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Now Hospice has more room to lend hand

Hernando-Pasco Hospice's new administration building on State Road 50 was built with a single goal in mind: to better accommodate the growing number of staff members and volunteers at the non-profit organization.

It will do that and more.

In addition to giving workers a base for providing medical, spiritual and emotional comfort to terminally ill patients and their families, the new 4,500-square-foot facility, which opened June 3, will serve as a community outreach.

Hospice spokeswoman Robin Kocher said counselors are available to anyone who is dealing with the loss of a loved one, not just to Hospice patients and their families.

"The main purpose of the building was to accommodate our staff," Kocher said, "and to provide a venue for our bereavement groups."

Kocher said bereavement groups in Hernando County are welcome to meet at the new building.

Also, a room has been set aside for people who want private counseling. Before, counselors met with family members at home or at Hospice's former office in the Community Medical Plaza on SR 50, where there was little privacy.

The 1,700-square-foot office had little space for the staff, whose members worked mostly from their cars or at home, Kocher said.

"We could not assemble all of our staff in that office," Kocher said.

The group's new $350,000, Key West-style building should change all that. Located on a wooded, 5-acre parcel at the entrance to Evergreen Woods Retirement Community, it took seven months to build. Hospice also has offices in Zephyrhills, New Port Richey and Hudson.

In Hernando, approximately 68 staffers and 275 full- and part-time volunteers offer support to more than 100 terminally ill patients.

The demand for the group's services in Hernando County has grown slightly since the new office opened in June.

"We experienced a small surge. Typically, when we open an office in a community, that happens," Kocher said. "Usually, we go up about 30 percent."

In addition to the office building, Hospice eventually hopes to build a six- to eight-bed house on the same 5-acre site. The house, catering to those who do not have family or others to care for them, would be modeled on the Hospice House in Hudson. The project is two to three years away and hinges on adequate funding.

Meanwhile, Kocher said Hospice workers will continue to provide the same services as always, only more efficiently.

Hospice nurses provide medical assistance and pain control for patients. Volunteers offer family support such as running errands, spending time with patients, light housekeeping and grocery shopping.

Home health aides at Hospice assist patients with personal care such as bathing and shaving. A social worker offers emotional support to patients and their families. And a chaplain lends spiritual support.

Some children's services are also available.

Anyone interested in receiving counseling, volunteering or making donations to Hospice can call Bonnie Saylor, office manager, at (352) 597-1882.

_ Information from Times files was used in this report.