After four years of work, Morristown’s Serenity House becomes reality
Joining Stephanie Hamill, Friends of Hospice of the Lakeway Area executive director, holding scissors, for the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting for the Serenity House on March 19 are Chamber ambassadors, representatives of local hospices, members of the FOH and Serenity House board of directors and Serenity house staff and volunteers.
Four years ago in March, Friends of Hospice of the Lakeway Area Executive Director Stephanie Hamill and her friend Sandy Johnson met at a local eatery to announce their shared dream of a home-like facility that would provide end of life care for hospice patients.
The dream was officially realized this week, with an opening celebration for Serenity House on March 19 and the first patient accepted on March 21.
On Tuesday, Hamill and Johnson joined volunteers, Morristown Chamber of Commerce ambassadors and staff and representatives of local hospice providers for a community ribbon cutting at Serenity House.
The two-patient facility offers around the clock care, including medical and non-medical services, to individuals during the last three months of their life.
The residential home on Kennedy Circle in Morristown was modeled after Crossroads House in New York, where Johnson’s older sister spent 21 days before she passed away from breast cancer.
“If losing a sister could be a heavenly experience, that was,” Johnson said during Tuesday’s ribbon cutting.
In addition to the two patient rooms, the Serenity House offers a quiet room for family members, with a view of the Serenity Garden, a fully equipped kitchen for the use of staff and family members, a living and dining room area for family members and visitors, two bathrooms and an office.
Bird feeders will be installed at each patient room window and the rooms have been decorated with art work, handmade quilts and comfortable furniture, in Mountain Side and Sea Side themes.
“This has been an incredible effort,” Morristown Chamber Chairman Randy DeBord said. “This is such a vital need in the the community.”
Hamill and Johnson are part of a 15-member committee that began the effort to bring a comfort home to Morristown in 2008. Hospice agencies that have joined along the way include Amedysis, Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice and UT Hospice.
The goal was to offer hospice patients a home where they can receive family-like care during the last stage of life, when they are no longer able to stay in their home.
“They won’t be charged to be here. That’s our gift, to give them three months,” Hamill said.
Three local pastors blessed the house, including Tim Thompson, Morristown Chamber chaplain; Garland Long, Amedysis chaplain; and Mike Sledge, SMHH and Hospice chaplain, with each praying for relief, peace and comfort for those who will be staying on site.
Hamill acknowledged the work of Marilyn Medley of the Morristown Housing Authority, who has worked with Friends of Hospice and the committee for more than a year to provide a facility. Medley oversaw the replacement of the roof, an upgrade to the HVAC system and the installation of blinds throughout the house.
Youth Build provided the labor for the 10 x 10-foot deck off the kitchen. The deck also has a view of the Serenity Garden. The contents of the house, including furniture, décor and supplies, were all donated by members of the community.
“This was the dream,” Hamill said.
The Serenity House staff includes four Americorps volunteers and eight nursing volunteers. In addition to the care provided by the patient’s hospice provider, trained medical staff will serve rotating shifts of four hours each. While patients are present, the house will be staffed 24/7, offering medical, personal care and housekeeping services.
Nutritional snack items will be stocked in the kitchen for family members. Family members will be able to prepare meals in the kitchen with ingredients they provide.
“I can’t thank the community enough for making this dream come true,” Hamill said.
There have been disappointments along the way; several locations were thought to have been good sites for the Serenity House but did not work out for a variety of reasons.
Fundraising has been creative and ongoing throughout the process.
Regular indoor yard sales have been held with committee members donating personal vintage items. The annual “Sweet Home for the Holidays” featured a meal, craft vendors and a popular Gingerbread House contest.
Items still needed for Serenity House include rocking chairs for the front porch, along with deck furniture and décor, toiletry items, cleaning supplies, paper products, kitchen items, office supplies and gift cards for grocery and home improvement stores.
The Serenity Garden will be completed with with a legacy brick walkway. For a $100 donation, a brick will feature the name of a loved one or friend in honor or memoriam.
Community fundraising will continue for Serenity House on May 2, when The Girls & Me Boutique will host the “Purses & Pearls” fashion show at the St. Patrick Church Parish Center. Models will sponsored by local businesses and individuals, and live and silent auctions will be featured.
Assisting in the official ribbon cutting were (pictured front row from left), Eric Harding and Vic Trobaugh, Chamber ambassadors; Sylvia Hinsley, Serenity House Board member/volunteer nurse; DeBord; Debbie A’Hearn, Smoky Mountain Home Health and Hospice/volunteer nurse; Tina Lane, Serenity House staff; Joani Wilson, Serenity House board/volunteer; Phyllis Hime, Friends of Hospice of the Lakeway Area board secretary/SH volunteer nurse; Rennie Fisher, SMHH and Hospice; Pamela Jinks, UT Hospice, FOH board president; Teresa Buckner, SMHH and Hospice, FOH board vice president; Traci Gonzales, UT Hospice, FOH Board Treasurer/SH volunteer nurse; Hamill; Sandy Johnson, Serenity House board/SH volunteer and Janet Hofer, Serenity House board. Back row from left, Dorothy Campbell, Serenity House staff; Jeff Lane, Serenity House staff; Al A’Hearn, FOH board/SH volunteer; Don Allen, FOH board; Sledge; Dr. Jose Amador, FOH board; Vicki Mahan, Amedisys Hospice; Long; and Gregg Harrell, Chamber ambassador.
For more information about supporting the Serenity House or the Girls & Me fashion show, call 423-586-5284 or visit www.foh-serenityhouse.org.
By Glenna Howington, Tribune Staff Writer