It’s hard enough for families with loved ones in the hospital without also worrying about where they’re going to stay that’s not too far away. One woman who spent consecutive nights in a waiting room is working to provide a home away from home for families of Mercy patients. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.
Nearly two years ago, Kathy Penrod, who lives in Illinois, got a call that her dad, Jim, had been admitted to Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Family members rushed to be with him.
"We found ourselves there one night, then two nights, and it turned into six nights in the waiting room because we didn't know what was going to happen from minute to minute, so we didn't want to go too far," she said.
Kathy, her six siblings, her mom, an aunt and others stayed at the hospital around the clock until her dad passed away. She said they tried to get a hospitality room at Mercy but they were all full except for one night.
The need is great for affordable places for families of local hospital patients to stay, according to Sonya Kullmann, spokesperson for Mercy. She said the healthcare system has 21 hospitality rooms, plus 10 at the Ronald McDonald House for families of patients under 21. Between March and December 2014 Mercy had to turn down 710 requests for the regular rooms.
Penrod said she talked to others in the waiting room whose experiences were similar to her own.
"And I thought, 'wow, there's a real need here for a place to stay that's close enough that you can feel like you can be here in a minute but something that's a little bit more comfortable,'" she said.
She decided to look into the possibility of providing a place for families of patients to stay, and her search led her to the Healthcare Hospitality Network. The nonprofit has 600 hospitality homes across the country but none in Springfield, so Penrod decided to partner with them.
She settled on the big white house on the northwest corner of Sunshine and National near Mercy, looked up the owner, called him and asked if he’d be interested in selling.
"I didn't know, 'did he live there?' It wasn't for sale," she said.
Turns out, the owner, Steve Plaster, did not live there, and he loved the idea of turning it into a hospitality house. He offered to donate a portion of the home’s cost for the project if the not-for-profit organization can raise $300,000.
Fundraising is underway, and Penrod hopes Grandpa’s Hospitality House (named for her late father) will be open in the spring.
There will be four rooms to start, which can each accommodate one to five people, and families will be asked to make a donation of $42 per night. But she knows that won’t meet the need.
"Mercy has told us that they turn away approximately ten people a day," she said.
They hope to eventually add more rooms.
The home will have a computer, Wi-Fi, a laundry facility and a kitchen, and families can bring in their own food.
"The need is so immediate. The sooner we can get the funding, the sooner we can in that house and get it open," she said.
Volunteers will be needed to staff the house for guest check-ins and daily management. They’ll be asked to work one or more 3.5 hour shifts each month.
Financial donations are being sought to help pay for the house. $10,000 has been raised so far, and $290,000 is needed. Penrod says they can get a loan to purchase the house if they raise enough money for a down payment. Donations can be made at grandpashouse.org and through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.
Other needs are paper goods, cleaning supplies and snacks. And the organization is looking for individuals or groups to help with lawn care, cleaning and basic home maintenance.
According to Penrod, Grandpa’s Hospitality House will pick up where Ronald McDonald House leaves off. It will provide a place to stay for families with hospitalized patients of any age.