Grace Guest House, which opens in the fall near Mercy Hospital, to help take pressure off hospital visitors
By Catherine Miller
Tucked at the edge of Cazenovia Park in South Buffalo is a yellow brick building that, in the past, housed the priests that filled St. John’s the Evangelist Church for decades.
Vacant for the last few years, the house is being resurrected to offer a respite of peace for another group of people.
The Grace Guest House will open its doors in the fall as a nonprofit health care guest house, and will offer a place of rest for visitors at nearby Mercy Hospital.
As Mercy Hospital has grown to become known as a premier cardiac and stroke medical care facility, the patients at the hospital have been drawn from a larger region — and with them come their family and loved ones as visitors. With many of the patients requiring long-term care, family and friends of the patients have found it increasingly difficult to find suitably priced accommodations to stay at during their time in the area.
That’s when Cynthia Battista stepped in.
“It’s great that Buffalo is in the midst of a resurgence,” Battista said. “But the down side to that for people with loved ones in the hospital is that our hotel room prices in the area have increased substantially. The Grace Guest House will give people a place to stay for a nominal fee each night, and allow people to stay close and care for their loved ones.”
Battista is the founder and board president of the Grace Guest House. An idea that came to be after a colleague found shelter at a similar venue in North Carolina, Battista saw the need for a health care guest house in the South Buffalo area.
The Grace Guest House, 2315 Seneca St., is an easy walk through the park to Mercy Hospital. Acknowledging that some of the guests may be older and have mobility issues, there will also be a shuttle available to transport guests to and from the hospital.
Inside the house, guests will find a multi-bedroom facility, each able to accommodate one to three visitors, making the larger rooms perfect options for a small group of family members.
There is a “quiet room” that allows for peaceful meditation or a quiet moment of reflection to shake off the beeping and hospital noise.
The large kitchen and dining area will allow residents to cook their own meals and dine while sharing experiences and camaraderie. The “great room” is home to a large TV and sitting area where guests can relax together. The house manager, Chanaka Goonatillake, will be onsite to assign rooms and make sure the house is running smoothly.
More elbow room
“We are reviewing the layout of the house to build each room to capacity so that we can serve more people,” said Battista, who hopes to accommodate 1,000 families each year.
While the Grace Guest House sounds like an idea whose time had naturally come considering the blossoming of Mercy Hospital, it wasn’t an easy concept to create and execute. The original property considered for the project was determined to be too small to accommodate the projected needs of the house.
Moving to the Seneca Street location opened up the layout to two levels and more than doubled the square footage of the interior of the property. People that have come forth from the community have allowed the project to grow from one woman’s vision to a reality.
“We have a great board of directors,” Battista said. “And this project could not have happened without them. They are truly a working board and have put a lot of sweat equity into the guest house. The sledge hammers are still in the back room to prove it.”
Community involvement has been substantial since the onset of the project. Local architects, plumbers, sprinkler fitters and others have come forth to assist in the physical layout of the building and make sure it’s up to code for the type of facility and the number of people it will accommodate.
Local food vendors have voiced a desire to assist with supplying staple foods to be used on site. West Herr has donated a van that will be used in shuttling guests to and from the hospital.
Meanwhile, Battista’s own mother is the official “house baker,” making cookies for scheduled tours of the house. More assistance will be needed after the opening of the guest house in the way of volunteers willing to assist in house maintenance and upkeep, and in driving the shuttle. With community involvement already intact, Battista and her group are confident that more people will come forth to assist at the guest house.
While there will be a nominal nightly fee for each room, which will assist the guest house to sustain itself, the fee will not cover all expenses. To keep the guest house viable, its board will hold fundraisers twice a year to assist in financing the home. The next upcoming fundraiser will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 19 and will feature a “Juice and Jazz” celebration at the Lake Erie Italian Club, 3200 South Park Ave.
The purpose is to keep the Grace Guest House sustainable and allow all those in need to utilize the guesthouse, regardless of their ability to pay.
To tour the Grace Guest House, sign up to volunteer or purchase tickets for the upcoming fundraiser, visit its website www.GraceGuestHouse.org. There, you can also get additional information on their mission and watch for their opening date coming this fall.