VNA hospice house named in recognition of couple

VNA hospice house named in recognition of couple

The new Venango VNA Foundation hospice house in Rocky Grove that is scheduled to open next month officially has a name: The Collins House.

The house is named after John Collins Jr. and his wife, Betsy, who left a charitable remainder unitrust and Collins' personal estate to the VNA upon their deaths. Collins' only stipulation is that the funds be used to cover indigent care in Venango County.

"We wanted to honor him by naming the house after the Collins (couple)," Foundation Marketing Director Shelly Hart said.

The house will be able to lodge three patients at a time. Each guest will enjoy their own room with adjacent bathroom and will include a memorial garden for families to remember their loved ones.

"We wanted to make sure they had a homelike atmosphere in which to finish off their life journey," said Kimberly Slater Hall, palliative care coordinator for the Venango VNA.

Heil and Hart both stressed that this house is just that - a house.

"Every time I go somewhere and talk about the project, I said if you can take anything away from this, it's a three-bedroom house for people to live the rest of their life in," Heil said.

Prior to the Collins House's inception, the closest comparable housing options were in Warren or Meadville, according to Heil.

"We're taking our family and friends out of the county and sending them up there. If we had a house, they could stay locally and have friends visit," Heil said. "So the need was here and our foundation graciously said, 'go ahead, do it."'

The house has been in the works for three years and has repeatedly been deemed "a dream come true" by those who have worked on the project.

"It's not that (hospice care) doesn't work in nursing homes. But, again, that's a facility. You are having a more intimate setting in a home where there's three beds," Heil said.

The home will feature an interdisciplinary approach with one nurse on staff for each of the three shifts. The home will also have access to a medical director, a nondenominational hospice chaplain, a social worker and a home health aide.

Heil said to picture this patient-centered care as a wagon wheel with the patient and their family in the center and the care providers as the spokes. "Without the patient and the family, what do you have? A whole bunch of spokes," she said.

Hart says the house is actively advertising employment options, and many local businesses have approached the Foundation looking to help.

"We're keeping it as local as possible because this is our community and we're here to serve," Hart said.

The house sits on the old Valley Grove Elementary School grounds and was sold to the VNA by the school district in 2017 for $64,000. It's scheduled to open sometime in November to coincide with National Hospice and Palliative Care month.

"It's official," Hart said. "It's happening!"