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Raising money and finding ways to keep Holly Place open

December 02, 2011|By MEG H. PARTINGTON | megp@herald-mail.com
  • Doug Wright, president of GS Images in Hagerstown, actively volunteers in Hagerstown. He is president of the board at Holly Place, is a member of the board for the Alexander House and is on the Hagerstown Planning Commission. Wright said he picked up volunteering from his father.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

Doug Wright has witnessed the power of giving more than once in his life.

As president of the board for Holly Place since 2005, he has a few times been on the verge of making a tough decision because of the economy and governmental changes.

"I have thought more than once about closing Holly Place," Wright said of the nonprofit assisted-living facility for low-income seniors.

For instance, in 2005, he said the facility at 268 S. Potomac St. in Hagerstown was on the brink of closing, but the state stepped in with an $85,000 infusion.

He said on at least two occasions, when he called special board meetings to discuss the facility's closure, he received a call, sometimes within 24 hours of the meeting, saying funds had been provided, saving Holly Place from closure.

"Somehow or another, God provides," said Wright, president of GS Images in Hagerstown. He is a third-generation member of the family in the sign-making business.

Holly Place's financial woes began years ago, when changes in the Medicaid waiver program were made.

Typically, when someone applied to live at Holly Place but couldn't afford the cost, they applied for a Medicaid waiver. If that was granted, that person received government assistance to pay the fees.

Several years ago, Maryland put a cap on the number of Medicaid waivers that could be accepted.

A few years before he joined the Holly Place board in 2003, Wright said he went along with the suggestion of a friend that he join the board for the Alexander House, an independent-living facility in Hagerstown. After he became a member, an accountant asked if the Alexander House could provide some funds to Holly Place.

The Alexander House board decided to grant that assistance, plus have two of its members — one of whom was Wright — serve on the board of Holly Place.

The Alexander House is not able to provide assistance anymore, as it, too, is struggling financially, Wright said.

"We have a losing business plan" at Holly Place, he said, because often, less money is coming in than is being spent on the services provided to the 15 residents and the salaries for the staff members who care for them.

It's difficult to get major grant givers to contribute to Holly Place because they tend to want to invest in capital projects, which are more tangible, Wright said.

"Our biggest need is staff to take care of people," Wright said, and that is expensive for a facility that operates year-round, 24 hours a day. "Grant givers don't generally wrap their arms around that."

For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, Holly Place's expenses were approximately $729,500, Wright said. The sum of small contributions was about $117,000, while large gifts, most of which are more than $10,000, totaled more than $199,000.

The Alice Virginia and David W. Fletcher Foundation Inc. donated $50,000 to Holly Place, as well. The philanthropic organization has made sizable donations to other Washington County causes, including the emergency room at Meritus Medical Center, the Anne G. and Howard S. Kaylor Atrium at Washington County Museum of Fine Arts and the new downtown branch of Washington County Free Library.

The Fletchers lived in Hagerstown and owned Colonial Hardwood Flooring Co. Their foundation was set up through their wills.

"The community made quite a difference," said Wright, 65, reflecting on the amount raised through donations in that fiscal period.

In the eyes of Holly Place's executive director, Wright is the one who has made quite a difference.

"Every time I call, he comes," Melanie Davis said. "Anything he can do, he does."

"He does a little bit of everything," Davis said of Wright, including manual labor, and drumming up the necessary nickels and dimes when payments are due.

"He's one of a kind," Davis said. "He's special."

Wright said he frequently walks from his office at 355 S. Potomac St. to Holly Place so he can sign papers and provide financial advice. He also helps with fundraisers, which this year included a bonanza at the Hagerstown Elks lodge and a dance.

While he doesn't particularly enjoy asking people for money, he knows the funds donated to Holly Place are used in the best way possible.

"Every one of their dollars was well-spent," Wright said.

Wright donates his time to the community in other ways, too.

He has been a member of the Hagerstown Planning Commission since the 1980s and has been a member of Haven Lutheran Church in Hagerstown since 1980, where he sings, plays handbells and is chairman of the property committee.

Of volunteerism, Wright said, "I learned it from my dad," Doug Wright Sr., who is 93 and recently moved into Homewood at Williamsport.

"I'm rewarded more than what I give," Wright said.

While Wright knows time is a precious thing and many people don't feel they have enough of it to donate, he highly recommends it.

"It's quite rewarding to give," he said.

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