CILA Homes Open Hearts and Doors
by Kathryn and John Moery
On a beautiful August afternoon, 25 CILA families made their journey to visit CILA homes operated by Misericordia. These families had chosen to tour up to four houses of the nine houses participating in the inaugural CILA Open House event on August 13. The houses on the tour were open for three hours, and the families were scheduled in advance to tour in one of the four time blocks offered. Invitations for the event were sent out electronically in late June, and families RSVP’d with their house selections and the timeframes in which they preferred to visit. As the MFA CILA Site Representatives, we coordinated this event, with the support of Joe Ferrara, the CILA Administrator, and Diane Carpenter, MFA IT Support. Lead families, QIDPs and DSPs were instrumental in preparing and facilitating this event in each of the houses.
The Open House concept was inspired by our quarterly virtual meetings with the CILA families over the past two years, and borne from the frustration of finding a way to stage an in-person family gathering during the pandemic. CILAs, Community Integrated Living Arrangements, are homes in surrounding neighborhoods, licensed by the state Department of Human Services. It was a challenge to conceive of a way to get 82 residents and their families living in 14 homes within five miles of campus together after the pandemic restrictions had been lifted last spring.
As it turned out, it was a warm and welcoming event. Our visitors were overwhelmingly positive. One parent remarked that the experience was ‘positively life changing’. Another parent shared that the residents "were really able to shine and be proud of their homes". The guests shared that they felt the love, joy, and enthusiasm exuded by the residents and staff, who enthusiastically gave the tours of the public and outdoor spaces in their houses. Residents and DSPs alike were most open in sharing their stories of appreciation for living and working at Misericordia. One DSP shared that a resident approached her during an informational tour and exclaimed, “You’ll love working here”. That sealed the deal for her.
Some families chose to visit homes in which their family member had done an overnight observation or had lived in quarantine during the pandemic. Many of the houses were co-hosted by parents of residents who provided treats and insightful conversation. In several houses, picture boards highlighting the residents’ work and recreational activities stood out. An informational booklet about the house, its staff and the residents was available for viewing at one house. Overall, the opportunity to meet family members of residents living in other houses on a more personal basis was a delight.
As a side bar, we learned some fun facts about the houses that are worth sharing. Eisenberg is the only house that was built as a CILA with funding from a charitable foundation of the same name. Baumgartner’s donor is still alive and visits with the residents. Walsh has two kitchens, one having been built as a kosher kitchen. When Farrow was donated, it included a sauna and steam room in the basement.
Resoundingly, guests commented that an Open House event should be repeated. With the ever-expanding number of CILA homes Misericordia is opening, such an opportunity should not be missed. Thanks to all who hosted, and the guests who came to explore the inspirational wonders of the Misericordia CILA community.