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Site found for first York County hospice home

Organizers see growing need for home-like settings

York County hospice Pappus House is slated to open this fall in a ranch house surrounded by farmland in York Township. - (Photo / Amy Spangler)

After a year-plus effort, a nonprofit’s vision for an end-of-life home for York County residents is expected to become reality this September.

The Friends for a York County Hospice Home found the facility it was looking for when a board member, Dallastown-area businessman John Polli, said he would rent a three-bedroom house on a rural hillside in York Township to the organization.

When renovations are complete, the home will be York County’s only facility exclusively serving people during their last months of life, officials said.

The home aims to provide care in collaboration with existing hospice providers, said Susan Nelson, the organization’s interim executive director.

“We are not a hospice agency. We are simply a home away from home and an extension of the family,” Nelson said.

York County has 13 hospice providers and many institutional-care facilities that provide care for dying individuals, Nelson explained, but the new facility will be the only home-like setting available for those unwilling or unable to remain in their own homes.

The Friends group formed in 2009 and had been looking for a facility since 2015. The group also changed its name to Pappus House.

Pappus is the silky white filament released from the fruit pod of the milkweed. Nelson said that milkweed’s seasonal changes, are similar to the human life cycle from birth to death.

Nelson, 62, grew up in York Township and moved away before returning in 2000. She recently retired from York-based WellSpan Health as the system’s director for population health management and research.

The group wants to start small, with capacity for three patients. It could eventually expand to eight bedrooms, either at the home or in a new facility.

At a time when seven out of 10 Americans have said they would prefer to die in their own homes, facilities like Pappus House are becoming more common, according to Nelson and others in the field of end-of-life care.

A WellSpan official who works with hospice care issues said York County needs facility like Pappus House.

Families often struggle with trying to care for and be with terminally ill loved ones at home while they’re working, said Ann Kunkel, WellSpan senior director of case management.

“To be honest, I’ve been pushing for this for quite some time. I just wish they were opening before September,” she said.

The number of hospice programs in the U.S. nearly quadrupled over the four decades from 1974 to 2013, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and hospice homes are expected to proliferate.

“They’re all through the nation, but there are none currently in York County,” Nelson said.

Board member Polli, who is president of Dallastown-based Reliance Student Transportation LLC and Dart Trucking Company Inc., bought the farmhouse and its property earlier this year.

He is leasing it to Pappus House for $1,000 a month, below the York Township average for a three-bedroom house ($1,156) as well as the state and U.S. three-bedroom averages, according to www.bestplaces.net.

Polli is paying the insurance and taxes, which he estimates at $450 a month.

Polli and his wife have pledged $10,000 to the hospice facility, and he expects to spend about $60,000 on the house, not including the purchase, for a new septic system, a well and water system, HVAC, painting, landscaping and other improvements.

He is donating directly to Pappus House because he believes in the organization’s mission.

“These ladies are awesome, and have a great project for York County,” he said.

Pappus House will need about $15,000 in renovations before the first residents can move in. The work includes adding a wheelchair ramp, redesigning bathrooms and widening halls and doorways to improve accessibility.

Pappus House will be open to any York Countian age 18 or older who is in his or her last three months of life and is under the care of hospice, Nelson said.

Pappus House will have an executive director and a coordinator to handle day-to-day operations and coordination with hospice providers, volunteers and others – as well as licensed caregivers and a corps of volunteers, Nelson added.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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