Webster Comfort Care Home turns 20

8 Feb

One of Webster’s most valued organizations, Webster Comfort Care Home, located at the corner of Holt Rd. and Klem Rd., is marking a significant anniversary this week: 20 years serving the comfort needs of those in their final weeks of life.

A lot of people have heard about Webster Comfort Care Home, but fewer realize the incredibly positive service the volunteers and staff members there offer the residents and their families. Providing round-the-clock care for a terminally ill family member can be very difficult and stressful, especially while grieving. The dedicated and compassionate staff members and volunteers at Webster Comfort Care Home work to completely remove that burden, upholding the dignity and ease the suffering of its residents while supporting their loved ones in a warm, home-like atmosphere.

It’s a service that most people don’t think about until they find themselves, or a family member, in need. Now, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary, Webster Comfort Care hopes that lots more community members will take the opportunity to get to know them better.

It was September of 2000 when a group of friends gathered around the kitchen table at the home of Dave and Kathy Whitlock. They’d come together to discuss the possibility of creating a comfort care home in Webster, a place which helps ease the transition of the final journey for residents, their families and loved ones, by providing symptom control, pain relief and quality of life.

Pulling off a project of that magnitude was an ambitious undertaking. It would require finding a house, creating a board of directors, hiring a director, recruiting volunteers, and navigating a mountain of paperwork. 

By the end of the evening, however, driven by the rallying cry of “What do we have to lose?”, Webster Comfort Care Home was born, and this month the home is celebrating its 20th anniversary of serving the Webster community.   

The idea to build a comfort care home in Webster originated with a similar facility, Pines of Peace in Ontario. Shortly after he retired, Dave Whitlock started volunteering at the Wayne County-based comfort care home. After a few months, the director pulled him aside, and told him that while she appreciated his commitment to volunteering, perhaps his time might be better spent starting another home in Webster. She explained that she often had to turn away Webster residents because of her need to prioritize Wayne County applications. 

So Dave recruited his fellow Pines of Peace volunteers Kathy Fulton and Noelle Schabel, their husbands, and his own wife Kathy, and on that September evening in 2000, created the first Advisory Board and got the wheels moving.  

After establishing the project as a 501(c)(3), the first order of business was to start fundraising. The organizers started knocking on doors, holding public meetings, reaching out to churches and community agencies for donations. No one turned them down, and before long they had raised about $35,000. Still, that was far short of the estimated $100,000 it would take to purchase a house and make the needed renovations. 

That’s when Norm Gerber, a local home builder, stepped in. As former president of the Rochester Home Builders’ Association, he went to his group and asked each member to donate one day’s worth of labor to build a house. He also asked them all to contact their suppliers and get all of the materials donated. Even the building parcel at the corner of Klem and Holt roads was cheap; part of it was donated by builder John Schantz, and the rest by a member of the Klem family who asked only that they pay the back taxes. 

On Sept. 18, 2002, ground was broken for the Webster Comfort Care Home. Less than five months later, on Feb. 3, 2003, the first resident was admitted.  

From the very beginning, turning the dream of a Webster comfort care home into a reality was a true community effort. 

A huge poster hanging on one of the office walls at the facility lists more than 200 community agencies, businesses and individuals who helped build the home. It includes builders, restaurants and bars; there’s a nursery, a nail salon and a pizzeria. Their contributions ranged from small monetary donations to manual labor and entire pallets of building materials. The United Methodist Church of Webster held a “house shower” for the new home just before the doors opened, providing much-needed kitchen, pantry and bedding supplies. Two other women worked together to make curtains, some of which are still hanging in the kitchen today.

What the community created was not so much a facility, but a home much like any other, with two resident rooms, a spare bedroom, a kitchen, dining room, living room and a big garage. A place where family members and their loved ones feel welcome, supported, and comfortable during those last difficult days and weeks.

And believe it or not, it’s a happy place.

Even though patients and their families come to Webster Comfort Care Home at a terribly difficult time in their lives, being able to hand off the burden of care to a compassionate team of doctors, nurses and volunteers is a huge relief.

“They realize how tired they were or how (the) lines were blurring,” WCC Director Julianne Groff said, adding,

It’s normal to become bitter or angry. We do a lot of validating here. It’s ok to cry, it’s ok to not cry. It’s ok to feel a little resentment, it’s ok to be angry that your loved one is sick. The volunteers here do amazing things with families, too. Just listening, comforting, validating, allowing people to be where they are. 

The staff members are certainly known to cry, too, but it’s really not as distressing an environment as you might think.

Bill Fulton explained, “One of the things that you hear when you say you volunteer is “Oh, that’s got to be a depressing place. But everybody who’s ever volunteered will counter that by saying we laugh more than we cry.”

Julianne agreed.

There’s much more laughter here than there are tears. Because it’s not about dying as much as it is about living whatever time you have left. To try to make each day count however they want it to count. Whether they want to sleep all day and be left alone, if they want to come out and do a jigsaw puzzle, they want to watch Price is Right, or they just want someone to sit with them, whatever it is. Whatever they want that day to look like.

In the last 20 years, Webster Comfort Care Home has served 433 residents, and the facility continues to rely on community support to stay up and running. Funding comes entirely from donations, which cover overhead costs and keep their pantries stocked. Residents and their families are never asked for payment. There are lots of ways to help, including donating supplies or attending one of the annual fundraising events like the annual Duck Derby (coming up May 20), the Webster Masonic Lodge spaghetti dinner (May 5), or the United Church of Christ summer concert (July). And of course they can always use more volunteers. You can read more about these opportunities and see an entire wish list at webstercomfortcare.org.

Congratulations on your anniversary, Webster Comfort Care Home. I think I speak for the entire Webster community when I say we hope you enjoy many more.

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More about Webster Comfort Care Home (from the website):

The Webster Comfort Care Home management team is a group of citizens who believe in the dignity and value of every person, and who care about our community. United in our desire to provide hospice-based care, our role is a privileged one. We believe in individualized care to accommodate the physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs of the home’s residents. We also wish to embrace each resident’s family and friends with love and support that would continue throughout the grieving process. Partnering with local hospice agencies, we provide complete and comprehensive around-the-clock care.

Read more about the facility and how you can help at webstercomfortcare.org, or by calling (585) 872-5290

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(posted 2/8/2023)

3 Responses to “Webster Comfort Care Home turns 20”

  1. David Whitlock February 8, 2023 at 7:51 pm #

    Well done, Missy! Beautifully written. You covered all the bases.

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