Hearts Full of Grace


The hospice philosophy at our region’s comfort care homes

by Mary Kay Naioti,
Light Hill, Development and Volunteer Coordinator

There are eight very special homes in the Finger Lakes Region. Volunteers have heard the call to comfort and care for “neighbors” nearing end-of-life. Within these warm and welcoming comfort care homes, volunteers come together as family to serve others at a most profound time in life. Upon entering any one of them, it is clear the volunteers have a whole lot of heart, a hospice heart.

These two-bed private dwellings, where residents are cared for with a hospice philosophy, are nearly exclusive to Upstate New York. Since introducing the local hospice movement in 1984, Mount Carmel House, in Rochester, has been a source of inspiration. With more than 30 homes now in operation, these volunteer-driven nonprofit organizations are truly a gift to families facing the impending loss of a loved one. These special homes fill a critical need for end-of-life care in a supported, homelike setting.

Surprisingly, it has taken until recently for this beautiful and fundamental concept to extend beyond Upstate New York. The son of a past resident at House of John in Clifton Springs was so deeply touched by the love extended to his father and family that he became impassioned to provide a similar service in his new hometown. Plans for MONARCH RANCH in Granbury, Texas, are underway.

High atop a hill overlooking the lake, Light Hill is a blessing to the Canandaigua area. This well-regarded community resource opened its doors in July 2016, one of the newer comfort care homes in the region. As Suzanne Underhill, executive director, reflects on its origins, she emphasizes that so much lies in its name. Light brightly streaming through the many windows was a high priority in the home’s renovation. Some may envision dimly lit rooms, quiet conversation with a sense of finality. Yet residents and their families at Light Hill are encouraged to embrace living until that very moment of transition to death.

To live, laugh and love … these are the gifts which are given and received, Suzanne said. With over 100 hands-on-care-trained volunteers at the heart of the home, each day is woven with special moments; a privilege shared through meaningful connections. Having cared for 45 terminal residents and their loved ones, those who have experienced Light Hill first hand are grateful beyond measure for its many gifts.

True for the Finger Lakes’ two-bed comfort care homes, the hospice philosophy of care provided to individuals and their families at these peaceful, private dwellings is free of charge. Receiving no third-party reimbursements, operations are funded 100 percent through donations from individuals, corporations, foundations and through fundraising efforts. These homes are an absolute gift to a community, supported generously by the communities they serve.

The homes share a cooperative spirit within their network. Comfort, care and compassion are essential to their service, yet they operate and fundraise as individual entities.

Contact information for the homes around the Finger Lakes is listed here. With fundraising efforts ongoing, check their websites to learn more about opportunities to support their work during November – National Hospice and Palliative Care Month.

With a sense of gratitude during these months when thoughts revolve around family and memories of yesteryear, perhaps you’ll consider a way to give and receive the true gifts in life. As many volunteers would proclaim, true joy, happiness, and inner peace come from giving of one’s self through service to others. Whether through volunteerism or monetary gift, support of these cherished comfort care homes will help to sustain them well into the future. Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, “Live today the way you want to be remembered tomorrow.”

Comfort Care Homes in the Finger Lakes

Hospeace House, Naples
Jennifer Emmons, Executive Director

House of John, Clifton Springs
Kathy Barrick, Executive Director

Keuka Comfort Care Home, Penn Yan
Donna Payne, Director

Light Hill / Canandaigua Comfort Care Home, Canandaigua
Suzanne Underhill, Executive Director

Matthew House, Auburn
Angela Ryan, Executive Director

Pathway Home, Seneca Falls
Martha Shields, Executive Director

Serenity House, Victor
Kayko H. Jarmusz, Director

Vincent House, Wayland
Kim Snyder, Director

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