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Church dedicates site for hospice

A groundbreaking is expected next month for a unique hospice facility that will operate in partnership with a local church.

The $2.7 million St. John Baptist Hospice Buffalo House, at 111 Maple St., is designed to provide comfort and care for eight people in the final weeks or months of life. It is expected to open in nine months.

"It is the first time in the country that an inner-city church and hospice have collaborated to this extent," said William E. Finn, president and chief executive officer of the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care, Hospice Buffalo's parent company.

St. John Baptist Church, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary, dedicated the nearby site after Sunday services. The Rev. Otis Moss Jr., pastor of Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland, led the ceremony.

"We're just so excited to be doing something of this magnitude, knowing it's the first one of its kind," said Tracy Cardwell, St. John's public relations director.

"There is a great need for this, especially in the Fruit Belt area."

The collaboration was undertaken to serve minority communities that traditionally underutilize end-of-life care. It will provide a "very home-like facility that incorporates the cultural needs of the community," including family celebrations and religious services, Finn said.

The facility, designed by Foit-Albert Associates, has received considerable government and foundation funding.

Federal funds through the support of Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, totaled $600,000, Finn said, with considerable amounts coming from the state, city and county.

Private support includes $350,000 from the John R. Oishei Foundation, $300,000 from the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation and $100,000 from M&T Bank Foundation.

In addition, the Hospice Foundation gave $165,000, and St. John Baptist Community Development Corp. provided $200,000.

"A lot of community leaders have gotten behind this project," Finn said.

Hospice Buffalo currently serves 535 patients, with most receiving at-home care. The one-story house will be specifically for people who don't have a home or caregiver, or who can't be at home, Finn said.

Hospice patients generally have a prognosis of six months or less to live.

Finn said he wants others to learn from the Buffalo partnership. "What we hope is that one of the national foundations will fund the development of a tool kit to teach communities around the country how to duplicate what we have done here in Buffalo."

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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