By Jasmine Willis
WAYLAND — Our local comfort care home has reached two decades of helping others in their greatest times of need.
Vincent House was born out of the concept of helping terminally ill care for their body and soul. There have been over 500 residents cared for within these walls in two decades. Several volunteers have been steady at the comfort care home since the very start; Sharyl Brown, Mark Dunning, Carolyn Baker, Bonnie Hughes, Robin Jacobs, Sally Leeson, Nancy LeVesque, Joyce Osborn, and Nancy Robards.
“The founding director of the house (Tim Peterson) got me involved. The person was a close friend of mine who got to talking to me about volunteering. I had retired from the village clerks office as a treasurer there, so I came over to do the book work here,” Brown said. “I keep track of the donations and acknowledgments. This has kept me going for 20 years.”
Ever since Covid-19 Pandemic took over our country in March it has taken many lives, businesses, and people’s futures. This country rallied to pick itself up from the ashes. Vincent House knew the importance of its survival within the community. It had to do what was needed to keep its doors open. It has done just that this entire year.
Kim Snyder, Vincent House executive director said many of the fundraisers they depend on had to be canceled due to Covid-19 restrictions. However, they remained open due to the support of the community and compassion of volunteers.
“We wanted to recognize the four fathers who brought this house to fruition. We needed to be creative this year. We had to cancel our big plans to celebrate our 20-year anniversary with a gala. We usually do a volunteer’s appreciation dinner with a gift’s giveaway. We had to cancel our Polar Plunge and Chicken Barbecue which is always a big fundraiser for us,” she said. “We are lucky that so many of our volunteers agreed to stay on during this crisis. We have nine of them that have been dedicated to this house the entire time it has been here. We have reached thousands of family and friends that have had loved ones here. We do a lot to support the family and friends as they come here to visit.”
Snyder added that a big part of the mission of the comfort care home has been to care for the mind, body and soul of the residents.
Christy Mattice, Vincent House development and volunteers director has been deeply touched by the work she has done in the comfort care home.
“The greatest part is that everyone is here to help the residents live their life to the fullest while they are in our care. I found when I came to work here that this is a place of peace and not of sorrow. It is a hard transition for them to make coming here, but in the second or third day I notice a peace come over them. There is a peace that comes over the family and they know that their loved ones are taken care of. They have all changed my life,” she said.
Vincent House is one of the few comfort care homes that has remained open in this area. Due to being in a rural area with a high demand it was important to stay open.
“It was not easy for us to stay open. We have done a lot of research since March. There have been a lot of homes like ours that have closed across the country. We looked into the reasons to close and reasons to stay open. We were able to reach out to other care homes in the county and see what they did. We decided it was safe for us to stay open on a day-by-day basis. We do everything to code,” she said.
“We have put all of the regulations in place to make this a safe environment for our volunteers and residents. We used to have an open door policy, but now we keep it closed at all times. We only allow volunteers, staff, and pastors to come inside. We allow only two visitors at a time for the residents. They must wear a mask the entire time they are here. We all wear masks the entire time we are here,” Snyder added. “We have all the questions and forms to fill out when anyone comes through the door. We all get our temperatures checked. It is all very safe here.”
Mattice said Vincent House is the pioneers of the area in keeping this kind of organization going in these hard times.
“We are responsible for all of them. We need to keep everyone safe who comes through those doors. We are the pioneers in our area to keep going in these hard times,” she said. “We are always welcoming more volunteers. We get them in, and the application process started. We pair them up with a current volunteer and get them trained.”
Snyder said many volunteers have just wanted to get back to some kind of normal. This is the thing that is familiar to them.
“The isolation crisis is huge right now. We know there are many who need to get out and feel like they are doing something. The holiday time is very stressful and hard on a lot of people. Teachers and health care workers are all being put through hard things right now too. This kind of volunteer work is very rewarding,” she said. “We would love to have more people come and help us out. They can help in many different ways. They can help with snow removal, gardening, maintenance work, cleaning, and caring for our residents.”
There were a few fundraisers that went out this year to help gain some support and funds for the care home. A Family 2020 Appeal was sent out to all the family and friends who had loved ones in the house at one point. They were kind enough to help out and support the house. The golf tournament went off with a big success. The first ever Cycle For Vincent House event raised some funds for the house. Mattice plans on making this event much bigger next year, and is happy that people enjoyed it so much. The event was a 30-mile route along Candice Lake on your bicycle. It came with a lunch and a T-Shirt. As always, the Dansville and Wayland communities have supported the Vincent House over the years.
Snyder said she has been part of Vincent House for 16 years now. She started out by researching other comfort care homes. She wanted to see how they operated and learn from them on what to do and inspire others.
“It comforts you to see how other care homes do things. It shows you that you are not alone in what you are trying to do. I am always inspired to go into other care homes. It keeps me going strong here,” she said.
Mattice said the volunteers are normal people we pass by every day and they have done wonders at the house.
“We pass by these people every day on the street. They have come in to take time out of their busy lives to care for others. It means a lot to our residents to get to know our volunteers,” she said. “I have been keeping people posted on things we need or updates online. I posted how we needed larger bird feeders for our residents. Within a day I had a nice family come by and give us large bird feeders they made for our residents. It is this kind of support that means so much to us. It is the small blessings that really add up for us.”
In 1998 members of St. Vincent De Paul Society at St. Joseph’s Church in Wayland came up with the idea to convert the old Convent next to the church into a home for the terminally ill. It was 75 years old and in excellent shape to care for others.
Volunteers gathered to make the home a place that would bring comfort and peace to anyone who stayed there in memory of those they had lost.
Vincent House came into full operation on Dec. 4, 2000. It is open 8 a.m. to midnight and offers round the clock care to terminally ill. The volunteers are the lifeblood of this house and they each get a four hour shift to keep it going.
For more information on Vincent House and to become a volunteer visit https://www.thevincenthouse.org