Speaking at a May 19 donor reception for major contributors to Greenwood House’s successful $4 million capital campaign, Jeff Perlman recalled how, at first, the goal “seemed insurmountable, coming out of difficult economic times within the community.”
But three large gifts, and lots of smaller ones, “got us to the finish line,” said Perlman, who cochaired the campaign with fellow Greenwood House board member Marissa Treu.
The capital campaign is supporting the refurbishment of the Robert and Natalie Marcus Home, which provides short- and long-term skilled nursing rehabilitative care in Ewing. The project entails needed updates to all the resident rooms as well as common areas. Additionally, the project includes a significant expansion and relocation of the physical therapy center and increased capacity in the dementia care unit. Project enhancements include a new call bell system, a new entertainment system and cable television, a dedicated unit for short-term rehabilitation, and an overall environment that is brighter and more comfortable.
Greenwood House executive director Richard Goldstein told NJJN, “Our building will soon be as modern as our care.”
Last month’s reception at the Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville at times had the feel of a family reunion. Perlman recalled how the campaign was jumpstarted with a $500,000 gift from Leonard Punia, a beloved philanthropist and respected businessman who passed away the day before he would have been recognized at the event. The gift was made as a memorial to his late wife, Renee Denmark Punia.
Despite numerous one-on-one meetings with potential donors, the campaign slowed for a while last year at $2 million. That’s when, Perlman said, “an out-of-state, anonymous foundation” pledged $1 for every $2 raised, up to $500,000.
Then, Princeton attorney Victor Walcoff came forward with a one-to-one matching gift, at first up to $300,000, but ultimately up to $500,000. “Not only did Vic donate his own money, but he encouraged other people in our community to help us reach our goal,” said Treu.
Walcoff’s connections to Greenwood House are personal. Its home health-care services nursed him to recovery from severe pneumonia. A couple of years later, he had a heart attack while being operated on for stenosis, and after discharge he was offered a room at Greenwood House.
Walcoff now lives in the Abrams Residence, Greenwood’s assisted-living facility, because he requires aides around the clock due to his medical condition. “I’m in a lovely apartment, with all the conveniences of home: TV, computers, three meals a day, activities, and a lovely garden I can enjoy,” he told the gathering.
But the reasons for his donation went beyond the personal, he said. “It is a big part of our tradition to take care of our own and not depend on the general community where we reside,” Walcoff said. “Now we take care of our own — and others,” referring to the fact that Greenwood House is now nonsectarian. “We are a real asset to the community.”
Many of those present at the reception had grown up in the Trenton community and told stories of their own connections to Greenwood House.
Board member Harold Zeltt said Greenwood House cared for his brother, who was born with a mild intellectual disability, for 12 years. “I’ve never seen better, more loving care anyplace. My opinion of all the nurses is they are angels, not nurses, and should have a special place in heaven,” he said.
Michael Goodman, whose mother’s family was from Trenton and owned Kohn’s Bakery on Market Street, recalled, “My grandmother had a little pushke for Greenwood House right on the counter in the store.” His aunts and uncles were at Greenwood House, his mother lived in the Abrams Residence, his uncle was an ophthalmologist for the residents, and the family contributed rye bread and Kaiser rolls from the bakery.
Goodman’s wife, Barbara, a geriatric social worker, worked at Greenwood House during the start-up of the kosher meals-on-wheels and home health-care programs. Unlike at many for-profit nursing homes, “the bottom line is not making money but caring for the residents — providing the best care possible,” she said. The staff takes pride in the care they give, she said, as evidenced by the long tenures of many staff members.
Marty Siegel recalled, at age 13 or 14, visiting his mother’s parents every Sunday at Greenwood House, back when there were only 11 beds and the rooms were very small. “I said to myself, ‘Someday when I grow up, if I can do something to make Greenwood House better, I want to do that.’”
Perlman, who was standing nearby, noted that Siegel and his wife, Denny, had made an endowment to support the short-term rehab unit in perpetuity, in addition to making a contribution to the capital campaign.
Denny Siegel also expressed appreciation for the nursing staff, which her husband had needed when he was ill five years ago. “They are personal and meet and get to know the family,” she said of the nurses. “They know everyone by name.”
Sharen Popkin recalled how her mother, May Medoff, a committed volunteer, had inspired her and a whole group of her friends to love Greenwood House. She said, “People that are committed to Greenwood House stay committed for life.”
Closing the event, Marc Citron, outgoing Greenwood House president, noted the current realities of shrinking reimbursements and increasing costs. “What won’t change is our commitment to take care of the elderly and those in need,” he said. “There is a growing spectrum of need, and we intend to meet it.”