Developing relationships, in and outside of the House
Editor's Note: This is the second of a series about new staff at Crossroads House, which is to celebrate 25 years of existence in January.
She was a friendly face in the main office at Washington Towers for 15 years, and although she enjoyed it, there came a time of burnout, Vicki Johnson says.
She left in May 2021 and eventually decided that “it was just time for me to make a change.”
Johnson began her new role as director of development at Crossroads House on Aug. 1.
“I like working with the elderly. And it's where I just really saw how fragile life is,” she said during an interview at the House on Liberty Street, Batavia. “It can be kind of, you know, you can get a little burnout with dealing with the elderly and disabled. And so this came up and I just knew it was time. Caregiving and Crossroads have always just been something that I feel — like my husband says -- destined to do.”
Johnson provided care for her grandmother Lucy, who was nearly 104 when she died, and for her mom Betty, and now for Aunt Dorothy, who is in a nursing home.
“I think I've always been of that caregiving nature. And just having been with people at end of life. And again, just seeing how fragile life is, you know, in my position at Washington Towers. Unfortunately, over the years, there were numerous people that we did welfare checks on and came upon them that they had passed. We were the first ones that tended to see their decline, whether they were getting dementia or just failing in health, and it's there where I kind of saw the negative part of the family relationships, and how they treat the elderly … it kind of just had me gravitate toward caregiving.”
It was while at Notre Dame High School for about three years that Johnson learned more about development initiatives and fundraising, she said. That shored up her experience for this new role of overseeing fundraising events, donor relationships, endowments and the like, plus probably getting involved with grant writing along with Executive Director Charlotte Crawford, Johnson said.
“Obviously, we need funds, because we're funded totally by the wonderful community that we live in. So I'm looking for new fundraising ideas, trying to get to the younger group, the younger people, with some fundraisers that might appeal to them,” she said. “And when we have the famous garage sale that they do, they have their basket raffles, their fall and spring basket raffles. We're lucky recipients of some outside (sponsored) golf outings that we just supply some help, maybe some baskets, but then we get some of the proceeds. So that's a great thing for us.”
Part of her job will entail raising awareness in order to increase donations for the nonprofit comfort care home. It exists primarily on the generosity of others, so it’s crucial to operations for Johnson to do her job successfully. She plans to get “our image out there” and provide more updates via the website and social media, she said.
After all, the House will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in January, and there are many people — staff, volunteers, families, board members, donors — that will want to recognize the work that’s been done and the missions accomplished.
Johnson wanted to fully envelop those missions, so she took the new orientation training, which consisted of instruction and shadowing volunteers. She wants to also become a volunteer and complete the end-of-life doula course so that she can be a companion for people when they are approaching the end in their own lives.
She doesn’t fear death, and is, in fact, comfortable with the concept.
“So it's just someone that accompanies you through your journey. It’s a time really to celebrate life, to look for reconciliation and forgiveness,” she said. “It’s incredible to hear the stories of people.”
Photo: Vicki Johnson at Crossroads House in Batavia. Photo by Joanne Beck.