Industries Healthcare

Always welcome

Doorways offers a refuge to patients and their families

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Print this page by Tim Loughran
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Stacy Brinkley, CEO at The Doorways, is served by volunteer,
Jeannine Foster. Photos by Shandell Taylor

Stacy Brinkley and her team at The Doorways in Richmond want you to come by for dinner.

If you like to cook, she needs groups of volunteers. They donate and prepare dinners a few more days every week for dozens of exhausted, stressed guests. Most are a long way from home, staying at Doorways while family members are undergoing medical treatment at local hospitals.

“We have a goal to increase the number of prepared dinners by 10 percent every year to better meet the needs of our patients,” says Brinkley, Doorways’ president and CEO.  “It’s mostly dinner we need, but we have a soup lady who comes in the winter time and will come make five different kinds of soup and leave it for the guests; others will come and make breakfast on the weekend — and holiday dinners are a big deal.”

Or, if volunteers prefer to eat rather than cook, they also can help The Doorways by attending Savor, the organization’s largest annual fundraiser, on Oct. 7 at The Jefferson Hotel. Diners will enjoy the cuisine of celebrated international chef and restaurant owner Marcus Samuelsson. Brinkley expects the  event to raise $200,000 towards this year’s annual operating budget of $2.5 million.

Brinkley and her development staff also are pushing hard to raise by the end of next year the final $1 million or so of a six-year, $5.5 million capital campaign. That money will be used for the latest round of upgrades and renovations to its home, a former Days Inn motel, just blocks from the VCU Medical Center in downtown Richmond.

“That’s always the challenge,” says Brinkley. “When you are in a capital campaign, you don’t rob Peter to pay Paul because you still have to keep the lights on and the heat going.”

It costs Doorways $50 per night to lodge each guest, but it asks for voluntary donations of only $15 per night per guest and doesn’t turn anyone away. About half the 10,000 visitors each year at the 118-room facility pay nothing for their stays, which can last several months.

Shawn Walker, Doorways’ CFO, says the organization would have to raise far more money if it didn’t receive a steady stream of in-kind donations, including food, furniture, cleaning supplies, bed sheets, towels, toiletries and other items, from a network of local businesses.

In addition, more than 750 volunteers — handling tasks ranging from window cleaning, housekeeping and painting to collecting food donations, preparing meals and answering the telephone — provide 12,000 to 15,000 hours of service a year, saving Doorways roughly $200,000 in labor costs.

The facility was started in 1984 as Hospital Hospitality House (HHH) to lodge family members of out-of-town patients receiving treatment at what was then the Medical College of Virginia Hospital. Often these family members, unable to afford extended stays in local hotels, would bathe themselves and wash their clothes in hallway bathrooms and sleep in hospital waiting rooms.

Senior hospital officials, recognizing that the comfort of family members and caregivers was essential to improving the health of patients, asked the MCV Hospital Auxiliary to find a solution.

“It basically was the beginning, why we started doing it, because we realized how important it was to the patient,” says Dolly Hintz, one of the HHH founders and a former nurse.

HHH began serving patients’ families in the Zeigler House, a three-story, brick building donated by Virginia Commonwealth University. Guests slept three and four to a room, dormitory style.

In 1994, HHH relocated to its current, eight-story home, purchased for $1 million at a bankruptcy auction. The facility is open 365 days a year. The vast majority of the patients whose families stay there are treated at nearby VCU Medical Center, with a smaller percentage treated at the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in South Richmond, the local Sheltering Arms rehabilitation center and other health-care providers in the area.

Patients come from all 50 states and many foreign countries, with Virginia residents living more than 30 miles from Richmond accounting for more than 70 percent of guests, according to Brinkley.

HHH rebranded itself as The Doorways in 2015 “to increase awareness, to increase donations and increase volunteer opportunities, and I think we have done [all] of those,” Brinkley says.

Since then, says Kate Lawton, the center’s development and communications manager, the number of donors of at least $250 in monetary contributions or in-kind goods and services has risen to 2,200-2,300 a year, from an average of 1,800 in the previous decade.

As they finish their current capital campaign, Brinkley and Walker are starting to gather ideas about the path they want to take in the next five years.

“For this campaign, we looked at our major capital needs for the next five to 10 years, and it included big-ticket items like the generator, the elevator, in addition to the different guest spaces, so we’re hoping this checks off all those big-ticket items, and we won’t have to do another capital campaign for a significant period of time,” says Walker. “Our next major thing will be to improve our planned-giving effort and expand our endowment,” which now stands at $3.2 million, she says.

For her part, Brinkley wants to know more about the types of sophisticated medical treatment doctors and top officials at VCU, the McGuire VA Hospital and other health partners expect to provide.

“What I’m focusing on, and what I would hope the board [of directors] focuses on is looking at things from the perspective of the guest and the guest population we will need to serve,” says Brinkley.

“We need to know what types of guests we will need to accommodate in the future. All of our partners have their own plans for their expansion, so staying close to them to understand what their patient populations will look like is a priority for us.”

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