Talking Shop with Kathy Sindel of HavenHouse St. Louis

Monday, October 19, 2009
Kathy Sindel is executive director of HavenHouse St. Louis. (FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com)

Kathy Sindel, the executive director of HavenHouse St. Louis, was in Jackson last week for a charity golf tournament at Kimbeland Country Club. The HavenHouse is a 25,000-square-foot facility with 33 rooms on Olive Boulevard in St. Louis. The facility and organization welcomes families of patients in St. Louis hospitals. Any family residing 25 miles or more away from the hospital is eligible to stay at HavenHouse. Sindel has a master's degree in social work from Washington University. Southeast Missourian editor Bob Miller caught up with Sindel to learn more about how the HavenHouse operates.

Q: Tell me how long you've been with HavenHouse.

A: Since it started. The General Protestant Children's Home has been around since 1977, and that's where I worked until the Haven House branched off and got its nonprofit status in January 2005. It's a huge building. We can serve 100 people per night, and we've served all 50 states and 31 countries.

Q: How does the model work for payment?

A: The people pay $30 to $50, depending on the type of rooms. Our cost is $100 a day. Charity kicks in two-thirds to a half. Some pay a little more for rooms with TVs, but most of the people opt for rooms without TVs. ... We prepare home-cooked meals two times a day. We have a cook who has been there 30 years. We offer shuttles four times a day. We just got funding to add the fourth shuttle.

Q: So how many employees do you have?

A: There are only seven full-time and four to six part-time employees. The bulk of them are house managers who greet guests, turn over rooms and help guests with anything they need. We've had 1,800 volunteers. The community of support has been huge.

Q: How difficult was it to coordinate with all of the hospitals in St. Louis?

A: That was something that was completely new to me. I think one thing that I did right was collaboration. I'm a believer that a lot of people do great things. The first month we formed, I got the heads of social work departments at three hospitals -- Shriners, Ranken Jordan and St. John's -- together and asked them, "Do you think there is a need for this? Would it be helpful?" They said yes. So I had those contacts and got more hospitals involved. We formed a hospital relations committee and got social workers from all the hospitals together, and that has given us ongoing regular communication.

Q: Is there any chance HavenHouse, or something like it, would expand services to places like Cape Girardeau?

A: That's interesting you brought that up. That's a long-term dream once we're financially stable is to expand to outstate areas. Our model can be replicated.

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