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It’s a large, imposing brick building sitting on a busy Grant Avenue corner. Since 1865, its walls have been offering hope and comfort to those in need. Most locals and residents alike call it “The Home,” yet its official name is The Faatz-Crofut Home

Its roots date back to the Civil War, when veterans and women of limited resources needed assistance. Founded by a small group of Presbyterian women, it has been in continuous operation. Two distinct groups, the board of managers and the board of trustees, are responsible for the overall operations. The trustees handle the financial and facilities side, white the managers handle the rest.

Maryjane Benson, of Port Byron, is the president of the board of managers. Her professional career focused on working with families and children. After retiring from The E. John Gavras Center, she was looking for something new and different to do. When a friend, a member of the board, asked her to join, she was very interested. That was 10 years ago.

Maryjane said she knew nothing about The Home before joining the board. She had volunteer experience, but what drew her to this experience was the chance to work with an adult population.

The Home’s mission is to assess and meet the ongoing needs of the residents in a professional, courteous and efficient manner, while maintaining the high quality of care in a safe environment. Those words really speak to Maryjane and she said this is what everyone — boards, staff, volunteers — all aim to achieve.

According to Klare Gunnip, administrator, this is not assisted living but senior living with some adult care. They serve both men and women over 60; currently, the average age of the residents is 85. Recreational and social activities are very important in helping people to thrive.

Maryjane became board president when the previous president stepped down because of an illness. She said that while she didn’t have any experience, she was certainly interested in learning and ensuring that The Home’s mission continued to be realized.

The board of managers is an all-volunteer group that meets once a month. They have a variety of committees that meet as needed. Maryjane said that they are responsible for the inner workings of the organization and her job is to figure out how to use everyone’s skills and abilities to do just that.

In addition to serving as the president of the board of managers, Maryjane runs a storytelling group. Originally it started as a book club; she decided she needed to change it up to meet the needs of the group. Not everyone reads at the same pace, nor is everyone interested in reading the same genre, so the idea of telling stories developed.

Maryjane brings in something to start the discussion going. These have been such things as a children’s book, a photograph, artwork and even a woodcut of a farm scene. Works by Andrew Wyeth, Georgia O’Keefe and photojournalist Dorothea Lange have been popular in stimulating the group’s discussion. And that’s the purpose, Maryjane said: to get the residents to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences. This way, it meets the needs of everyone in the group and no one is left out. To help get the group going, she asks open-ended questions. This way, the discussions can go where they are at the present moment.

Maryjane takes notes and then comes back to read the “story” the group has created back to them. She said they love it and have become a close-knit group. They have become comfortable with one another and accepting of everyone in the group, as everyone has different abilities and perceptions. It’s a different way to ensure conversation and socializing among seniors, which is so important to remaining healthy.

Klare noted that the residents love the storytelling time as well. Though she’s not sure what they like best: responding the first time or hearing what they’ve created.

Klare went on to state that Maryjane is the true board leader and not afraid to do things differently. Klare said she has also been a great help to her, as Klare is new to her role. “Maryjane is a very selfless and dedicated individual. She’s just a great leader and volunteer,” Klare said. For her part, Maryjane said she certainly gets back more than she gives, and looks forward to more.

Learn more about The Home at

Karen A. Macier, of Auburn, has spent 20 years working and volunteering in the not-for-profit sector.