More Room for Love

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Jan. 15-21, 2004
More Room for Love
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Francis House Builds a Second Home

As more and more people recognize the tremendous service hospice care provides to dying patients, hospice facilities strive to accommodate the needs. Francis House is one of these places. A newly completed $1.2 million expansion adjacent to its original house at 108 Michaels Ave. will allow Francis House to double the number of terminally ill residents it cares for –– from eight to 16.

Francis House was founded in 1991 by the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order, who over the years have continued to sponsor its ministry. The house has provided a home and an extended family to over 800 people with terminal illnesses and has supported over 3,000 family members. But there still exists an unmet need, which Francis House’s Board of Directors expects to address with the new addition. “Every time a bedroom becomes available, there are several people who could benefit from the care of Francis House. We hope to respond to this need with the second home, ” explained Sister Kathleen Osbelt, OSF, executive director of Francis House. “Francis House is one mission, but now with two homes.”

Approximately 120 visitors toured the new, 9,800-square-foot Tommy Coyne Residence at Francis House during an open house and blessing ceremony on Jan. 8. Tommy Coyne, chief executive of Coyne Textile Services, made the naming gift to the project. During the ribbon cutting, Coyne told those gathered that Francis House is the “closest to my heart” of all the charities he supports.

Bishop Thomas Costello blessed the new house at the dedication, and Father Robert Yeazel, Francis House chalpain, blessed the staff. Community leaders from Onondaga County, the City of Syracuse and the Syracuse Diocese attended the event, as well as benefactors, volunteers and families of current and past residents. New York State Sen. John DeFrancisco, during the ceremony, congratulated Sister Kathleen and those who enabled the second home to be built. “Francis House is a wonderful institution,” said Sen. DeFrancisco. “It needed to expand and now a record number of people who are in their final days can benefit from it.”

According to Sister Kathleen, it will take time before all the rooms are put to use. Only four of the new rooms will be open to residents beginning this month. She does not know exactly when the remaining rooms will be opened. The reason, she said, is that staff and volunteers must be ready to provide only the highest quality care to the residents who come to spend their last days and the friends and family who visit. “That’s the most important factor to us,” Sister Kathleen said.

The new home is a one-story structure located at 114 Michaels Ave. Donated furniture from Stickley, Audi & Co., China Towne Furniture, Harden Furniture Co. and Dunk and Bright Furniture Co. decorates the eight bedrooms, the kitchen that opens to a large great room, the chapel and offices. Colorful stained-glass windows adorn the chapel and the great room. Francis House will require 100 volunteers, in addition to the 225 who already provide resident care, and is adding two full-time and three part-time staff to house the eight people in the expansion, said Sister Kathleen. It took 18 months to demolish the three houses that were on the site of the new building and to complete construction and furnishing of the house. With Sister Kathleen serving as her own general contractor, the building was completed ahead of schedule and under the original $1.5 million budget. Costs were cut by asking subcontractors and material suppliers to help out, noted Sister Kathleen. “When there is a need in this community, people come forth and respond to whatever that need may be,” she said.

Sister Kathleen shared credit for the project with her primary building committee members who include retired health insurance executive Albert F. Antonini; Edward King, who is the facilities and construction manager for the Diocese of Syracuse; and his brother, Michael King, facilities manager for St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville. The original plan was to raise $750,000 by the time construction was complete, but the building fund has already topped $800,000 in pledges, announced Sister Kathleen. About four corporate and foundation grants are pending. Francis House has used reserves to pay for construction costs beyond the money raised so far.

Sister Grace Anne Dillenschneider, OSF, serves as the general minister of the Sisters of the Third Franciscan Order. The mission of Francis House is to reflect the unconditional love of God to those in need and their families, she said. She praised the dedication of volunteers, staff and the community who have supported the mission of Francis House through the years. “The mission of the Francis House needed more space and all of you, through your support and gratitude, have enabled this to happen,” Sister Grace Anne said. “This is a proud and happy day for the Sisters of Saint Francis.”

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