New hospice house celebrates expansion

Chuck Lee, president and CEO of Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, far left, holds the ribbon that Erin Garcia, center, director of Hospice House services, cuts for the expanded The Villages Hospice House.

“What is the most important thing we can do for you today?” reads a wall sign in a new patient care room at The Villages Hospice House. The reminder is there for patients and their families to know their requests and needs matter, said Ursula Cutler, registered nurse and vice president of sales and marketing for Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, which operates The Villages Hospice House. On Tuesday, Chuck Lee, president and CEO of Cornerstone, welcomed about 150 guests who had gathered for a ribbon-cutting of the new facility, The Villages Hospice House at 601 Mariposa Way, formerly 601 Casa Bella, in The Villages. The new facility is an expansion to the campus, is next door to the existing Hospice House and shares the same name and address. 

From before the ribbon-cutting until 8 p.m. Tuesday, guests were invited to tour the facility, which will double the number of patient care suites available at The Villages Hospice House campus. The current facility has 12 patient care suites, and the new facility adds 12 more. After state inspections and certifications, the new house should start receiving patients in two to four weeks.

Shelly Scarbrough, senior development associate with The Villages Regional Hospital Auxiliary Foundation, took the tour before the ceremony and found the space beautiful.

“The atmosphere is so warm and should be a tranquil space for patients and families who will receive care here,” Scarbrough said.

Gary Lester, The Villages vice president for community relations, also took the tour and thought the new facility was “fantastic.”

“The real beauty is the people and the love that happens in this place,” he said.

About 30 volunteers with the hospice attended the event and looked over the new space, including Isabel Buchanan.

“I like the openness of the space and how the families will have more room,” said Buchanan, of the Village of Polo Ridge.

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Lee offered many thank-yous to the community for making the project possible. Throughout the building process, hundreds of people came together to support the new facility, including patient families, caregivers, business leaders, donors, elected officials, as well as groups and leaders in The Villages, he said.

“It’s been a team effort in the truest sense of the word,” Lee told the crowd.

After serving the community for more than a decade, Cornerstone knew it needed to add more space to the Hospice House for the future, Lee said. Since its groundbreaking in January 2019, Lee said construction on the new facility went full steam ahead.

The new Hospice House will be able to serve more patients and families with an even better environment of care, Lee said. The campus will have upgraded patient care suites, more private gathering spaces for families, better working space for team members and easier access for visitors in The Villages.

Hospice House aims offer a home-like, calm and comfortable environment for patients and their families, Cutler said.

“We are always looking for ways for the family to be able to participate in the care of their loved ones,” Cutler said.

The work isn’t over yet, though. As soon as patients are admitted and placed in the new Hospice House, renovations on the original facility will begin. Those renovations are expected to take about six months and will create a better gathering space for family and update patient care suites equal to the new house.

There are no restrictions on visiting hours, encouraging family members to maintain a presence and to participate, Cutler said.

Volunteers also are needed for the new house, as well as at The Lane Purcell Hospice House in Sumterville.

For information about volunteering, call Heidi Gaumet, volunteer specialist for Cornerstone Hospice & Palliative Care, at 352-751-3110.

Those interested in supporting the Hospice House can call Desiree Coleman-Cohrn, director of planned giving and major gifts, at 352-602-1041.

Staff writer Laura Sikes can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5307, or laura.sikes@thevillagesmedia.com.