Often out of sight and out of mind for individuals in Bulloch and the eight other counties it serves - until needed - the Ogeechee Area Hospice has quietly and steadfastly served people and families experiencing end-of-life issues for more than 16 years.
Tuesday, the not-for-profit hospice announced the kick-off of a $1.2 million fundraising campaign to expand its facility, more than doubling in-patient care capabilities by becoming just the second hospice in Georgia with residential care units.
The proposed development, projected to cost approximately $1.6 million, will renovate the hospice's current building - located on East Grady Street where the old Bulloch Memorial Hospital once sat - and expand facilities by more than 18,000 square feet.
Once completed, the Ogeechee Area Hospice will offer 13 additional rooms, all of which will serve as residential units for patients requiring extended stays, two family rooms, and a 1,200-square-foot conference room.
"In 2005, we started a capital campaign to meet an un-served need in the community; and that was the opening of our current in-patient facility," said Jean Bartles, President of the Board of Directors for Ogeechee Area Hospice - The current facility is home to 12 in-patient rooms which are used for individuals near the end of life; and can only be used for short periods of time. "The facility has made a phenomenal contribution to the lives of many people. We are at a moment now where we are looking to add to our possibilities and take on an opportunity to serve people with longer periods of required care."
"This will be a place where our home-care hospice patients who can't stay at home, can come and stay for weeks or even months," said Nancy Bryant, Executive Director of the Ogeechee Area Hospice. "So many baby boomers are aging, and retirees are flocking to our area. Now, people who can no longer stay at home, and require hospice care, will have a place to stay."
Bulloch County Commissioners voted in October to transfer an additional acre of property - adjacent to the current building - to Ogeechee Area Hospice, opening the door for an expansion.
Commissioners did so with a stipulation that the hospice remain a non-profit entity.
"We thoroughly intend on maintaining our non-profit mission," said Richard Mellett, Vice President of the Board of Directors for the hospice.
The development project meets a growing need in the community, according to Bryant.
"We are seeing more and more patients at home that lack caregivers," she said. An increasing number of people we care for have elderly spouses who lack the capability to render the amount of supervision and care that is necessary. The solution is Hospice Residential Care."
The Ogeechee Area Hospice has approximately $425,000 for initial funding of the project, said Bryant. According to David Ball, Co-Chair of the ‘Together We Care' Capital Campaign, more than $700,000 private donations have been raised thus far.
"We are very fortunate to be in a community that values this hospice endeavor," said Bartels. "The first time we [raised money for construction] everything was an unknown. We were very blessed with the way people responded. We are hoping to have that same support again."
"This development will have a profound impact on many, many families," said Ron Harding, Campaign-Development Consultant. "As great as we have done thus far, we still have a way to go. This is no time to slack in our efforts. We believe by February we can reach the $1.2 million goal, but my hope is we not only reach that goal - because of cost overruns we all know about in construction - but race right past it."
According to Mellet, Pope Construction, a Statesboro-based company that built the current structure in 2005, has been hired to construct the new facilities. Palmer Architects, also out of Statesboro, will be responsible for building design, he said.
"We hope to get construction under way this summer. If we can do that, we hope to be in the facility by the summer of 2012," said Mellet. .
The project is something that Bryant, and everyone affiliated with the expansion, is eager to see come to fruition.
"I'm very excited. We have a wonderful community and feel like this is going to be a great success and a wonderful resource for this region," she said. "Our project is really going to significantly improve the quality of life for many people."
Jeff Harrison can be reached at 912-489-9454.