In November 2014, a group of area residents met to create a community-funded comfort care home where residents would “spend their final days in a highly supportive, warm and compassionate environment, surrounded by loved ones and kind-hearted staff and volunteers who attend to their needs.”
The call went out to local citizens to join in the challenge, and community meetings were held.
A comfort care setting with no more than two resident rooms is free from state regulations normally meant for hospice homes. This was the case at House of John in Clifton Springs and Pine of Peace in Ontario.
A building at 224 Fair St. in Newark became available, just steps from Newark-Wayne Community Hospital. Built in 1959 as a church and most recently used as a doctor’s office, it was owned by the family of the late Brian Dunster and donated to the hospital. Eventually, the hospital decided to make the building available to the group.
The facility was renamed Laurel House Comfort Care Home, and received a nonprofit designation.
The project faced a major hurdle when an architect warned that asbestos was present in the building, which would cost $40,000 plus another $12,000 to certify that it was removed. The renovations committee spent the money to clear the asbestos.
The past couple of years has seen the work of volunteers led by Bob Hegeman. The home originally was estimated to cost $244,000, but only came to about $75,000 due to volunteers participating in the renovation. Carpenters, tile layers, plumbers, electricians and painters gave their time to the project. Other donations included a full kitchen, building materials, appliances, furniture, whole house generator, beds, real estate and money from civic, religious and veterans groups; Scouts; and anonymous donors.
April 9, 2018, was the first day of work for Director Jennifer Habecker, of Palmyra, who came to the home with a background in finance, marketing and health care. After she collaborated with other comfort care homes, the Laurel House board of directors agreed that the time was right to plan an opening for Nov. 1.
Volunteers are needed to tend the garden, perform office work and deal directly with residents. Call (315) 573-7028 or email for information.