Special Issue              

Table of Contents
  • Home for the Incurables (Introduction to special issue)
  • The Cause (SFA members, let's rally together)
  • Your Coordinator (Serving the Big Easy's elderly)
  • Your Mascot (Getting by with a little help from his friends)
  • We Can Do It, SFA! (Please help)

Home for the Incurables

Congratulations, SFA members!
You are now the proud adoptive parents of the seniors at an historic New Orleans nursing home that was cruelly thrashed by Hurricane Katrina.

Our adopted foundation was born so far back in the sultry times of the Old South that it still goes by its archaic name of Home for the Incurables. But that antiquated title masks a contemporary program of nursing care, physical therapy, and recreational activities for real-life modern-day seniors.

Call it the Crescent City, the Big Easy, or as most natives do, N'Awlins. By any name, the grand old city of New Orleans has seen the international press and their television cameras pack up and leave in the months since that awful storm to cover more urgent news such as the woes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. But the disturbing saga of the Gulf Coast's decimation by Hurricane Katrina is not over and never was.

Knowing SFA's goodhearted members, you found ways to help in the aftermath of Katrina. Many of us sent clothing and supplies. Some took in displaced families and orphaned animals (see "Your Mascot" below). Others sent hard-earned dollars to relief funds administered by major charities. Later, though, questions arose as to how all that money was used. Our tax payments financed FEMA which we trusted to competently guide restoration. But something went wrong. The job didn't get done exactly. Today our quirky free-wheeling land of jazz, Mardi gras, bayous, and delectable Creole cooking is still struggling to survive.

Two facts are clear:

  • Among those hardest hit by Katrina were the area's disabled elderly.
  • SFA is a family. If we didn't care about older people, we wouldn't be SFA members.

Here's our chance to act as one, to brighten the lives of some frail elderly persons who have been through a lot and are caught in a place with a haunted recent past -- but a future that's up to the love within us. Let's be a part of their healing process!

Chartered in 1992, SFA never has promoted any single humanitarian group despite the many diseases and social issues impacting older adults (each with its separate fundraising apparatus). SFA's decision to adopt our own nursing home required careful deliberation on the needs of both the senior population and our members. In the end, rather than urging you to embrace some huge, already well-known charity, we wanted you to have your very own special cause.

Our goal is to put a human face on the good we SFA members can do all together. That's why we reject jumping from one charity drive to another, or hosting a big one-time fundraiser. Through an ongoing adoption, you can enjoy a long relationship with this old nursing home of yours and, hopefully, you will grow to care deeply about the real living breathing elderly folks who depend on it.

Another plus for adoption is that the financial means of our members varies widely. Whereas some can make large donations, others will help take care of our adopted seniors with a dollar here, a dollar there, just a little at a time, over the long term.

Yes, the spotlight has abandoned our Katrina-ravaged coast. But, sadly, the need remains. And one thing you can count on when helping your newly-adopted nursing home: You'll always know exactly where your contribution goes!

The nursing home will send occasional updates on how your efforts are helping your fragile adoptees. They are vulnerable individuals, and the Home truly is their lifeline. We'll print periodic reminders to remember them because, SFA members, these are your adopted seniors now!

The Cause

The Home for the Incurables is a nonprofit foundation
that supports the John J. Hainkel, Jr. Home and Rehabilitation Center located on Henry Clay Avenue in an old uptown neighborhood of New Orleans. This nursing home was established long ago -- not in this century, not even in the past century, but during the century before that! It first opened its doors in 1895.

The Home serves elders of diverse ethnic backgrounds, some of whom come from lives of poverty, as well as patients who aren't yet elderly but who suffer from serious disabilities. It recently opened a new adult day care center, a priceless help to families striving to rebuild their beleaguered city and interrupted personal lives. It operates under the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) as a part of the DHH Office of Aging and Adult Services. Over the years, securing adequate funding always has posed a challenge.

The Home's administrator, Bob Bales, enthusiastically promises to send us photos and stories on how your donations are used to help the patients. For more details about the Home, click here for its website.

Your Coordinator

We've had some SFA members
ask to know more about SFA principals on a personal level. Since we receive so many contacts, we cannot answer individual queries. But for members who've pondered that particular "frequently asked question," THIS IS FOR YOU.

Our nursing home adoption coordinator is SFA National Advisory Board member Amelia Leonardi, PT, MHS. Including work at our special nursing home, Amelia has devoted a career to serving the elderly and disabled of New Orleans and still trains others to do so as the Academic Coordinator of Clinical Education for the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Delgado Community College.

In addition, Amelia is the life-long best friend of SFA president Janie Clark, MA. Back during the 1950s in a tiny farming community (population 200) in South Carolina, Janie and Amelia's mothers were themselves dear friends while expecting the girls' arrivals. So Janie and Amelia maintain that they were best friends even before they were born!

The girls grew up swimming in fish ponds, climbing trees, and getting thrown off horses. Amelia went on to earn her BS degree in physical therapy from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and her Master of Health Sciences degree from Louisiana State University Medical Center. Meanwhile, Janie earned her BA degree in English composition and communications from Limestone College in Gaffney, South Carolina, and her master's degree from the University of Central Florida in exercise physiology and wellness management with an emphasis in older adult health and fitness studies.

Since then the pair have combined their expertise often to advance the cause of senior wellbeing, for example, delivering joint presentations at international professional conferences and working together on major senior health publications. But they never guessed that tragedy would strike, creating a new need for their careers to intersect again in a unique way to help the aged and infirm.

Of course Amelia's own home got hit by Hurricane Katrina -- as did her husband's restaurants, Jacques-Imo's and Crabby Jack's, which temporarily stopped serving up the authentic N'Awlins cuisine for which they're known. The ruin of her beloved piano and heirloom family Bible were among the damages that hurt her most. But you couldn't get Amelia to complain even for a minute. "We were the lucky ones" was all she would say. Then she just climbed back in the saddle and went back to helping others.

Your Mascot

Gumbo was a 7-week-old kitten
when Hurricane Katrina hurled a 25-foot tidal wave into his hometown of Waveland, Mississippi, causing a crisis of death and destruction unfathomable to those of us who've been spared from such disasters.

The small town of Waveland, located just outside New Orleans, was virtually erased. But somewhere amid the sodden debris and trashed pilings, the washed out docks, and the splintered boats of Waveland's marina, three drenched and frightened kittens weakly mewed. In a feat defying the imagination, somehow their mother had kept them alive. As the four stunned and wretched creatures huddled together, a local policeman heard their cries, gathered them into a cardboard box, and took them to animal rescue workers on-scene from Daytona Beach, Florida.

And that's how Gumbo joined the SFA family. Transported to Daytona Beach by the Animal Rescue and Needs Intervention agency ARNI, the bewildered little survivors -- though severely traumatized -- were found to be exceedingly calm, sweet, and friendly. ARNI found good homes for all, placing the only little male with the Clarks: Grant, Janie, and their 10-year-old son Will.

So now Gumbo benevolently rules over his own permanent home kingdom. He's a happy little guy -- and we do mean little. For some reason, the tom from Cajun country has remained quite tiny. At SFA we just say, "Gumbo grew up to be a kitten!"

In planning our adoption of a New Orleans nursing home, we thought: Who better to serve as mascot for the project than Gumbo? He stands for hope after Katrina, for people joining together to help, for second chances and a new lease on life for shaken Gulf Coast residents.

We Can Do It, SFA!

As another hurricane season revs up,
let's think of the sick and needy in a city barely back on its feet from its earlier beating. The big difference today is that some of these people -- the frail elderly patients of our very own adopted nursing home -- belong to you now. Here's how to help:

  • Write a check payable to Home for the Incurables. (That's the foundation through which our adopted nursing home can accept charity.)
  • On your memo line, write Recreation Fund. (This will enable the Home to recognize SFA donations and use your gifts for fitness and recreational purposes near-and-dear to SFA members' hearts.)
  • Mail to: Administrator Bob Bales, John J Hainkel Jr Home & Rehab, 612 Henry Clay Ave, New Orleans LA 70118.

Don't have much? Send a dollar! Maybe you'll be able to send another one later on. Been blessed? Please care and share as you can. It is our understanding that U.S. donations are tax deductible.

To kick things off, SFA is offering free senior exercise resources to the Home's medical and activities staff and will also donate a percentage of SFA's June 2007 sales revenues to the Home. In fact, that's a second way you can help out: By ordering SFA materials this month, a portion of your fee will go to the Home.

Our adopted nursing home is very grateful for your assistance. In upcoming issues of Experience! it'll be fun to post pictures and news about how your aid is helping the patients!

Why not invite friends and fitness clients to help, too? This is so much more than a single fundraising event. It is adoption, so it's personal and for the long run. SFA members, let's make a difference! Remember, those gentle old folks at the Home down in New Orleans are your adopted seniors now, and they need your love, protection, and support.


Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at www.seniorfitness.org. There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.

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