Author Archive for: volunteerangel
Written by John Deem
Little did Pletcher know that another Serenity House already was on the way — in Morristown, Tenn. The soon-to-open end-of-life facility does nothing to meet Pletcher’s goal of opening a Serenity House in northern Mecklenburg County, but when she heard about the Tennessee project, it intrigued her nonetheless.
Meanwhile, in Morristown, organizers had already decided on the name Serenity House, not knowing that there was another end-of-life facility by the same name. That center’s founder and executive director, Stephanie Hammill, was looking for ideas for a logo, so she typed “Serenity House” into Google and hit Search.
The first item to pop up on her screen? Serenity House in Mooresville.
“It was like mana from heaven,” Hammill says.
That’s because Hammill and others working to create the Morristown facility were modeling it after a center in Batavia, N.Y., which was more than 700 miles away.
“Suddenly, we find one that’s just a four-hour drive from us,” Hammill says. “And it’s named Serenity House!”
The two Serenity Houses would soon become sister centers, which is why Hammill and about one-half dozen of her volunteers traveled to Mooresville last week to see the other Serenity House in action.
More than a dream
Like its Mooresville counterpart, the Morristown Serenity House will provide a place for up to two “residents” at a time to spend their last days in a place that offers around-the-clock comfort and support, all provided by volunteers. What’s different about the two facilities is the houses themselves.
Mooresville’s Serenity House, which has been home to nearly 140 residents in their final days and weeks in its five years of operation, is a house on the campus of Centre Presbyterian Church, which leases the building to Serenity House for $1 per year.
Hammill went a different route in Morristown, where that community’s Serenity House will be a home owned by the Morristown Housing Authority. Having an actual building has been crucial in Hammill’s efforts to raise funds to operate Serenity House, she says, especially since the concept of a free, all-volunteer facility unique.
“People just don’t want to give to a dream,” Hammill says.
It’s the same kind of reaction Pletcher says she’s gotten as she looks for a home for a northern Mecklenburg Serenity House. She’s targeting Davidson and Cornelius, but is willing to look farther south if that’s what it takes.
Wherever the newest Serenity House ends up, it will be a good thing for the area.
“I think it adds to the quality of life of the community.”
And, ultimately, the end of life to Serenity House’s residents.
House hunting in north Mecklenburg
Serenity House of Mooresville continues to look for a home in Davidson, Cornelius or Huntersville that could serve as a second Lake Norman-area end-of-life care facility.
“Our hope is to come up with an arrangement like what we have here,” says Serenity House Executive Director Cheryl Pletcher.
That arrangement allows Serenity House to lease a home on the campus of Centre Presbyterian Church for $1 a year. Anyone interested in helping n the effort may contact Serenity House at 704-664-2004.
original article: http://www.lakenormancitizen.com
HUGE thank you to our Gala Team for an OVER THE TOP successful fundraiser for Serenity House. Our guests raised $36,375 and our Superheroes, Don and Peggy Dimperio, matched $25,000 to give us a “good finish” at $61,375.00. More than I could have imagined! How can you give thanks to so many for such generosity? I’m thanking God first. Thank you God. See more pictures of the 2012 Black and White Gala
November 10, 6 pm
to benefit Serenity House of Mooresville
Saturday, November 10, 2012, 6:00 p.m.
Charles Mack Citizen Center
215 North Main Street, Mooresville
Evening will include a ‘Taste of Mooresville’ menu by the area’s finest restaurants, entertainment and a silent auction.
Black and White attire requested – Reservations required.
By John Deem – firstname.lastname@example.org (view original article)
Serenity House, an all-volunteer end-of-life facility, looks to add north Mecklenburg location.
It happened once. It can happen again.
That’s the way Cheryl Pletcher sees it. And who could doubt her?
It was Pletcher who, in the fall of 2006, shared her vision for something that had never been done in North Carolina. Her plan was for a house where the terminally ill could spend their final days at no charge while being cared for ’round-the-clock by volunteers.
Pletcher, who had moved to the Lake Norman area from the Rochester, N.Y., area, targeted Mooresville for the first free facility.
The rest, she says, was a matter of faith.
She and other organizers sent 110 letters to Mooresville churches, businesses and organizations outlining the vision for the project and making a plea for a house. Then they prayed. Hard.
Pletcher got only one response. But that’s all she needed for those prayers to be answered.
As it turned out, leaders at Presbyterian Church in Mooresville had been praying, too. The church had been trying unsuccessfully to sell a house it owned at the edge of its campus on Centre Church Road and was at the point of forming a committee to figure out what to do with the property.
Two prayers answered. Two problems solved.
The church retained ownership of the home, but agreed to lease it for $1 a year so it could become Serenity House, which since has served 130 “residents” and will celebrate its fifth anniversary Oct. 16.
A place for Jimmy
Serenity House cares for just two residents at a time, but each gets his or her own room, and the house essentially becomes a second home for the residents’ families. Residents are allowed to stay a maximum of three months. Only 10 have had to leave Serenity House, and they all died within a few weeks.
Jimmy, who is mentally handicapped, lived in the same group home in Charlotte for 25 years. When he became ill in May, the group home could no longer meet his medical needs. A colostomy bag — and a prognosis that he had less than three months to live —
further complicated the family’s efforts to find care for Jimmy.
“We couldn’t get a hospice bed,” Jimmy’s sister, Julie Hilton of Mooresville, said late last week. “We were calling everywhere. I would have brought him home if I couldn’t find a place for him.”
But then Hilton’s daughter offered a sobering measure of the situation’s emotional weight.
“She loves her uncle,” Hilton said. “But she told me she didn’t want him dying in the room next to hers.”
It’s a factor that the folks at Serenity House know well. For many, when a loved one dies in a family’s house, the place seems less like a place to live. Instead, it becomes the place where this person they loved dearly has died.
Hilton didn’t want that, but she had no alternative.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I was so stressed out.”
When a spot opened for Jimmy at Serenity House, Hilton jumped at it. But even then, she worried that her brother wouldn’t adapt to unfamiliar surroundings. He’d developed a comfortable routine in the group home. He knew what to expect and when to expect it. He had his room set up just the way he liked it. Hilton’s concern didn’t last long, though.
“He was only here for a day when I realized that with the way the volunteers cared for him, it was going to be okay,” she says. “They talked to him and found out what he was interested in and made him feel at home from the very beginning.”
As Hilton sat at the home’s kitchen table, she knew Jimmy’s time was short. She even noted that Jimmy “would be 50” on Sept. 28, not that he will be. But she knew Jimmy was where he needed to be for however many more days he had, for however many more McDonald’s cheeseburgers he could coax volunteers to bring him (it didn’t take much, they’d admit), for however many more Dr. Peppers he could ask for … and get.
Jimmy died Monday at about 7:30 p.m.
Stories like Jimmy’s are cause for celebration, but Pletcher is quick to add that about 350 people have been referred to Serenity House during its five years. That means nearly two out of every three referrals never get in.
“Turning families away is what really weighs on my heart,” Pletcher says.
About 30 percent of Serenity House’s referrals are from northern Mecklenburg County, so Pletcher is targeting that area for a second facility. And praying. Hard.
It’s a strategy that has worked so far. With a paid staff of three and its other expenses, Serenity House has always been able to pay its people and its bills.
“We collect $140,000 (a year) just by walking to the mailbox,” Pletcher admits.
“Yeah, but we pray on the way to the mailbox,” adds volunteer coordinator JoAnn Durham.
The checks in the mailbox have come from 23 states, many of them from families of residents who have passed through Serenity House.
Given what it does, Serenity House sounds very much like a hospice house, but it’s not, Pletcher says.
“Think of a Hospice house as a hospice hospital (with) doctors and nurses on duty at all times,” she explains. “Just like in the real hospital, the hospice facility is not meant for long-term care. When your family is exhausted, absent or overwhelmed, a hospital setting is not appropriate.”
Also, hospitals often can’t get reimbursed for care of a terminal patient, because his or her treatment is not aimed at “curing” the patient.
“Serenity House gets regular referrals from hospitals and the hospice houses for patients that have stabilized in the facility, but the family situation is not sufficient to send the patient back home,” Pletcher adds. “More and more, families are stressed financially, as well as emotionally and physically. And so the referrals to Serenity House are for the neediest of hospice patients around Mooresville. Nursing homes are the second most common placement of these patients.”
But what truly makes Serenity House unique, Durham adds, are its volunteers.
“I call them angels,” she says. “They’re not volunteers.”
Durham says she draws from a pool of about 75 volunteers to fill 56 four-hour shifts a week. That’s nearly 11,650 volunteer hours a year to do hands-on — and often unpleasant — work.
“They change diapers,” Durham says of volunteers. “They hold the pan when (residents) are throwing up.”
But the volunteers also offer immeasurable comfort at a time when residents and their families need it most. If they have a family at all.
“We’ve had people who lived out in the woods or in tents and (who) have no family,” Durham says. “Others have family that just can’t care for them at home anymore.”
But they are all people — no better or worse than the people who care for them, says volunteer Michelle Brachten.
“They all have a story,” she says. “That’s my favorite part: listening to the stories.”
The residents have made plenty of new ones, too. There was the man who’d decided to check into a motel and drink himself to death before getting a bed. Serenity House even hosted a wedding. The son of one of the residents wanted his dad present at his wedding, even if his father was unresponsive. So he and the bride exchanged vows at Serenity House.
And then there were the feuding brother and sister who hadn’t spoken in years because of some long-ago squabble. While the siblings’ mother was a resident, the daughter went into the kitchen one day to make soup. She was using one of her mother’s recipes, and her brother, who was sitting nearby at the kitchen table, recognized it.
“Is that mom’s recipe?” Durham recalls the brother asking.
And with that simple question about soup, the animosity between the two began to melt like butter in a hot skillet, and they reconciled before their mother’s death.
Death, of course, has a way of putting life and all its pettiness into perspective. And end-of-life care has a way of offering a new perspective on death.
Brachten, the volunteer, remembers talking to a nurse at Serenity House who had begun her career as a pediatric nurse.
“She said, ‘I started out birthing babies into this world,'” she recalls the nurse saying. “‘Now, I’m birthing people into heaven.'”
Busy time for Serenity House
Planning for a second Serenity House — this one in northern Mecklenburg — will continue with a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20, at Homewood Suites at I-77 Exit 30 in Davidson. Serenity House is seeking a house for the new facility.
These fundraisers for Serenity House are also coming up:
• Friday, Sept. 21 — Blues and Burritos, downtown Mooresville, 6 p.m. Information at www.lakenormanlaw.com/upcoming-events/blues-and-burritos-2012.html.
• Saturday, Sept. 29 — See You in September Shag Party for Charity at Queen’s Landing, 4-7 p.m. Captain Ron’s Beach and Boogie will be the D.J. for the event. Admission is $5. Information at www.serenityhousenc.org/news-and-blog/see-you-in-september/.
• Saturday, Nov. 10 — Black and White Gala Fundraiser for Serenity House and five-year anniversary celebration at Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville. Local caterers and restaurants will provide food, and there also will be a silent auction. Reservations are required, and donations are requested at the event (there is no cost for tickets).
Serenity House also is seeking sponsors for the event. For information, call 704-664-2004.
By John Deem – email@example.com
Allan Payne of The Alamo Grill in Statesville presented Cheryl Pletcher and the Serenity House with a check for $6,500.00 after a very successful golf tournament at River Oaks Golf Club on June 9th in memory of Alan McNeeley of Statesville.
Much appreciation to our food sponsors: Cooking for Christ, Walgreen’s,Chick-fil-A, Carolina Bar-B-Q of Statesville, Debbie’s Heavently Touch Catering, Chad White, and The Alam & Whistle Stop Cafe.