For Mindy Kaufman, the Chautauqua County Home is where her heart is.
A Dunkirk resident who works in the medical records department at the Home, she has been employed at the 216-bed facility since 1986 and has followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother, who also worked there. Even before she began her employment at the Home, she volunteered while attending high school for numerous hours, assisting hundred of patients.
Caring for others is in her genes. And, it is a major reason as to why she is an outspoken proponent for the Home on Temple Road to remain under county control.
Kaufman is even an outspoken critic of yours truly, penning a scathing letter we printed regarding a March 23 commentary on an emotional documentary I found unfavorable regarding the County Home. "I expected more from you Mr. D'Agostino," she wrote on March 27, "that as an editor you would want to keep an open mind and learn all that you could about whatever it is you write about so as not to try to influence people just on your opinion alone."
But the Home's days as a county entity may be numbered. For the last year, the County Home has been scrutinized by residents, legislators and a number of outsiders, including the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, regarding the cost-effectiveness of the facility. County Executive Greg Edwards says the operation is losing money annually and becoming a drain on taxpayers. Home residents, employees and supporters, however, believe there can be a happy medium with proper management and changes if kept under county control.
This newspaper has taken a side of looking at all options - including a sale. It is not a popular stance in a community where many love its County Home.
Earlier this week, Kaufman offered me an invitation to tour the facility, which not only cares for many but is also a job provider to 280 people.
Upon making the rounds, Kaufman said hello to every resident - knowing all by name - and co-workers. Most of all, she possessed pride in a facility that underwent major renovations in the early 2000s.
"When you are dealing with people, especially in health care, let's face it, if you're not passionate about the people you're caring for then may God help us all if you ever need health care," Kaufman said. "I love these people."
She gave histories of some of those currently in the Home, pointing out one resident who had lived at the Home since 1980. Another, drinking coffee in the activity room, was 100 years old.
"Keep in mind that the County Home isn't a place where residents come to die, it is a place where they come to live," Kaufman said. "That's what our mission is, to make sure it feels like their home as much as we possibly can. Some don't have families.
"For others, we're the only family they have."
A decision on the Home's future could come as early as next month, right before the holidays.
In the meantime, a group of 16 patients were involved in physical therapy on the second floor. While Christmas music played in the background, the Home workers provided comfort and cheer to those they were assisting. It was an atmosphere of family.
"It's important that we take care of them," Kaufman said. "This isn't about money. It's about their well being. It's about their quality of life. That's why I'm very passionate about this place. I believe strongly in the mission of the County Home."
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.