In the past, when a family in crisis came to UC Davis Medical Center, it was very possible for parents and siblings to end up sleeping in their vehicles or in hospital waiting rooms. No one “plans” for an emergency hospital visit – it just happens.
The Kiwanis Family House adjacent to the UC Davis Medical Center was built on that premise.
The facility is sponsored by local Kiwanis clubs, which are in turn, a part of Kiwanis International – a worldwide community service organization.
The mission statement of Kiwanis House declares:
“The Kiwanis Family House is to provide temporary housing and support to families of seriously ill or injured children and adults being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.”
Local Kiwanis club volunteers established the facility in July 1984.
Mauda Butte, house director, said Kiwanis House provides overnight accommodations, food and clothing. There are 32 rooms set up in four sections of the building, with eight rooms in each section. In addition, the House has a kitchen and dining area, a laundry room, a counseling and meditation room, a child’s game room, two offices with computers and an outdoor playground area. There are seven R.V. spaces with utility hookups, free long distance telephone service within the United States and access to the Internet and to avoid the $8 per day hospital parking fee, free shuttle bus transportation.
The Kiwanis Family House is run mostly by volunteers. There are 10 full-time paid staff members to take care of maintenance and housekeeping duties.
The Kiwanis Club, which has fundraisers throughout the year and donates time and money of its own, provides all of the services. Butte said a clothes closet was established because many of the families come with only the clothes on their backs.
“Many times, a child in crisis is flown here and the family does not have time to pack a suitcase,” Butte said. “Being able to have a change of clothes and a place to fix a meal is comforting.”
Butte said the Kiwanis Family House relies on donations from other Kiwanis clubs and from the public to keep the facility running smoothly. She said there are electricians, contractors and computer technicians that volunteer their time and skills. Students at Sacramento State and Sacramento City College donated the paintings on the walls at the Kiwanis Family House.
There is a $40 per night room rent fee, but in many cases Kiwanis members pick up the tab. No one is ever turned away because they cannot pay. To cover the $100,000 annual cost rent, the Kiwanis Family House organization has established a “Sponsor-A-Family Program.” Those who wish can send a donation for a family to stay at the Kiwanis Family House. It can be one night at $40 to however many nights a person wants to donate.
“We welcome donations from the public,” Butte said. “We supply food, laundry soap, shampoo, toothbrushes and toothpaste, toys for young children, books, family videos, coats, and other miscellaneous items.”
The average length of stay is six days, but sometimes visits last longer. There is no limit on how long a family can stay at the Kiwanis House.
When a family arrives at the UCD Medical Center, a hospital social worker helps to determine the family’s temporary housing needs and can refer the family to the Kiwanis Family House. Caring staff members and volunteers greet the family.
Theresa Arciniega, chief licensed clinical social worker at UC Davis, said the hospital serves patients from as far away as the Oregon border.
“We have specialty doctors and a trauma unit,” Arciniega said. “Having the family with the patient, whether child or adult, is considered part of the treatment.”
Arciniega said there are instances when a patient may use a “Day Pass.” The patient does not need to stay the night, but needs a shower or the use of the kitchen. She said some cancer patients just need a place to rest before leaving for home.
Butte said the House often receives families of premature babies where the baby needs many weeks or months of neonatal care. Having a place to stay decreases the stress for these new parents.
There is a growing demand for services. The original Kiwanis Family House was initiated in 1984 when a partnership agreement between the UCD Medical Center and the Kiwanis Family House was executed. A new center was opened in 2006 that includes both UCD and Shriners Hospital.
“I make out a two-page list every day of things to do for the volunteers that come to help,” Butte said. “We welcome walk-ins.”
Gary Christensen is the development manager for the Kiwanis Family House. It is a volunteer position. Christensen said his main purpose is to give tours and provide information to businesses about the Kiwanis Family House to gain their support.
“You can find me speaking to a business group one day and pulling weeds the next,” Christensen said. “I fill in the holes where needed.”
Kiwanis was founded in August 1914 by two Detroit natives, Allen S. Browne, a professional organizer, and Joseph C. Prance, a tailor. It started out as a fraternal club for young professional businessmen.
The name Kiwanis comes from an Indian phrase, “NunKeewanis,” which translates to, “We have a good time – we make noise.” In 1920, the organization decided that “We Build,” would be their motto. This was the motto until 2005, when the delegates adopted a new motto, – “Serving the Children of the World.”
The Kiwanis Family House welcomes donations of volunteer time as well as donations of cash or stocks. Contributions can also be made through the local United Way. Donations are tax deductible. For more information, call (916) 736-0116 or visit www.kiwanisfamilyhouse.org.