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County votes ‘yes’ on hospice grant

fr hospicehouseHospice House of WNC passed a hurdle in its fundraising effort when the Macon County Board of Commissioners voted to submit a grant application on the organization’s behalf. In a 4-0 vote, the commissioners unanimously agreed to support the hospice house’s bid for the $100,000 Building Reuse Grant from the N.C. Department of Commerce. 


“I’ve had a friend to go through — we all have — end-of-life situations that need special care, and I just think it’s a good thing,” said Commissioner Paul Higdon of the project. 

Of the 59 hospice inpatient facilities in North Carolina, only one is located in Western North Carolina, and that one is in Haywood County — a long drive for many who live further west. 

Hospice House of WNC has been working for a decade to get an inpatient hospice facility up and running in Macon, and after purchasing a home in Franklin located on 2.7 acres of property, the organization began its big fundraising push. The goal? To raise $4.3 million to build an addition that will turn the home into a 12-bed hospice house. After winning a $1 million grant from the State Employee Credit Union, they were well on their way and have to date raised about $1.8 million. 

Hospice House of WNC President Michele Alderson feels “confident” about the Department of Commerce grant, but the organization couldn’t apply for the grant on its own. It needed the support of a local government body.  

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In July, the hospice house had approached the Franklin town board with its request for support, but the board voted no in a split 3-2 vote, citing concerns that, should the nonprofit prove unsuccessful, the town could be stuck repaying the state its grant money. So, the hospice house made some slight tweaks to its presentation before approaching the county. 

“The conditions [of the grant] mostly have to do with the project not getting completed, so the hospice house offered the county, and indeed they offered the town, an additional provision that those would be the last funds to be used and it would simply stay in the county’s coffers until it was time to use them,” said Orville Coward, attorney for the nonprofit. 

It would be a pretty safe bet, Coward added, calling the possibility of the grant conditions going unfulfilled “remote,” and the chance of the state looking to pull back those funds “incredibly attenuated.”

Hospice house supporters made a follow-up presentation to the town with this revised presentation in August, but no action was taken. Instead, the organization took its request to the county. Alderson and Coward said that both boards are supportive of the project — it was more a question of which entity would be best suited to oversee the grant. 

“I always believe everything happens at the right time,” Alderson said. “The town is supportive also. It’s just that they didn’t want to do any of the administration of it. The county is more used to administering these kinds of grants.”

The $100,000, if awarded, will be one more link in the chase to $4.3 million. Plans call for a completed facility with six inpatient suites, six residential suites, a chapel, gardens, a walking trail, a conference room, a sun room and family areas for cooking, dining and hanging out, among other features. 

“There is a huge need for this facility, and that’s why we formed the foundation and are pursuing the funds to provide it to the community,” Alderson said, adding that she’s already getting calls from Clay and Cherokee counties, asking if the house is open yet. 

The state has already recognized the need, issuing a certificate of need for a hospice house. The facility will give patients a place to live the end of their lives as comfortably as possible, to receive symptom and pain management and to get care while relatives take a rest from their care giving role, perhaps to go on vacation or attend a wedding. 

“It’s a great thing,” Higdon said. 

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