Anyone who has had a loved one at the former St. Mary’s Residential Hospice in Halls will tell you there’s just something special about that place. It’s not just that so many beloved family members have passed away within those walls. It’s not just the warm atmosphere or the kind, caring staff. It’s something else, something indefinable and indescribable.
“It’s just a sacred place,” said Cindy Bradley.
So it’s no surprise that community outcry was great when Tennova Healthcare announced that the hospice would close in June 2017. It seemed that the mission of the hospice, born from the love of the Sisters of Mercy, was at an end.
That is, until Bradley felt called to act. She insists that the call, and everything that came after, was not her but God, that the push to save the hospice is not about her. Bradley is a Realtor in Fountain City. Back in 2001, her mother received end-of-life care at the hospice, and her husband passed away in April 2017. When she heard that Tennova would close the hospice, “God just laid it on my heart,” she said.
The only residential hospice in East Tennessee, the facility that passed from St. Mary’s to Mercy and finally to Tennova was well known among locals. Sadly, a long waiting list kept beds full. Volunteers poured time and money into various tasks, from reception to filling birdfeeders outside windows. And the quality of care was second to none.
“They let the family be the family and they took care of the caregiving,” said Bradley. “They take care of the patient as an individual. It didn’t feel like a medical facility. I can’t even describe how amazing the care is.”
Bradley contacted Tim Young, former CEO of Summit Medical, for help with “the brainwork” as she put it, and soon thereafter started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Sacred Ground Hospice House. The aim is to raise enough money to purchase the hospice property and start operations again, all under the management of the non-profit and its board of directors. Soon, through word of mouth and social media, the idea spread. A group of 200 people came to a meeting this summer, encircling the building and praying.
Sacred Ground has already raised enough to finance the purchase of the building. Bradley said the project needs $2 million total to start taking patients again. The building is still intact with fixtures in place. All that is needed are staff and supplies. The goal is to open Dec. 1, 2017.
“If we can get it back open it can pay for itself, but we need fundraising for people who don’t have insurance or the money to pay,” Bradley said. “You want to have a place that takes everybody in.”
Bradley called on the community to stand together and support the much-loved facility.
“If you are in a corporate office somewhere else, it’s just a building to you. Residential hospices are hard because they don’t make a profit,” she said. “Things like hospice, things we want as a community, we have to pay for ourselves. If East Tennessee wants that service available, they’re going to have to support it with their money and their time and their prayers.”