Archdiocese Local

New hospice wing planned for Villa St. Francis

Father Gary Pennings, vicar general of the archdiocese, blesses the site for the new hospice wing at Villa St. Francis in Olathe. PHOTO BY CAROL COWDREY

by Joe Bollig

OLATHE — Ten golden shovels were used at the groundbreaking on Sept. 23 for the new hospice wing at Villa St. Francis here, but two golden sledgehammers were also on hand, waiting.

It was a beautiful fall afternoon — for destruction.

The attendees joined Tom Bickimer, chairman of the board of directors for Villa St. Francis, inside a small garage attached to the end of the “800 wing” of the skilled nursing home.

Bickimer called Barb Trum forward and handed her the hefty hammer.

“Barb and Greg Trum are the ones who have made the hospice wing possible, along with the Holy Spirit and the Blessed Virgin Mary,” said Bickimer. “Barb wants to get this started.” 

“We have a gold-colored sledge here for Barb,” he continued, “to put a hole through the wall and get us going.”

Barb, wearing a hard hat, took the tool and raised it high for the swing.

“Look out!” someone said.

The CRASH-CRASH-CRASH was met with cheers and clapping. And after Greg and Bickimer took swings, everyone retired to a conference room for a reception.

Some 40 people gathered at Villa  for the blessing and groundbreaking of a project that began about three years ago with an idea and some inspiration on the part of the Trums. 

Barb is a volunteer with Catholic Community Hospice, and Greg is in formation for the permanent diaconate. They belong to St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.

The idea and inspiration for a Catholic hospice facility came from their experiences with helping a neighbor enter a hospice program, and Barb’s experience caring for a priest in hospice. It seemed to them the community needed a hospice facility with a Catholic environment, as well as a place that would accommodate the family’s spiritual and physical needs.

So, the Trums took their idea to Msgr. Thomas Tank, pastor of Church of the Ascension in Overland Park, who encouraged them to talk to Father Gary Pennings, archdiocesan vicar general. 

As they further developed the project, the Trums made presentations to the boards of Villa St. Francis and Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas. Both entities gave their approval, as did Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann. Others involved were Ken Williams, former CEO of Catholic Charities, and Rodney Whittington Jr., CEO of Villa St. Francis.

The hospice wing — as of yet unnamed — will occupy 3,577 square feet of renovated space and 1,168 square feet of new construction, for a total of 4,745 square feet. It will be one-story with stucco exterior walls and a composite shingle roof. Leon Roberts will provide oversight of the project for the archdiocese.

The existing space to be renovated has been mainly used for storage. It consists of rooms 808 to 814, plus “priests’ quarters” and other rooms formerly known as “Father John Yadrich Hall.”

 These 12 resident rooms will be enlarged to four rooms with triangular extensions for the installation of larger windows for more light and to accommodate sofas that convert into beds. 

There will also be a nurses’ station, a laundry and supply room, a shower and bathroom for family members, a conference room, a kitchenette, a consult room, an office and two storage rooms.

Catholic Community Hospice will provide the hospice care, but all else will be provided by Villa St. Francis: laundry, nursing and personal care, housekeeping and food service. 

The hospice facility is open to Villa residents and to others throughout the community.

The site of the new construction — formerly the site of a garage — will consist of a chapel that can accommodate 12 worshipers, a lobby and a vestibule. There will be a covered entrance outside the doors. Completion is scheduled for spring 2020.

The cost of the $1.5 million project will be funded by the Whispering Angel Trust, St. Michael the Archangel Parish fund-a-need program and others.

Architect for the project is David Worthington, of PGAV Architects of Westwood, and the general contractor is Straub Construction Company, Inc., Shawnee.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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