Home for Women, Inc. in 1905, and to transfer the donated money to be used as the nucleus of a fund for building and maintaining a home for elderly women.”
Quinn said the 20-bedroom Victorian home, known as the “Livingston Estate” was given to the nonprofit for the purpose of housing elderly women by Rose Knox and her husband Charles in 1907. She said it’s been an honor to serve the original vision for the organization even if only for one year.
“It has been an absolute pleasure working here, and working with the board, and getting to serve the ladies, and getting to be a part of something important in the community,” she said. “Especially because this is something that has to do with Rose Knox. My husband and I own the Knox Mansion, so taking this job wasn’t just taking any job, it was doing something that actually meant a lot to myself as well. Even if I could go back in time, knowing what I know, I would still have come here and helped us do the best through this process.”
Quinn said she’s not sure yet what will happen to the 226 W. Madison Ave. property. She said there is not definitive plan in place yet, and it will be up to the organization’s board of directors. She said one issue in play may be a “reverter clause” from the original donation by the Knox family that might revert the property back to the Knox Foundation, if it is not being used for the purpose of providing a home for elderly women, but she said that hasn’t been determined yet.
“As far as what’s going to happen to the home, we’re just going to make sure that the best option that is available happens, and hopefully we’ll be able to give it back to the community,” she said.