MOORESVILLE – A four letter word, can sometimes serve as a synonym for grand feelings of peace and security: home. It was this idea of home that Cheryl Pletcher, founder of Serenity House, Carolina Comfort Coalition, wanted to create.
Pletcher worked as a hospice nurse and caregiver in a comfort care facility in upstate New York. After moving to Mooresville, she looked for a similar institution but, to her findings, did not come across one.
“Before I moved to North Carolina, I assumed every state had the same opportunity for end-of-life, but there was no comfort care (in the area). People never heard of it,” said Pletcher, who is also the executive director for Serenity House. “My plan was never to start one, but then I realized I was keeping this wonderful thing a secret that people could really use.”
After writing letters to 100 churches in Mooresville, Pletcher received a response from Centre Presbyterian Church which offered a house to the nonprofit for $1 in rent per year. In 2007, Serenity House, North Carolina’s first comfort care home, was officially opened to the community.
“It was a big project,” she said. “But step-by-step, we did it. We got one response, and it was from Centre Presbyterian who had an empty house and were looking for some way to minister it to the community. It was like a match made in Heaven.”
Serenity House serves as a place for those who wish to pass away in a home-like setting. Working with local hospice programs and families, the goal, Pletcher said, is to create a compassionate caring environment without the burden or concern of a patient's ability to pay.
Serenity House, made up of volunteers around the clock, helps fulfil the mission.
“We work as a safety net for hospice, without them we would not be able to do what we do,” Pletcher said. “We don’t charge the family anything for the care. Families are very fragile when it comes to the end days. You can see the brokenness of the family who are just afraid of the next steps and what to do. When they come to us, they are at their most vulnerable.”
Serenity House takes in patients that are referred by hospice. Only two people, at a time, are allowed to live at the house. The social worker assigned to each family investigates resources the family could possible utilize before suggesting them to Serenity House. Working together, hospice provides the medical benefits with professional services from nurses, doctors and nurse aides, and Serenity House works on the comfort and care, providing a family-like setting.
“There’s no place like home, so if there’s a way for families to get that comfort at home, they would want to stay there and do that,” she said. “At of the mere end of their lives, people need more attention, not less.”
Since opening in Mooresville, Serenity House has provided care to more than 300 families. Because of the need, in 2014, Pletcher decided it was time to open a second location in Huntersville after she received $100,000 donation from a husband and wife who left the nonprofit in their will.
“Things like this sound impossible at first, how can you operate with no money? But there’s nothing more wonderful than being able to write words on a paper and someone sending you money just like that, because they believe in your work,” Pletcher said. “It’s a hard time for people, at the end, so I hold onto my faith and remind myself God has a place prepared for everyone. Maybe I can’t serve everyone, but I do the best I can with what I have. I do this for love, and we all do this for love. It’s a beautiful thing to feel special and not forgotten at the end of your life.”
For details on volunteering or donating, to go www.carolinacomfortcoalition.org.