Commentary

Saunders: Adult care center, struggling to stay afloat, hosts fundraiser

bsaunders@newsobserver.comApril 10, 2013 

  • Friday’s fundraiser

    Divine Destiny Adult Care’s “Keeping Our Doors Open” rib and chicken fundraiser will be Friday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. at 612 Powell St. in Smithfield. Rib plates are $10 and chicken plates $8. Take-out only.

Katrina Boylan opened Divine Destiny Adult Care last year on a wing and a prayer.

Less than a year later, that wing is about to be clipped.

The Smithfield adult day center is gasping for life. If it is forced to close, disabled adults and their families who depend on it for low-cost care could see their already desperate lives thrust into even more turmoil.

Offering such an essential service at a near-nominal cost has certainly resulted in the business, religious and government communities rallying around Boylan and her dream, right?

Not exactly.

“That’s been the disheartening part,” she told me. “We really haven’t received the community support we anticipated we’d receive.”

Entreaties to already-squeezed county and town governments have been rebuffed. Although, she added brightly, a local group brings in pets for pet therapy, and a couple of churches have come in to sing spirituals and hold prayer services there.

‘My passion’

Prayer, unfortunately, doesn’t pay the water, electric and gas bills. Nor does it pay for the sprinkler system she had to install before opening up in a formerly abandoned building.

“That took up a lot of the money we thought we’d be using for operating expenses” during the first year, she said.

Divine Destiny is hosting a ribs and chicken fundraiser on Friday.

Did Boylan feel opening an adult day care was her “divine destiny?” I asked.

“That’s exactly right,” she said. “It was my passion, my purpose and my destiny to do a service for our disabled and our elderly who did not have an affordable place to go to.”

In addition to providing structure to people with disabilities, she said, she wanted to provide relief for the family members who take care of them.

“My own son is disabled,” she said. He is now 32 but has a prognosis age of 5. Her father had Alzheimer’s disease, and she took care of him for 25 years.

“There was no favorable option,” Boylan said. “I had to hire two very different (certified nursing assistants) to come into my home, which was not affordable for long. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what I went through.”

‘Basically a godsend’

Beth Williams said her 70-year-old father, Bennie Roberts, has been going to Divine Destiny “since the doors opened.”

“That place is a basically a godsend,” Williams said. “Katrina reached out to me even before he started going there. If I was having a hard day understanding his dementia, she’d tell me it was going to be all right because she’d already been through that with her father. She understands completely everything I’m going through with my daddy.”

As a former quality control engineer and as an accountant for WakeMed, Boylan knew a business dependent solely on her “lifetime savings” – more than $100,000 and counting, so far – would be unsustainable. “I was anticipating federal and county grants” to help cover the $324,000 needed for annual operating expenses, she said.

Seven adults currently attend Divine Destiny, which has a capacity of 20. Is the fact that it is not filled a result of lack of need? I asked.

“Oh, there’s a need,” she said. “It’s a matter of affordability. Johnston County has a State Adult Day Care Fund, and at this point we’ve reached the limit of the slots” the county is willing to pay for. She said there is a waiting list for whenever a slot that the county will underwrite becomes available.

Without the affordable, stimulating service provided by Boylan and her staff, the destiny of the people she serves will be anything but divine. She said she is trying to get state and federal funds, “but that’s been kind of difficult because most federal grants would like to see you in operation for at least a year. ... It’ll be easier to secure such funding after a year.”

Which will be when? I asked. “September.”

Do you remember country music legend Merle Haggard’s song called “If We Make it Through December (We’ll Be Fine)”?

For Boylan, if her dedicated staff and she can make it through September, then a whole lot of disabled people in need – and their families – may be able to say the same thing.

Friday’s fundraiser will feature barbecue ribs and chicken, which can be pre-ordered. If you don’t like ribs or chicken – and what else the heck is there to eat if you don’t? – but still want to help some disabled adults remain in a place they feel comfortable, please call 919-934-7144 or go to www.divine-destiny.org

bsaunders@newsobserver.com or 919-836-2811

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