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Campaign launched to raise $3M for new Washington County hospice facility

By By DAVE McMILLION davem@herald-mail.com and DON AINES dona@herald-mail.com
Published On: Nov 13 2013 09:53:24 AM EST
Updated On: Nov 13 2013 09:43:00 AM EST

Neal Glessner stands next to his wife Mary and announces his plans to chair a committee to build a new hospice facility in Washington County named in honor of his late mother, Doris "Doey" Glessner, during a benefit dinner for Hospice of Washington County on Tuesday in Hagerstown.

In an emotional evening highlighted by speakers whose lives have been touched by hospice care, the Hospice of Washington County Inc. announced Tuesday that it has $1 million in financial commitments for the construction of Doey’s House, a 13-bed general inpatient care and residential facility projected to cost about $3 million.

The announcement was made at Tuesday’s Gift of Hospice fundraising event at Cortland Mansion in Hagerstown.

Hospice gives care to end-of-life patients in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and private homes.

But sometimes care in private homes can be difficult, said Shelley Steiner, director of strategic initiatives for the Hospice of Washington County.

A hospice cannot provide around-the-clock care, and sometimes patients cannot afford skilled 24-hour care in their homes, Steiner said.

At the planned residential hospice facility, a sliding scale or full benevolent care could be available to those who cannot afford the daily rate, according to plans for the facility.

The facility will be built in memory of the late Doris “Doey” Glessner, mother of Neal Glessner, the president of Glessner Technologies.

Glessner spoke to about 320 guests about the memory of his mother and the values she instilled in him, such as always finding time to praise children, spending time with family members — and remembering that tulips are always the easiest and most rewarding flowers to plant.

“I find it ironic that tulips will always bloom around the anniversary of her death,” said Glessner, who at one point paused, took his glasses off and wiped his eyes as he remembered his mother.

Glessner said after his mother was discharged from a hospital with ovarian cancer, she ended up in a nursing home, which was not an appropriate facility for her situation.

He said family members decided they would take her home, although they discovered doing so would leave them facing about $17,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for the skilled care she needed.

Glessner said the absurdity of the situation led him to push for a residential hospice facility that would be available to anyone who needed it, not just the people who can afford it.

He brought his wife, Mary, up to the podium as he laid out the plans for the facility. Glessner is co-chairing a leadership committee with his wife for the campaign to build the facility.

The first stage of the capital campaign is to raise the balance of the $3 million for Doey’s House, according to hospice Director of Development Cheryl A. Brown.

Another $500,000 to $750,000 is expected to be needed to equip and furnish it, according to a document provided by Brown.

The second stage is to raise a $5 million endowment to help sustain its operations, according to a staff presentation provided by Brown.

The goal is to have Doey’s House open in 2016, the document said.

Neal Glessner first approached the organization in the spring about leading the campaign for a hospice house in the county, according to Brown.

In September, the hospice board of directors unanimously approved the campaign, the presentation said.

‘Heaven on Earth’

Doey’s House will be new construction at a yet to be determined site. It will be a mix of residential rooms and general inpatient care, which includes palliative services such as pain and symptom management, and emotional and spiritual support, the presentation said.

The house will have a home-like setting, and living areas will have private patios where patients and family members can enjoy the outdoors, Glessner said.

There will also be a chapel and outdoor gardens that families and patients can enjoy together, said Glessner, noting that the facility will be as close as designers can get to “heaven on Earth.”

The facility would offer services similar to Kline Hospice House of Frederick, Md., run by the Hospice of Frederick County, Brown said. Glessner, Brown and others involved in the project toured Kline House in June, the presentation said.

Individuals, couples, foundations and companies have made multiyear pledge commitments to the project. Half a dozen major gifts have been made as of Monday, the presentation said.

Bushey Feight Morin Architects Inc., Regan-Matonak and Associates, RHL Engineering Co. Inc. and Glessner Technologies have made in-kind commitments to the project for architectural, engineering and technology services, the presentation said.

The Hospice of Washington County serves about 270 people a day in their homes, nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and hospitals, Brown said in an e-mail.

Those served by hospice generally have a life expectancy of six months or less, according to its website, hospiceofwc.org.