Sell your beautiful family home in the suburbs and move to
the toughest part of the inner city? Back to the same block you had worked all those years
to escape? It's not uncommon for people to move from the inner city to the suburbs if the
opportunity arises. It's not too common to do the exact opposite.
"Well, I've got a lot of faith, but that's about all I've got,"
chuckles Cordelia Taylor. Armed with that tremendous faith in God and her belief that
"things could be different", she set out to put that faith into action.
"We all need to be treated with
respect and love as long as we are on the face of this earth."
As a registered nurse for 13 years and
nursing home administrator for six years, Taylor was fed up and disillusioned by the
decisions of the owners to put profits first and the care of patients second. She had a
vision for a long-term care center where a person's need was the only criteria, not the
ability to pay, and where care was given in a loving and personal way.
"We all need to be treated with
respect and love as long as we are on the face of this earth," Taylor says simply.
In 1989 Cordelia and her husband decided to
sell their home in an affluent Milwaukee suburb and renovate the old duplex where they had
raised their children. With all the necessary permits in hand they welcomed 8 new senior
citizen residents to a home where earlier years they had raised 8 children. Family House
This is now the 10th Anniversary year for
Family House although, "...we've been too busy working to get around to" having
a party, Cordelia says. And while her agenda remains the same, Family House has grown. 8
residents (not patients!) have grown to become 41. One renovated house has expanded to
eight plus the grocery store at the end of the block. Building and renovating continues
with a potential in the near future for an additional 27 residents. Family House now
employs 27 people (including six of Taylor's eight children) and has an annual operating
budget of $750,000.
Cordelia Taylor's faith was put into often
put into action again in a very practical way in mid-June. Family House chooses to operate
without the aid of federal, state, or public city funds. Faith-based groups and
foundations provide the resources necessary to operate. But because most of the annual
grant monies are not released until August and September, the budget is stretched thin,
then thinner in May, June, and July. Taylor was facing a $5,000 shortfall with employee's
salaries coming due.
Family House had always paid their
employees on time. Many are young women who have come off the welfare roles and depend
totally on the money they make at Family House to support their family. Taylor didn't know
how she was going to meet her payroll obligations the following Tuesday and she fervently
prayed that God would help provide an answer. Friday morning an envelope arrived from a
company that Family House provided services for. When she opened the envelope it was a
check for $9,000, paid two weeks before it was due. In all the years of doing business,
this company had never paid their Family House bills early...but this month they did.
"They have never paid early. It was
all about faith and prayer," says Cordelia.
Family House provides long-term care for
the poorest of the poor in Milwaukee's inner city. The only criteria for residents are
that they must be 55 or older, not violent, and not using drugs or alcohol. "If they
meet those criteria and we have room, we take them," says Taylor. "Lack of money
is never a stumbling block Many have been living on the street or living in an abandoned
house. Any type of displaced person. Most have no source of income."
With the significant needs of her
"flock" so apparent, Cordelia is not just a nurse, the chief financial officer,
and even floor mopper when necessary. She has also become an effective grant writer and
lobbyist with state and city governments, as well as charitable foundations. Taylor has
found she has a knack for helping others see the good things that are happening at Family
House and want to do something to help.
Virtually all of the people Family House
employs live in the immediate vicinity and before long, their children were coming in
after school for a snack and to get help with their homework. As Taylor got to know the
kids and their families better it became apparent that there were still more important
needs to meet. These same families almost never have medical insurance and their medical
treatment was almost entirely provided in hospital emergency rooms. With the help of
volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, Family House renovated the abandoned grocery store
at the end of the block and opened their own Family House Medical Clinic. Where do the
doctors come from? Cordelia, once again filled with plenty of both faith and action,
approached the Medical College of Wisconsin, which now provides volunteer physicians for
1/2 day, 5 days per week. And as you might suspect, rules regarding who can receive care
are quite simple.
"Anyone who walks through the doors
and needs medical treatment can have it whether they have money or not," states
Cordelia. I never had a doubt.
A clothing bank helps kids and residents
alike have the clothes they need. A food pantry has been developed because many in the
neighborhood do not have much food. And what is next? "There are two houses on the
block that we don't own but, when he's ready to sell, the owner has promised to sell them
to us. We could serve a lot more people with two more houses," Taylor says.
What was once a block filled with drug
dealing, gang violence, abandoned houses covered with graffiti, and a few frightened
residents has become a sanctuary of comparative peace.
Cordelia says with obvious pride,
"There is no graffiti. We've never had a broken window. We have huge flower and
vegetable gardens that are not bothered. Even drug dealers respect what we are doing and
Taylor points to her grandfather as her
greatest inspiration. While growing up in a small Tennessee town, Taylor's father was
murdered by two white men in the 1940's. No one was ever brought to justice for that
tragic crime and Taylor says that she grew up as a very angry teenager. It was here that,
Joe Thompson, the father of Cordelia's own murdered father, made a tremendous and lasting
impact on her life.
"My grandfather constantly taught me
that love is the way to go...forgiveness is the way to go. He taught me that if you carry
hatred, it would harm you more than the person you were hating. It took a long time to get
that down into my heart and understand that he was right."
It is Cordelia Taylor's faith, her personal
relationship with Jesus Christ, that she credits with healing the hate and the deep hurt
and eventually bringing about forgiveness. As Taylor so often does, she puts it quite
simply, "My grandfather was my hero."
When Taylor thinks about what she wants
others to see and learn from her life and work with Family House she says, "All of us
have gifts. If we put our gifts to work, and have faith in God, we can make changes not
only in our own lives, but in the people's lives around us. Also, money is so often the
prime motivator in our world. What I'd like people to know is that money is nice to have,
but it's only nice to have to use for what you need it for. There are many things that are
so much more self gratifying, our world would be a lot better."
Cordelia has been praying for something
else for two years. Her husband has been in kidney failure and needed dialysis every other
day for two years. On Father's Day, June 20th, two days after the $9,000 check had
unexpectedly arrived, the hospital called. At 10 a.m. he received a new kidney.
Faith, all by itself, isn't enough. And
there are times when your own best efforts fall short. Cordelia Taylor has put them
together and it seems to be working.
Mark Reiman is the
Editor-In-Chief of Incredible People. You can contact him at mark@IncrediblePeople.com