Kathy’s House cancels gala, launches ‘critical operations’ campaign

$50,000 matching challenge runs through May 16

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Kathy’s House is calling on its donors after being forced to cancel its largest revenue-generating event of the year. 

The Wauwatosa-based nonprofit hospital guest house operator has launched a “critical operations” fundraising campaign in lieu of its 2020 gala, which was originally scheduled for May 16. Last year’s event brought in about $130,000 of operational funds for the organization. 

“Canceling it was the right thing to do, but that event raises about a quarter of our annual revenue, money that is critical to running the house and taking care of our guests,” said Patty Metropulos, president and chief executive officer of Kathy’s House. 

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When Kathy’s House made the call to cancel its gala, several of the event sponsors agreed to continue their support. Those donations have launched a $50,000 matching challenge, with contributions being matched dollar for dollar through May 16. 

“It was very humbling – it only took one call or email and people stepped up and said, ‘Of course, we’ll continue our sponsorship,’” Metropulos said. “It really helped cement our plan to take this to be a virtual matching challenge.” 

While many nonprofits have had to suspend or scale back their operations, Kathy’s House has continued to host out-of-town patients who have traveled to the Milwaukee area for medical treatment throughout the pandemic. Many of its guests are immunocompromised and higher risk for contracting COVID-19, Metropulos said. 

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To mitigate the spread of the virus, in March, the organization discontinued its volunteer program and banned guests of families. 

Separate from raising operational funding, it is running a $12 million campaign to support the construction of its new home on the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center campus. The organization has raised about $10 million to date, and is preparing to break ground for the project in May. 

The new building will double the capacity of Kathy House’s current 18-room facility at 600 N. 103rd St., which it rents from St. Camillus Health Center. 

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Despite the disruption of the coronavirus, Metropulos expressed confidence that the organization’s expansion plans will be realized. 

“We have had some really nice growth in last five years,” she said. “As we get ready to move in to our new building a year from now and double in size, we’ve grown all parts of the organization. We know this is going to be an abnormal year, but we do feel we can weather the storm because I believe our mission really resonates with people.” 

Kathy’s House is also preparing for a greater influx of guests this summer, as patients who postponed procedures or treatment during the outbreak come to town to receive care.  Health systems are currently halting non-emergency medical procedures to reserve hospital bed capacity for COVID-19 patients and PPE for health care workers.  

“When health care systems are able to resume their normal level of treatment for cancer patients, we will see a huge surge in demand,” Metropulos said. “So we need to be prepared and ready to accommodate that demand.”

On average, people who stay at the house donate about $30 per night, but donations are not required. The actual per-night cost to Kathy’s House is about $90.

Metropulos said the organization has been approved for Paycheck Protection Program funds, though it has not yet received them.

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