First Residents Successfully Admitted into Jacmel Lutheran Home by Perry Lutheran Homes Team

First Residents Successfully Admitted into Jacmel Lutheran Home by Perry Lutheran Homes Team

Perry, IA, January 21, 2019– Despite challenging circumstances while in Haiti, the Perry Lutheran Homes and Lutheran Family Service team, together with Ministry in Mission, were able to open and admit the first residents into the Jacmel Lutheran Home in Jacmel, Haiti January 9 - 16. The eldercare home was designed to provide care for ten of Jacmel’s most vulnerable elders.

A group of top nurses in Haiti spent two days with top nurses from Iowa, Melissa Gannon, Kelly Moore and Deb Koelln of Perry Lutheran Homes to learn hands-on how to care for elders. Training was concluded with a presentation of certificates and a speech from the mayor of Jacmel, Pastor Marky Kessa. Two of these nurses, along with a cook and a housekeeper, will be employed at the eldercare home.

While the nurses were in training, our four pastors, Max Phillips, Steve Turner, Jim Lamb, and Mick Wolfram, spent time teaching Haitian seminarians and pastors about theology, the value of life and spiritual care for elders. The remaining team members, Wanda Pritzel, Mollie Clark, Kim Laube and Holly Eldridge unpacked all 22 suitcases and worked to organize, label, plan and distribute over-the-counter medication, medical supplies, personal care items, clothing and shoes.

The next day was spent driving the streets of Jacmel and navigating various terrain to assess known elders that may be in need of admission to the eldercare home. Inability to walk was one of the first criteria and lack of reliable source of food was the second. During assessments, it was common to see these elders laying or sitting on the ground or on concrete inside a small space they called home with little to no belongings, no food and no water. All were in pain, hungry and lonely. Yet surprisingly most were filled with joy. All of them were alive because of the kindness of a neighbor or stranger or family member that was able to bring them some food some times. It appears that the StepUp movement of taking care of our elder citizens is already in action in Haiti; however, the high levels of poverty make it a challenge to do so every single day.

“Although Jacmel, Haiti is much different than Iowa and the United States, we also have elders that are living in pain, in fear, hungry, and are lonely. You don’t have to travel to find a mission opportunity. They exist all around us. There are hungry elders in your neighborhood. There are lonely elders that sit in the pews of our churches. There are elders without family living in our senior care communities,” states Melissa Gannon, COO and Administrator of Perry Lutheran Homes.

The promise of food was nearly all it took for these elder citizens of Haiti to trust a team of strangers who spoke a different language to move them to a place they’ve never been to or heard of. In a nation of nearly 11 million people, eldercare homes are a rare find in Haiti. In fact, it appears that only two others in the entire country exist. The need for more is dire. The team also spent time preparing the eldercare home so that there would be running water and electricity; a luxury that so many are without.

The process to transport residents from their current home to their new home was unlike anything ever seen in the United States. The transport team consisted of a Haitian pastor and translator, Melissa Gannon, LPN, B.S. of Perry Lutheran Homes, and two Haitian nurses. The elders were carried out of their home and placed onto a small mattress in the bed of a pickup truck. An umbrella was held to protect them from the relentless sun. From there it was a rough ride through the unpaved streets to the Jacmel Lutheran Home.

Upon arrival, a flurry of action took place to include feeding, bathing, washing hair, nail care, skin care, medical care and spiritual care. This was led by Deb Koelln, RN, CDP and Kelly Moore, RN of Perry Lutheran Homes with all other team members to assist and continue work on the eldercare home. Each resident was given a prayer cross made by residents of Perry Lutheran Homes. While on-site, five elders were admitted to the new home. Working as a nurse caring for elders is all new for the Hatian staff, so a good routine will take some time to be established prior to admitting the next five residents.

The connection between Perry Lutheran Homes and the Jacmel Lutheran Home will continue through ongoing training and connecting of residents through video chat technology. In fact, the residents of Perry Lutheran Homes were able to meet the elder residents and the young orphans in Haiti along with receiving a tour of both the Jacmel Lutheran Home and the orphanage through this technology.

A team of four, Wanda Pritzel, Mollie Clark, Kim Laube and Holly Eldridge, spent time teaching staff at the Lutheran Orphanage next door about healthy child development, mental health care for traumatized children, and the benefits of intergenerational interaction between the children and the elders. Perry Lutheran Homes and Acorns & Oaks childcare were held up as successful examples of an intergenerational program that provides numerous benefits to both elders and children.

“We hope the recent and ongoing ministry work in Jacmel, Haiti will do three things. The first is to inspire others to StepUp and take notice of elders around them that need companionship, food or help. The second is to invite those in our church and communities to support or travel to Haiti to help sustain the Jacmel Lutheran Home. The third is to inspire others to consider the needs of elders in Haiti and perhaps work to establish another eldercare home,” expresses Max Phillips, CEO of Perry Lutheran Homes and Executive Director of Lutheran Family Service.

Thanks to all who provided over-the-counter medications, medical supplies, personal care items, clothing and more which were delivered to the Jacmel Lutheran Home and orphanage by the team. To see additional photos from the trip, please visit the Perry Lutheran Homes’ Facebook page at

About Perry Lutheran Homes

Perry Lutheran Homes, founded in 1956, is a 70 bed, 9 apartment (Willis campus), and 39 apartment (Spring Valley assisted living campus) locally owned and managed Christian Caring Community in Perry, Iowa. PLH is the recipient of several LeadingAge Iowa awards for their Meaningful Mission Projects Program, Dementia Care Communities, Caregiving, and more. PLH offers a continuum of care to accommodate changing needs: in-home care, rehabilitative therapy, assisted living, respite care, skilled nursing, intermediate and long-term care, and three levels of progressive memory care. Perry Lutheran Homes focuses on Inter-Generational living with an on-site daycare, integration into the community through robust activity programs and events, and innovations to make Perry Lutheran Homes a great choice for meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable living.