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Francis House, volunteers emulate unconditional love

Sometimes residents of Francis House will ask a volunteer to recook their eggs three times before they're exactly how they want them. And volunteers will do it -- complete with a smile. Special accommodations are made any time, any day for any one of the people who call Francis House home. And this is due to the home's underlying goal for residents to experience God's unconditional love -- and all who come to know Francis House can trust this promise will be delivered.

"We're not a hospital, not a facility, not a nursing home," said Director of Development Beth Lynn Hoey. "We're somebody's home, and all the decisions we make in caring for somebody is based on, 'would you have this at home?'"

Founded by Sister Kathleen Olsbelt and established in 1991 by the Sisters of St. Francis, the not-for-profit home embraces people who are dying. Francis House has two homes, each with eight bedrooms, located next to each other on Michaels Avenue in Syracuse. The home takes referrals on a needs-basis.

A person who is appropriate for Francis House has a prognosis of three months or less, has an active terminal illness and is in need of around-the-clock care.

"Anytime there's a bed available, we look at everybody that we have a referral on," Hoey said. "We do a lot of rechecking, because things happen real quickly, and we see at that moment who needs us most."

Active 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with a small administrative staff and just under 20 paid caregivers, one might ask how Francis House survives. The response is remarkable. It has 565 volunteers on hand, and according to volunteer coordinator Rea Carver, they can always use more.

"Some go away for the winter, some need to stay home with their kids during summer," Carver said. "We can always use people to help out or work the different shifts or do seasonal work in the gardens, shoveling snow, etc."

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