from Keenan’s Twin Oaks blog

Posted 19th April 2014 by 

The grand opening party for Twin Oaks’ hospice, Appletree, was April 11th 2014.

It’s been a long journey.  The process for Appletree  (then, “the hospice addition”) started right after Kat Kinkade, the founder of Twin Oaks, died on July 3rd 2008.  Josie, Kat’s daughter, observed that Kat had “Rolls Royce” from twin Oakers care while she was declining at Twin Oaks. That care came at some emotional cost.  A couple of Twin Oakers had pretty serious emotional breakdowns due to caring for Kat, or being around her as she declined. Additionally, many caregivers who were sleeping on a mat in Kat’s room suffered hurt backs and various other physical ailments.   We collectively concluded that if we want to have people stay at Twin Oaks as they decline, and not have it be traumatic to the rest of the community, we need to have a space that isn’t in the middle of an SLG—that is, we need to build a place specifically designed for end-of-life care.

The goal behind Appletree is to keep elders in the heart of the community as they age and decline.  So the hospice was designed as an addition to Nashoba, Twin Oaks’  main handicapped accessible SLG, which, in turn, is close to ZK, Twin Oaks’ dining hall and community center.

Nashoba, where Appletree was added

The guiding principle for the addition was to make it “nice,” that is, built to a quality standard to provide a pleasant environment for people who are dying.  And also to make sure that it’s comfortable for more mainstream caregivers, family members, and friends to be able to visit and stay.

The Louisa building department granted Twin Oaks a building permit for the addition in 2010, so the building of Appletree has taken 4 years.  That is probably longer than necessary due to stopping active construction for about a year for cash flow reasons.

I was the main mover of the process starting in 2008,  and I have been the honcho of the building part as well, so I have had this hospice addition on my front burner for six years now. Historically, a building project burns out the honcho, often to the point of leaving the community.  I have tried to be conscious of that unhealthy pattern, so I have tried to think of this as an opportunity and, specifically, to not be too attached to outcomes around Appletree, or to think of the building as “mine” just because I’m the honcho.  I’m very pleased and proud of how it’s come out and, as anyone who knows me well is aware, I’m really quite ready to be done with the construction part of it; six years is long enough.

Throughout most of the actual construction, the crew was Rowan, Arlo, and Elijah.  Rowan and Arlo started working on the building when they were 14 and 17. On April 11th Rowan turned 18.  It has been a joy and a privilege to have that able crew to work with—to see them gain skills and confidence, and to generally observe them growing from being boys to being men.

The first stages of the building, leveling the hillside and pouring the concrete were very stop-and-go.  It was hard to schedule people, and the uncooperative weather caused lots of slow-downs.  But once the concrete slab was poured, Elijah, Arlo, Rowan and I committed to doing a push to get the building itself up as quickly as possible.   We collectively cleared our schedules, and then did a construction boot camp.  Our goal was to work every day, for as long as there was light each day and to not stop until the building was “completed,” that is, the framing was up, the trusses on the framing, plywood on the trusses, metal on the roof, the siding on, and the doors and windows installed—that is, it would, from the outside, look like a completed building.  My very optimistic estimate to the young lads was that we could, if the weather held, possibly get all that done in a month.  The weather was perfect, the young lads worked hard; we built that whole house in two-and-a-half-weeks.  Yes, weeks.  Really.  Ask people who were here.

The guys took a break while wiring was run and insulation installed.  But then we got the band back together, did another blitz, and put up all of the sheetrock. Since those heady days, Elijah, Rowan, and Arlo have found other work and followed other interests, although Arlo did almost all the interior painting once the “mudding” was done.

It is either ironic or appropriate that the first use of this hospice was for the birth of Sylvia, before the addition was even all the way completed.  And now Aubby is planning to give birth there (she’s due any day now). Maybe we shouldn’t call it a hospice.

However, I like that the creation of Appletree as a hospice tangibly demonstrates that Twin Oaks is planning on sticking around.  Appletree shows that Twin Oaks is investing in our members and in our future.  It is sort of incidental, but no less meaningful, that the building for Twin Oaks’ elders was built by Twin Oaks’ teens.

Far from feeling burned out, here, at the conclusion of this project, I’m happy at how well Appletree has come out.  I really value having had the opportunity to work with Elijah, Arlo, and Rowan over these years.  It has been great having my main work area be fifty yards from my SLG.  I have felt a lot of trust from the community and support from people throughout this whole project. During much of the building of Appletree, it has felt like a blessing to me, and now that it’s done, it feels like the project is a success.



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