A place of comfort for families with hospitalized loved ones

The Means Report

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Comfort House of Augusta hopes that you will consider them as you make plans for your end of year giving. Bob Kaltenbach explains how they help families be near their hospitalized loved ones by easing the financial burden.

Brad Means: Bob, thank you so much for taking time to be with us today, we appreciate it.

Bob Kaltenbach: Well Brad, it’s absolutely my pleasure, thank you for having us on.

Brad Means: So listen-

Bob Kaltenbach: And what I’m about to say, is that we not may not be as well known as some of the other charities, but we’ve been here for a while.

Brad Means: You have been here for a while and you do great work. And so you care for families while their loved ones are in the hospital, are you like the Ronald McDonald House in that regard? Is that okay to think of both of you all in that same vein?

Bob Kaltenbach: That’s the simplest way to explain it. Except we take it… We do this for adult patients, we very frequently take children when Ronald McDonald House is full, or we have a special need. As a matter of fact, we be checking someone in today, that’s the child was just put into the NICU, Child Neonatal Unit and they’re gonna be spending the next week with us.

Brad Means: How did they become eligible to stay at Comfort House? What sort of criteria does somebody have to meet? Is it a level of illness for their loved one or is it length of stay? How does it work to get in your door?

Bob Kaltenbach: It works as simple as this, we get a referral from a social worker or a nurse or a person in charge of the unit and once we certify that the person is in one of the area hospitals, then they’re eligible for our services.

Brad Means: And what makes you all different than, or maybe more preferable than a hotel?

Bob Kaltenbach: We’re cheaper, putting it plain and simple.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Bob Kaltenbach: This is our mission, we’re a non-profit charitable organization, our fees are the lowest possible fees and then even in a case I just cited to you, we understand that the people are gonna be able to pay for three nights and need to stay a week. I don’t think you’re gonna get that kind of response at a hotel.

Brad Means: No, I bet you sure wouldn’t. What about the meals situation at Comfort House? Do you feed these families or is that something they’re on their own in that area?

Bob Kaltenbach: Yeah, at $20 a night per a room, we’re not able to provide them with regular meals. However, we do have a pantry, they’re able to use the food that’s in the pantry, we’re getting prepared to count how many people will be there, over the Thanksgiving house holidays. We will individuals on a board, put together a Thanksgiving plate dinner for them. And yes, but on a normal basis, people allow to bring in their own foods, we have a full kitchen, a stove oven and things like this and that’s how we usually do it.

Brad Means: How long do they usually stay? I know you mentioned that it could be a week or I’m sure in many cases it’s longer, what’s the average stay do you think?

Bob Kaltenbach: That’s really hard to say at this time, if we get somebody in from the spinal cord unit, that just recently had an accident, we’re looking at six weeks. We are now just started with the radiation center, giving five weeks of radiation therapy, so these people go in on a daily basis, but they live 50 miles plus away from here and so we allow them to stay at Comfort House during that time and they go to get their treatment for an hour and a half. So it varies.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Bob Kaltenbach: It varies on the length of treatment and the length of time that the family is gonna be staying in the area.

Brad Means: Who’s there, is there like a house mom or house dad, who’s always in there to keep an eye on these folks?

Bob Kaltenbach: No, sometimes we have a resident manager, quite frankly, due to coronavirus, we’ve had a very tough year, very tough year. And so we do not have a resident manager at this particular time, but people are able to stay there on their own, they have full access to the building, we have a key pad with a code on it that is given and we change regularly. So the folks who have access to the house, they have our numbers and emergency numbers, should something arise.

Brad Means: Bob, have you found that these families, when there’s more than one staying in Comfort House at the same time, can lean on each other, can find strength because they’re going through the same thing at our hospitals?

Bob Kaltenbach: That was how Comfort House was formed because the patients used to get together, the families used to get together and do that. Quite frankly for years, we had no television because our living room was almost a group support system that is there. Yes, yes, they get a lot of confidence, a lot of help from each other and they’re certainly going through that. At times when you can, they would get a lot of hugs from each other and things like that.

Brad Means: Sure.

Bob Kaltenbach: Yeah, that’s what we were about.

Brad Means: What kind of support do you get from the community? I definitely want to make sure that we talk about how viewers, can help keep Comfort House going strong but, do churches help out, do they use a portion of their giving to help y’all keep going?

Bob Kaltenbach: Brad, we mostly function independently, we try to make enough to support the lights and things like that. We have had some churches that have been very, very dedicated to us over the years. However, this year we have received nice messages from them and I do mean that, seriously that their collections are down.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Bob Kaltenbach: So they’re not able to support us to the extent that we have. Board members have been giving individual donations over the summer, just to keep us going at that time, but we do have some wonderful people out there that we get some donations from time to time. And that’s always helpful.

Brad Means: So people I mean, really Bob, the best bet is to mail y’all a check, I know a lot of people and it’s the reason we do these broadcasts here at the end of the year, ’cause that’s the time when people are considering their year end giving, it’s best just to mail you a check I’m guessing, right?

Bob Kaltenbach: Yeah, that would be great.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Bob Kaltenbach: That would great and let me tell you specifically, the biggest expense that we have are utilities, clearly, at the end of the month we try and… We try to break even. We have just started a website and what we frequently need, is for people to help support a family. For instance I tell you, this one family is coming in now, we know that they’re not gonna pay or able to pay for the length of time, but we had people there that would support them with a night at 20 bucks, with a week at a hundred bucks, anything like that, we could then email directly for funds to go to help sponsor families. We take care of the cleaning supplies, the washing supplies, by the way we have a washer and dryer, so people staying there over the long-term, can do their clothes and take care of themselves, towels and all that stuff we have on hand and we’re able to supply. It’s that indigent fund that could be very, very helpful to us. So if anybody wanted to do that, yes they can go to our web page and I think Marlena said, she’s gonna put this on the screen-

Brad Means: She sure is, she’s gonna be able to put that information up so people can find you.

Bob Kaltenbach: Yeah and lets just make a donation to Comfort House, we could do it with PayPal or we can take credit cards and we’re just setting this up, we’re coming along to the electronic age that wouldn’t have been possible a year ago.

Brad Means: I’ll tell you what I liked the idea of supporting a family, it kind of puts a face on it where people can picture those folks under your roof and through their donations, get them through their stay at Comfort House. Bob, I wanna thank you and everybody at Comfort House for what you do for this community and really for the reputation of Augusta, Georgia. ‘Cause I’m sure there’s a lot of folks who leave Comfort House and go back to wherever they’re from and say, “You know what?” “That’s a pretty nice town”

Bob Kaltenbach: We have a person right now from Kentucky, his brother will be staying with us, he’s ex-military, was stationed at Fort Gordon at one time, heard about us and is going back to Kentucky said, “He’d never heard of anything like this before.” And that pleases us a great deal. Our founders started this with that intention in mind, he got a point of light from the original George Bush for starting this, that’s how unique and how different it is and we wanna keep that legacy going.

Brad Means: Absolutely and here’s to that. Bob Kaltenbach with Comfort House, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, we appreciate you.

Bob Kaltenbach: Oh, it is my pleasure and happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Brad Means: A great Thanksgiving to you and a wonderful Christmas and holiday season.

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