HUNTERSVILLE – For families coping with the impending loss of a loved one, sometimes thinking about that person passing away in the home is too emotionally scarring, according to Cheryl Pletcher.
As the executive director of the nonprofit Carolina Comfort Coalition, Pletcher runs Serenity House in Mooresville. It opened inside Centre Presbyterian Church's former parsonage at 110 Centre Church Road in 2007.
The home serves as a comfortable space for the terminally ill to spend their last three months of life. Each guest must be enrolled in a local hospice program, but there is no major nursing care offered such as IV injections or blood sugar management.
Yet the home can only keep two people at a time, and Pletcher hated to watch deserving families being turned away. Since its inception, Serenity House has served 155 people, or roughly 24 a year.
On Dec. 18, Carolina Comfort Coalition bought a second Serenity House location at 14108 Stumptown Road for $150,000.
"Patients from Huntersville, Cornelius and Davidson actually made up 30 percent of the patients in Mooresville, but they were blocking the service for people in Iredell County," Pletcher said. "And I hate turning families away because the need is great."
Eventually, she sees a Serenity House of Denver welcoming in those on the western side of the lake.
The average cost of stay at Mooresville's Serenity House is $117 per resident per day. Fees are completely supported via donations from the community, she said.
And generosity, in this case of expansion, came directly from local government officials.
The Stumptown property seller was none other than Huntersville Commissioner Sarah McAulay, whom Pletcher found through a third party.
"I told them that if they'd take it as is, they could have it for a reduced price because I think that Serenity House's mission is a good mission," McAulay said.
Meanwhile, Davidson Mayor John Woods, a senior vice president at Peoples Bank, helped Serenity House secure a loan for the project.
Woods looked all over Davidson and Cornelius for a suitable second location when Pletcher first discussed expansion plans with him two years ago.
"I've watched what they've done for the last seven years and admire the work they do," he said. "I'm thrilled that they finally found a house in Huntersville to meet their needs."
The floor plan of the home in Huntersville mirrors that of the one in Mooresville, with two bedrooms, an office, a kitchen, porch, living and dining room.
The goal is to begin accepting patients in May, but first the house must be stocked with furniture and updated appliances.
Pletcher hopes to raise $200,000 through the community in a "Founders' Campaign" to offset mortgage expenses and the first six months of operating costs.
Churches and nonprofits will be asked to help furnish the new space.
"In Mooresville, we just let the community know we needed things, and they furnished the house. But we'd like a group or church to sponsor one room at a time in Huntersville, to pick the color of the walls and the look for the furniture," Pletcher said. "We want the community to feel like it's for them and that they've helped to create it."
In the weeks ahead, Serenity House will seek out at least 35 volunteers to work four-hour shifts once a week for six months.
"It's not a medical facility," Pletcher said. "It's a group home. So the volunteers do what you'd do if a sick person was in your home, like help patients change clothes and visit with them, vacuum and prepare breakfast."
Want to help? Learn about volunteering by visiting www.carolinacomfortcoalition.org or calling 704-727-0555.