Meadville Tribune

November 19, 2012

Marquette Hospice House opens

By Konstantine Fekos
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — The amalgamation of community service, substantial donations and local talents is luxuriously apparent in the Marquette Hospice House, a home away from home for those facing the challenge of life-limiting illnesses.

Continuing a tradition of evaluating community needs, Hospice of Crawford County coordinated this project for its patients to live as guests in an environment of perpetual care and comfort, where trained nurses are available and loved ones are just a phone call away, if not visiting the spacious accommodations.

“This is a beautiful residential facility where life can be celebrated,” said Gina McCauley, program director, receiving numerous congratulatory greetings from visitors attending Sunday’s open house, which offered the community a look at its collective handiwork. “It took many hands and pocketbooks.”

Administrators of Meadville Medical Center (MMC) and its partners expressed their gratitude for the compassion of volunteers and benefactors who helped build the project from conception to completion in about three years.

The facility, located on North Wayland Road in Meadville, was purchased from the Parks family to service patients requiring additional day to day Hospice care.

“The Hospice staff makes visits, but can’t be there for patients 24/7,” said Michael Downing, chief executive officer for Community Health Services Inc. at MMC, noting that many families may be unable to provide regular care. “We envision this facility could be their home away from home; a comfortable facility where they can receive care.”

Downing also mentioned the considerable amount of work it took to make the organization’s dream of improved personal care come true.

Hospice raised approximately $500,000 worth of donations from local sponsors and businesses who offered services and financing to drive the project’s success.

The fundraising program, with assistance of the MMC Foundation, saw an overwhelming response from patrons giving hundreds to thousands of dollars each.

Some of the largest contributions came fromMarquette Savings Bank, for which the house is named, and the Dr. and Mrs. Arthur Phillips Charitable Trust Fund, who donated $125,000 and $89,000, respectively.

Additionally, the MMC Auxiliary completely furnished one of the guest suites and an anonymous architect offered services out of charity.

“As I walked through the facility and saw how well it came together, it reminded me of how the house came together; piece by piece,” said McCauley. “The generous donations of services, talents and funds made this beautiful facility.”

The establishment exuded that personable atmosphere to nearly 280 visitors who were treated to the building’s unique combination of medical care and classic comforts like recliners in the three patient care rooms, complete with full bathrooms, and sizable sofas in front of a grand fireplace in the aptly named Great Room.

“I’m personally very proud of the bathrooms,” said McCauley, giving tours along with Hospice staff. “The lamps and heated floors help guests who may have poor circulation stay warm when showering in the winter months.”

If a patient is unable to leave his or her bed, Hospice staff can wheel it out through the room’s double doors and adjacent hallways into the Great Room, where natural lighting, a view of the outdoors and space enough for family gatherings awaits.

The open house also featured a prayer dedication and blessing service

“We’re fortunate to have something like this locally,” said area resident Louise Flick, whose family received Hospice care in the past. “I think they achieved their goal of making this place homey.”

Part of what makes the Hospice House a home is the attention to detail coupled with carefully planned developments with room for more.

The patient care rooms are furnished with dressers and tables topped with vases of flowers, the upstairs bedroom offers overnight accommodations of equal comfort to visiting family members.

“We had a very beautiful house to begin with,” said Duane Koller, chair of the Hospice board. “It’s exactly what I thought it would be; a comfortable place where people want to be. People here are smiling. I hope it’s like this always.”

Koller gave special thanks to volunteers of Make a Difference Day for clearing dead trees on the property, supplying the house with years worth of firewood.

McCauley recognized her associates and staff for their community care, providing it to families who have little to no options at home.

“This place is blessed by caring, wonderful people who do great work,” she said.

The house’s newly employed licensed practical nurses are currently training for their upcoming personal care and household duties, from administering prescription medication to cooking and laundry services.

“The staff’s primary duty is to care for patients,” said McCauley. “Beyond patient care, the staff’s second responsibility will be to the family, educating them on the illness process and house process.”

House nurses and will also be responsible for maintaining patients’ safety and keeping up with any condition changes.

“To be a part of something so big is amazing,” said Jennifer Ball, Hospice House LPN. “I think we’re all looking forward to the opening day.”

Candidates enrolled under Hospice care are lined up to move in within a matter of days, most likely after the Thanksgiving holiday, according to Downing.

The community’s work is ever ongoing, however, as MMC and Hospice administrators hope to see future improvements and developments to the Hospice House, including a waterfall or fountain on the second floor deck and an adjacent meditation trail head, potentially leading to a walkway around the property.

These and other landscaping projects could be completed next spring or summer, finances permitting.

“Time and funding are always concerns,”  said McCauley, “but Crawford County is a great place with compassionate people who live here.”

Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at