July 10, 2008

Somerset Hospice Getting a Home

By Kecia Bal, Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

Jul. 10--SOMERSET -- Though nurses have staffed a hospice program at Somerset Hospital for 30 years, the service now will have a home.

The hospital is building a $1.5 million In Touch Inpatient Hospice Facility, thanks to a donation from the Wheeler family.

"It is incredible what people can do when they are community minded," hospital board Chairman Bruce Shipley said, thanking Joan Wheeler. "We want this to continue to be one of the greatest programs going."

Hospice Director Beverly Penrod said the hospital has some beds dedicated to the hospice program, aimed at improving the quality of life for the dying with in-home and other services.

"This will give them a refuge that will feel like home," she said.

The facility -- to be built and finished by early 2009 -- will be adjacent to the Children's Aid Home off North Center Avenue.

Plans call for an 8,000-square-foot building with six patient beds and room for four more, as well as a living room area with a fireplace, a non-denominational chapel, eat-in kitchen and sunporch.

The Children's Aid Home also was a vision of Joan Wheeler and her late husband, H.W. Wheeler, hospital President Mike Farrell said.

"Her vision of this hospice house is very similar to the Children's Aid Home," he said.

"I really believe this will be one of the finest hospice houses you will find anywhere."

The Wheelers donated land for the facility for troubled children, which has transferred part of the property for the hospice.

Joan Wheeler encouraged the hospice nurses to take the stand behind the shovels for the groundbreaking.

"The work you do is remarkable," she said. "Those are the people we have to thank."


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