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Katherine Park: Caring for the Elderly

Katherine Park lived a charmed life. She met her husband, Sam, on an ocean liner heading back to New York from Europe. Sam, who graduated from Yale and had an M.B.A. from Harvard, became John Hay Whitney's chief fiscal agent, and was a partner of J.H. Whitney & Company.

Sam and Katherine traveled extensively, attended the opera, and enjoyed entertaining friends at their Manhattan apartment and their home in the Catskills. But when Sam died in 1976, Katherine, who had no children, found herself feeling isolated and alone. She began to notice elderly people in her neighborhood who didn't have her financial resources, so she volunteered in a senior center. When Katherine died in 1981, she left the largest part of her estate to the Katherine Park Fund in The Trust "to assist the elderly...with the problems of loneliness and boredom."

For years, we made grants to senior centers and other nonprofits that took elders to concerts, plays, and other outings. But by the mid-'90s, with many elderly New Yorkers being cared for by poorly paid, unhappy home health aides rather than family, we started to use the Park Fund differently. While their employers were socializing at senior centers, our grants paid for aides to learn better ways to do their jobs. At the same time, we funded other agencies to develop those jobs into careers, leading to more satisfied and qualified home health aides and, ultimately, happier elders.

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