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Guest house designed for relatives of patients

August 01, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

karenh@herald-mail.com

For Josephine Butler, 91, the chance to visit with family is priceless.

An overnight stay behind Western Maryland Hospital Center, where Butler's daughter lives, now carries just a modest fee of $15.

About 25 people turned out Sunday afternoon to celebrate the opening of a guest house for relatives of hospital patients.

"On behalf of the hospital, I would like to thank all of you. We will be forever grateful for all of your efforts," CEO Cindy Pellegrino told the group of volunteers and donors who helped prepare guest rooms in one half of a duplex owned by the hospital.

Blue valences and a border of ship anchors decorated the area above the windows in Rooms A and B, and pink quilts were folded on two beds in one room. The bedrooms on the second floor of the brick duplex behind the hospital normally will accommodate as many as four people.

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The house had been rented by the hospital, and the downstairs section - including a kitchen and the living room where the opening celebration took place - still is used for other purposes. The guest section upstairs includes a small room with a small refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave.

One night's stay costs $15 per room, and proceeds will go toward the hospital auxiliary for patient care, auxiliary member Barbara Neumann said Sunday.

Hospital chaplain Pastor David Baker said he began work on opening a guest house last fall. Many of the hospital's 90-some patients come from all over the state, he said.

Visits from relatives who live far away can become expensive, he said in an interview last week.

"For them to come and provide emotional support for the patient, that means they have to stay at a hotel, eat at restaurants," Baker said.

Baker asked area Lutheran churches and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a fraternal benefit society that offers members financial services, for help in opening a guest house.

According to Gail Smith, president of the Washington County chapter of the society, churches donated $1,835 toward furnishings and Thrivent Financial Services donated $2,600. Fifteen people volunteered to hang wallpaper and furnish rooms.

Anthony McCann, secretary of the State Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said he believes the guest house is the first of its kind in the state hospital system.

"The state, as you know, always struggles (with) what's the role of religion in what we do," McCann said.

He commended volunteers for their help.

"But, bringing religion to us, bringing a sense (of) right and wrong to us, is absolutely essential to us," McCann said.

Butler, whose daughter has been hospitalized off and on in different facilities since 1991, relies on family members to drive her more than an hour from where she lives in Augusta, W.Va., to the hospital.

Butler said she normally stays with relatives, but said she does not like to feel that she is causing them any burden. She recently celebrated her daughter's birthday as one of the guest house's first overnight visitors.

"I'm 91 years old, and I don't drive, but I do enjoy coming up and visiting my daughter," Butler said last week.

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