Dreaming of Grace
by Peter Soscia
One woman's vision for a Mercy Hospital guest house
For the first time in its history Mercy Hospital is set to have a dedicated hospitality house available to patients’ families. The house will provide a place for visitors to stay close by when family members have to stay at Mercy Hospital for extended periods of time. This project was not set in motion by doctors, the hospital board, or by politicians, but by the inspiration of one woman and the support of several other community members.
It’s called the Grace Guest House, and though it has no religious affiliation, that doesn’t mean the project isn’t spiritual for those involved. “I feel like this is my calling. I come to it really from a spiritual place, but it’s not a religious organization. Everyone is coming to it for their own personal reasons, whatever is exciting them about our mission,” said the Founding President of Grace Guest House Inc., Cindy Batista, whose day job is a senior gas accountant with National Fuel Gas Supply Corp. At work is where Batista’s mission started, when a co-worker’s child was in a severe car accident in North Carolina. Immediately the co-worker and his family headed south to be with their son, who would eventually make a full recovery. “When his dad came back to work he was of course telling me about his son, but shortly after he said to me: ‘I have to tell you about the house we stayed in.’ As he was talking to me, I was just so inspired, and so moved that literally that night I started to research if there are any sort of guest houses in Western New York,” said Batista. In her research she found that Buffalo was home to nation’s first hospital hospitality house, with Kevin Guest House in downtown Buffalo, as well as the Hope Lodge with the American Cancer Society, and the Ronald MacDonald House on West Ferry Street. However, Batista found nothing providing support for patients at Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo. Living nearby Mercy Hospital, Batista decided something needed to be done. After some more research and planning, Batista incorporated as a non-profit business, formed a board of trustees, and started looking at properties.
“I started just driving around South Buffalo looking for the right place. This property right at the corner of Abbott and Salem was for sale. It was a commercial property, and it just spoke volumes to me,” said Batista. The property was a former dental office that belonged to the Woods estate. “It had a big parking lot in the back, the house itself was set back from Abbott Road with a lot of trees and green space in the front. We pursued that [property] based on the location [two blocks away from Mercy Hospital] the parking, and based on just the sense I got that it was the right place,” said Batista. “The Woods family was very gracious, they had wanted $200,000 for the property, but of course we’re a non-profit so that was out of our price range. I offered $80,000 for the property and they graciously accepted it.” According to Batista the property is a three-minute walk to Mercy Hospital, which is a huge improvement for many families who live outside of the Buffalo area.
“I spoke with a woman whose brother was at Mercy Hospital for over 200 days. She lives in Eden, so everyday, her and her mother would drive up from Eden into the city. Sometimes they would be so exhausted that they would end up sleeping in the waiting room or drive half way and stay at a grandmother’s house. She completely understands and supports what we’re trying to do here,” said Batista.
The house not only aims to give guests a bed to sleep in at night, but a home away from home. Along with six guest rooms, the split-level building will have private bathrooms, a living room, shared kitchen, dining room, and laundry—providing a space for guests to get a much-needed break from the stresses of a long hospital visit. “We had a gentleman speak at our last board meeting. He doesn’t live very far away, but could have used us. His wife was in the hospital for a long time and was there for the November storm as well and he didn’t leave her side,” said Batista. “He came and talked to the board and told us just how desperately needed [a guest house] was. If he could have just gone over there and taken a break, and had some wholesome food, what a difference that would have made. He brought us all to tears.”
Currently the house is under construction as several rooms must be renovated and repaired due to water damage. The majority of the work has come from roughly 300 volunteer hours of gutting the house, along with pro bono support from local designers and construction crews. Batista hopes to have the house open at some point in late 2016, and soon will kick off a capital campaign that she hopes will net $1 million that will go towards completing the Grace Guest House and making the building ADA compliant. The campaign gets started with the foundation’s inaugural fundraising event on October 8. “We’re calling the fundraiser ‘Say Grace, Juice and Jazz.’ The reason I wanted it to be called ‘Say Grace’ is because nobody knows about us, nobody knows me, and we’re kind of flying under the radar working very quietly. But after the event, I want everybody to know and to be talking about the Grace Guest House,” said Batista. The event will take place at Ilio Dipaolo’s Restaurant featuring live jazz music, open bar and food, basket auction, 50/50 split, and a live auction.
To buy tickets to the event or find out how to volunteer on future projects with the house, visit: www.graceguesthouse.org.blog comments powered by Disqus
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