By: Laura Collins
The Goldsboro News-Argus

The Kitty Askins Hospice Center expansion is progressing, with construction on schedule for the facility’s late 2010 opening, officials say.

Work on the 13,000-square-foot addition is about one-third complete, with metal studs currently being installed, said Mary Beth Parrish, community development director for 3HC, which owns Kitty Askins. Once those are completed, she said, crews will work on the roof and, from there, work on the drywall will begin.

Kitty Askins received state approval last year to proceed with a plan to double its occupancy to 24 beds. In addition to more rooms, the expansion will also include a chapel and will feature a more homelike atmosphere, including natural lighting, an all-purpose room for volunteer activities and family gatherings and a family kitchen.

Ms. Parrish said the organization is also in the application process for a N.C. Rural Health Care Initiative grant. As part of the grant, for every full-time position created, $12,000 will be given
for the project. Ms. Parrish said Kitty Askins will create 24 full-time positions, which would bring in $288,000 in grant funds.

In a little more than two years, Kitty Askins has raised about $2.6 million — more than halfway to the $4 million needed to offset the expansion cost.

Ms. Parrish said the community has responded generously to the call for help with the project.

“It was difficult to gauge with the economy because overall giving is down, but we are extremely pleased with the progress,” she said. “I just think it has touched so many people’s lives and their
families.”

Much of the $2.6 million has come from private donors and area businesses. Many of the area business leaders have a personal connection to Kitty Askins and said that has been a large part of why they decided to contribute.

David Perry, owner of Goldsboro Builders, said his mother spent her last days at Kitty Askins.

“I was, of course. unaware of what it was or what they did until my mom went there. She spent almost a year there, and I saw the commitment of the folks that work there and their level of service,” he said. “What they do is maintain the dignity of the patients there. I have to support that.”

Goldsboro Builders is in the “Advocate Circle” of donors, which means the business has donated between $10,000 and $49,999.

David Jackson, chief financial officer of Jackson & Sons Heating and Air, said his grandmother passed away at Kitty Askins and said the center is a “huge asset to the community.”

“There is nothing else in the county that is able to do what they do,” Jackson said. “To have a facility where terminally ill patients can spend their final times in peace, surrounded by their loved ones and not feel like it’s clinical, it’s a very good place. I’m glad to assist them.”

Jackson & Sons is in the “Benefactor Circle” of donors, which means the company is donating between $50,000 and $149,999.

Southern Bank Foundation is also in that category and Grey Morgan, chairman and chief executive officer, said he feels supporting the center is a “role of a community bank.”

“Kitty Askins for many years has offered a tremendous service to families throughout Wayne County and surrounding counties,” he said. “A lot of our customers and friends are served by Kitty Askins. It has been able to help patients rest and find comfort and maintain their dignity. Our foundation is just pleased to be able to support a worth while community project that means so much to people.”

Charlie Rouse, secretary treasurer of R.N. Rouse and Co., said no one does a better job of taking care of people in need than Kitty Askins.

“I have had some experience with family there, and they were treated very well,” he said. “They have a backlog of patients needing the facilities. It’s a sad situation for someone to need to be
there and not be able to go.”

R.N. Rouse is also in the “Advocate Circle” of donors for the project, along with the Mt. Olive Pickle Co. Foundation, which made its second donation to the project Thursday morning. The foundation earlier had given $15,000 to the expansion effort.

The additional $10,000 given Thursday was the result of efforts of a group of Mount Olive area residents to raise $100,000 to earn naming rights for the center’s new chapel. If they make their goal, the room would be named the “Mount Olive Area Chapel.”

Mt. Olive Pickle Co. President Bill Bryan said he and the other volunteers hope that others will choose to support the Kitty Askins effort.

“Kitty Askins provided quality services to local families in their time of need, and we certainly are very pleased to be able to support efforts of citizens of the Mount Olive community that are working together to raise funds for this effort,” Bryan said. “We just join with others in encouraging other people in this community to support this effort.”

The Mount Olive committee has raised $46,000 thus far. However, $10,000 of that amount is a pledge from the “Peanut Crew” at the First United Methodist Church, which was made prior to the beginning of the Mount Olive chapel-naming effort.

That $10,000 will go toward a window at the chapel.

A second Mount Olive area committee is being organized, this one made up of representatives of area churches.

— Staff writer Steve Herring contributed to this report.