Thursday, 16 May 2013 15:14

3rd Annual Party at Saratoga Winery Benefits Volunteer-Driven Gateway House of Peace

By Chelsea DiSchiano | Entertainment

BALLSTON SPA — After volunteering for years at The Community Hospice in Saratoga Springs, Joni Hanchett began to realize there was a substantial need for an affordable, around-the-clock hospice for low or middle-income families who don’t have the resources to provide skilled nursing or at-home caregivers for their terminally ill relatives.

In 2006, Gateway House of Peace was born.

With a mission to "provide a community-owned home, dedicated volunteers and resources to members of the community faced with terminal illness," Hanchett has gathered multiple community members to help her create a 501(c)(3) charitable hospice which runs completely on donations and fundraising, with no insurance reimbursements, government or public funding.

"I had been a hospice volunteer for several years and I knew the need," said Hanchett, founder of the organization. "There’s always a waiting list, and the baby boomers are aging, so there’s more of a need."

Since it first formed seven years ago, the Gateway House has begun a tradition of a memorial tree in Corinth, hosting an annual Harvest Festival in downtown Saratoga, and was granted permission by the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors the use of the former American Red Cross building in Milton, among hosting and participating in several other community events.

This Saturday, Gateway House will have their third annual Party at Saratoga Winery, all the proceeds of which will go toward the operational costs of the nonprofit—it costs $89,000 per year for the operating budget.

The fundraiser only asks for a $25 donation to get in, where there will be a free wine tasting; food donated Factory Eater, Comptons Restaurant, Bread Basket Bakery and friends of Gateway House; a raffle featuring a DVD box set of the entire series of Friends with an autograph provided by the show’s producer Kevin Bright, and contemporary jazz stylings will be performed by Tom Choiniere. Choiniere will play songs by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Billy Joel, Hootie, Supertramp, Elton John, Jethro Tull, Steve Winwood, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, Neil Young and many more.

Hanchett said that since the organization received the former Red Cross house two years ago, there have been ongoing renovations to allow for a two-bed space and guest bedrooms.

"We’re unwinding now with our remodeling efforts," Hanchett said. "The American Legion in Ballston Spa adopted the kitchen so that was provided by them, Patti Veitch and her husband donated all the appliances and Rebuilding Together Saratoga donated one of the handicap bathrooms—Kevin Bright, the producer of "Friends," will adopt the other bathroom and they’re getting started on that May 16. We have a Home Depot grant to complete our training room and that should be done by May 22, so we’re hoping to have everything wrapped up by the end of the month."

Hanchett added that the home is only allowed to have two beds for two terminally ill people at a time.

"If it’s more than that, you’re over state regulations and it would have to be run by a certified hospice," Hanchett explained. "So they will have three months or less to live and our services are free of charge—we receive no federal, state or insurance reimbursement, so we rely solely on donations and fundraising."

Because Gateway House relies so heavily on the community for support and donations, Veitch signed on to become the Resident Care Volunteer Coordinator, a volunteer position dedicated to recruiting volunteers to help the House with direct care for the patients.

"We’re looking for 60 to 80 direct care volunteers to do four or more hours per week, one day a week," Veitch said. "We really are looking for people to come to our social gathering May 30 and show off the place and meet everybody, and people that are signed up to volunteer can get to know each other."

"It’s kind of like a family," Hanchett added. "Everybody gets to know each other and feel the connection to the house."

The social gathering will be open to anyone interested in becoming a direct care volunteer. Snacks and beverages will be provided and there will be updates on the latest news and will give details on the hospice training program, set to begin in June.

"The training will be provided by Community Hospice in Saratoga, and we’re starting that in June," Veitch explained. "We’re going to have either 10 to 15 people at a time to get trained right here at the house, and we’ll have a hospital bed and we’ll get everyone familiar with how to transfer people from the bed to the chair, and into the bathroom and getting them ready for the day, along with giving them medications."

Hanchett said the Gateway House of Peace is important because there is such a need for lower-income families to receive care for their terminally ill.

"It’s very important because we have low to middle-income people who cannot remain safely at home but can’t afford 24/7 nursing, or even caregivers, so those will be the people we’ll be servicing," Hanchett said. "A hospice isn’t able to be in the home 24 hours a day—they’re on call 24/7, but they can’t be actually be there 24/7, so we’ll be providing that service."

"A lot of people don’t have their families around—kids move away and they’re really all alone," Veitch added. "So the kids can visit—there’s two rooms upstairs, so if someone here is actively dying and the family member wants to be here, they can stay overnight in the guest room upstairs—it’s like a little bed and breakfast, so I love that."

In the end, Hanchett said, the house is like a family to the patients.

"We’re providing them with a home and an extended family," Hanchett said. "We’re like a family, just as if they were in their own home."

The fundraiser at Saratoga Winery, located at 464 Route 29 in Saratoga Springs, will take place this Saturday, May 18 from 7–10 p.m. The social gathering for signed up or potential volunteers will take place May 30 from 6–7:30 p.m. at Gateway House of Peace, located at 479 Rowland Street in Ballston Spa. For more details, visit or call (518) 654-5403.

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