When Gateway House of Peace leased the former Red Cross building on Rowland Street in Milton from Saratoga County in 2011, the roof leaked and the foundation needed work.
“When we first got here, it was a rainy summer and we had buckets everywhere,” said Joni Hanchett, president and founder of Gateway House, a private nonprofit that will provide end-of-life care in two renovated bedrooms.
After two years of repairs and renovations, Gateway House announced last week that the renovations are done and the facility will open on March 1.
Organizers have started a campaign to raise $100,000 to cover annual operating costs.
“We don’t expect to have the whole $100,000 by March 1, but that’s a hard opening date,” said Hanchett, who has been working for years to establish an end-of-life care home somewhere in Saratoga County.
Gateway describes its mission as providing, free to the recipient, a home and extended family for people in need. Most of the staffing will be by volunteers, but they will be trained by Community Hospice of Saratoga, and hospice services will come into the home.
The organizations have a partnership, with hospice providing the professional care and Gateway providing basic care, said Rob Puglisi, a spokesman for Community Hospice.
Not quite home, but...
“The ideal place for a seriously ill person is their own home, but in some cases people need more support than they can get at home,” Puglisi said. “Houses like this are ideal for people who need more care than their family or caregiver can provide, but don’t need to be in a hospital.”
Similar existing programs include the Joan Nicole Prince Home in Scotia and Mary’s Haven in Saratoga Springs, which is run by Catholic Charities. Gateway House of Peace does not have a religious affiliation.
Hanchett became interested in hospice care after spending time with her dying grandmother in Buffalo. She volunteered with the local hospice affiliate starting a decade ago, when her husband’s job moved them to Saratoga County.
“In 2006, I decided to start a home, because I saw the need,” Hanchett said this week.
Gateway’s mission is to provide free round-the-clock care in the final three months of life to members of low- or middle-income families.
“There’s definitely a need,” Hanchett said. “I get a couple of calls a week.”
Gateway House will be located in a three-story former residence at 479 Rowland St., next to the Saratoga County Airport.
The house was acquired by the county in 1988 as part of a airport runway clear zone project. The county subsequently leased it to the Saratoga County chapter of the American Red Cross for office use, but the Red Cross departed in 2009 after the county chapter merged with the Glens Falls chapter and the offices were moved to Glens Falls.
The town of Milton leased the house for additional town office space for a year, but didn’t follow through on plans to use it. Having read about the situation in the paper, Hanchett approached the town, and then the county, in 2010.
Leased at $1 a year
In the winter of 2011, the county Board of Supervisors agreed to lease the building to Gateway House of Peace for a dollar per year.
Since then, a number of local contractors have donated labor, materials or furnishings to get the house shipshape, and the American Legion donated everything needed for a new kitchen. All the work was done by volunteers.
“My husband and I were here every weekend,” said Hanchett, who is a dental assistant by training.
At this point, interior renovations are essentially done. There are also plans for outdoor landscaping, with the materials and labor again being donated, said Anna Stanko, who is on the Gateway board of directors.
“We have a good, hard-working team of volunteers,” Stanko said.
Most day-to-day care will be provided by volunteers, but the organization will have six part-time professional or para-professional positions.