SYRACUSE — Kateri Spinella laid yet another building block in the foundation of hospice care project Anthony House on Tuesday.
Spinella, a Fulton resident and co-founder of hospice care provider Wellhouse Ministries, was on hand at the Chevy Court stage at the New York State Fair Tuesday to receive $1,000 for her participation in the WellCare Champions competition.
The competition highlighted five central New York leaders who are aiming to better the health conditions of the elder population. The company pledged a $10,000 check to help the voting contest winner’s charity of their choice.
Despite not winning the grand prize, Spinella said she was thrilled to have participated in the competition and called the funds received “building blocks” toward Anthony House — a Wellhouse Ministries project she described as an alternative to a nursing home or hospital in the city of Oswego for the people in the twilight of their lives.
“To receive this funding is just a thrill and completely unexpected,” an ecstatic Spinella said. “And all along the way the people from WellCare and our supporters have said ‘you are already champions for the work that you do’ and everyone has really nurtured that. They have really celebrated that with us.”
While still meeting with property owners to try and secure a location in the Port City, Spinella says the project has been a long time coming and she hopes to have an announcement to make soon.
“Often times we are told: ‘anything worth doing takes time,’” she said, noting a lack of understanding of the nonprofit’s mission from the community has been one of the obstacles met along the way. “In some instances end of life care — let's face it — is not an easy topic to talk about. It is not a conversation people have probably as often as people should and I think a big part of our mission is to be invested in the community and help with that.”
Going out and sharing the nonprofit’s mission has helped volunteers and supporters of the project “come together,” according to Spinella.
“As we are out in the community, sharing our story and helping people understand who we are and what we are trying to do,” she said. “People have begun to come together and help alongside us and make this a reality.”
Spinella also said community investment is a contributing factor that will carry the project forward and into the future.
“Any investment anyone makes with Anthony House — whether it is their time, money or some other resource — they are investing in their communities,” she said. “They are giving back to a neighbor, a friend or a family member. That is what will keep it sustained for years to come.”
The project has been an undertaking that has not only brought volunteers into the fold, but also Spinella’s “large” family.
“It is a family business,” said Chris Santimaw, Spinella’s sister and a volunteer with Wellhouse Ministries. “(Anthony House) is a great idea and a great opportunity for Oswego County to have a hospice and end of life care facility. It has brought everyone together. We are a large family so people definitely try to give it as much time as they can. We try to participate together.”
Much like Spinella, the winning WellCare champion Barb Genton said she also wants to make a difference in her community as a longtime volunteer with the LGBTQ-focused elder care organization Sage Upstate.
Genton, who is a falls prevention instructor at Syracuse’s Sage Upstate, said her love of exercising helped her take an interest in improving the health of senior populations in central New York.
“It is a perfect fit for who I am,” a beaming Genton said.
The funds will help with Genton’s falls prevention classes, where she helps senior citizens with knowing how to keep their balance.
Sage also organizes monthly potlucks in Oswego County for senior citizens, and though handled by a single volunteer, Genton said part of the WellCare funds would go to help with organizing costs.