Gaia Home received a major gift at the beginning of the 2023 holiday season. The Bismarck-based Tom & Frances Leach Foundation announced it would award a $250,000 multi-year grant to help Gaia Home provide comfort, compassion, and dignity to people during their end-of-life journey. Gaia Home plans to open one of the first dedicated neighborhoods of its kind in North Dakota.
“This generous gift will help us build a neighborhood of residential units in Bismarck that are staffed with qualified medical caregivers specializing in the end-of-life journey,” says Jeff Ubl, Gaia Home Board Chair. “Gaia Home will provide families and their loved ones a peaceful place to gather, reminisce, and rest with privacy and dignity. Families will have the opportunity to treasure their time making lasting memories, without the responsibility of caregiving.”
The concept for Gaia Home was born out of the recognition that the end-of-life care options in North Dakota are limited to in-home hospice care or entering an institutional setting such as a nursing home or hospital. Gaia Home will free family and friends from caregiving duties and allow them to instead spend time making lasting memories with their loved ones in a homey, residential setting.
“We have seen in surrounding states how this model of care has dramatically improved the lives of people who have experienced the final season with a loved one,” says Kilee Harmon, Gaia Home Executive Director. “Gaia Home’s supporters are grateful to The Tom and Frances Leach Foundation for joining us as we work to fill a gap in the end-of-life care continuum in North Dakota.”
The Tom & Frances Leach Foundation, Inc. was founded nearly 70 years ago by Thomas and Frances Leach, the former owners of North American Royalties. The couple wanted to promote public welfare by supporting charitable non-profits that benefit arts and humanities, education, human services, medical sciences, as well as health and social sciences. The Foundation’s Board of Directors follows guidelines established by Frances to determine which organizations will receive grants that can be utilized to provide program funding, endowments, scholarships, and capital campaigns.
“As board members, we always ask ourselves, ‘If Tom and Frances were alive today would they support this?’ And the answer for Gaia Home is yes. Yes, they would,” says Todd Steinwand, a Leach Foundation Board Member for 20 years. “The Tom & Frances Leach Foundation supports organizations that are improving communities in western North Dakota and the Bismarck-Mandan area. Gaia Home will certainly do that by providing a peaceful option for people at the end of their lives.”
The Gaia Giving Campaign kicked off mid-2022 with a goal of raising $12 million to fund phase one construction of several residential units and the main lodge, start-up costs to provide care, and seed an endowment fund that will support the Gaia Home mission. One priority of Gaia Home is to utilize the endowment to provide compassionate care funds for those who otherwise could not afford to spend their final days at Gaia Home.
“This is an awesome venture that is certainly needed in our region. Our Board especially likes that Gaia Home will be so homelike and convenient for those living in our region,” says Bill Daniel, The Tom & Frances Leach Foundation Board President. “We like that Gaia Home will provide end-of-life comfort to those with or without family or friends nearby. There currently isn’t a professionally staffed facility like Gaia Home in our region. After our Board was presented with the details of the Gaia Home project from Kilee and other Gaia Home Leadership, the Leach Foundation was excited for the opportunity to make a grant to this project to help it move forward and provide end-of-life comfort that will benefit many.”
Thanks to the generous grant from The Tom & Frances Leach Foundation, the Gaia Home vision is closer to becoming a reality. The multi-year grant is a gift that will benefit a wide variety of Gaia guests and their families in the future.