When Carrie Zepp’s dad’s health declined to the point where he required extended hospitalization, it meant an hour’s drive each way between her parents’ home and Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, which put a lot of stress on Carrie and her parents. But then someone told them about Grace Guest House.
“It’s a beautiful, warm and welcoming house with phenomenal staff and volunteers,” says Zepp. “Being able to stay just minutes from the hospital was a huge help for our family. It relieved a lot of stress for my parents, which definitely helped dad’s healing process.”
Hearing appreciative comments like that from guests is gratifying for Grace Guest House President and Executive Director Cindy Battista, whose goal in opening the House was to “be able to share God’s love, treat your neighbor as you’d like to be treated and be humble and serving while making a difference.”
It started a few short years ago, when the son of one of Battista’s colleagues suffered a traumatic medical crisis and the family had to travel several hundred miles to be near their hospitalized son. They stayed at a healthcare hospitality house, where they found comfort in a clean, restful home-like atmosphere surrounded by people who understood and cared about their situation.
When she heard how much it meant to her colleague and his wife to be so close to their son, Battista was moved, and decided to open something similar in her neighborhood.
“There was nothing like this in South Buffalo, so I knew there was a need,” says Battista.
While Grace Guest House is not a religious facility, it is faith-based. “We’re here to offer support and respite for those in the midst of the difficult journey of hospitalization, whether it’s at Mercy or any other area medical facility,” says Battista.
The House opened in the former St. John the Evangelist rectory on Seneca Street — within walking distance of Mercy Hospital — in October 2017. Set back from Seneca Street, the house features eight bedrooms, six bathrooms, a comfortable front parlor, full kitchen, well-stocked pantry, a dining room — complete with fireplace — and a huge front porch, with Olmsted’s Cazenovia Park in the backyard. For the Zepps, it was a godsend.
“You wake up to fresh-brewed coffee and an assortment of breakfast foods,” says Zepp. “When you come back ‘home’ from a full day at the hospital, the volunteers have prepared a delicious homemade dinner. There’s a fully-stocked kitchen, laundry facilities and even a free shuttle service to the hospital.”
“There are nearby hotels,” says Battista. “But that can get pricey if you’re going to be here awhile, not to mention isolating and inconvenient. At Grace Guest House, the atmosphere is much more home-like, warm and welcoming.”
While there’s no set fee to stay at the House, the suggested donation amount is between $40 and $60 per room (not per person).
“We want to be able to care for anyone in the best way we can, regardless of their ability to pay,” says Battista.
Mercy Hospital President and CEO CJ Urlaub stresses the importance of Grace Guest House to the community.
“Our hospital has undergone major growth, and we are seeing patients being transferred from all over Western New York,” says Urlaub. “Coming from such a distance puts a tremendous burden on the families – they don’t know the area, where to stay, how to get around and it can get quite expensive. Thanks to the vision and work of Cindy Battista, Grace Guest House has been a game changer for our patients and their families. It is a very affordable, ‘home-away-from-home’ atmosphere that provides companionship, warm meals and comfortable accommodations.”
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