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Quakers sell rest home

By Johanna Seltz
Globe Correspondent / May 27, 2012
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The shuttered New England Friends Home in Hingham will get a new life as a home for the dying, run by an association based in Norwell.

Norwell Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice bought the former estate on Turkey Hill for $1.625 million in April from the New England Yearly Meeting of Friends, a network of Quaker congregations, according to Friends spokesman Jeff Hipp. Plans call for investing another $3 million in renovations, with an anti­cipated opening date in 2013.

“We are delighted that the spirit of care, accompaniment, and community that filled its halls for so many years can live on through its new owners and new mission,” Hipp said.

The property includes 3.62 acres and a brick mansion, which had been an 18-unit assisted-living facility until the Friends closed it in September 2011 for financial reasons. Artist Polly Thayer Starr had donated her family’s summer home to the Quakers in the early 1960s.

NVNA and Hospice, in partnership with the Norwell nonprofit Campus of Caring, will renovate the building into a hospice residence with room for 12 individuals, said Meg Doherty, NVNA’s chief executive. Campus of Caring incorporated in 2005 with the mission of building a hospice residence on the South Shore.

NVNA and Hospice provides home health care services to Abington, ­Braintree, Cohasset, Duxbury, Halifax, Hanover, Hanson, Hingham, Holbrook, Hull, Kingston, Marshfield, Milton,­Norwell, Pembroke, Plymouth, Quincy, Rockland, Scituate, Weymouth, and Whitman.

Dying people in those communities who want to spend their final days outside a hospital or nursing home, but who are unable to remain at home, now have to travel far to find a hospice residence, Doherty said.

The facility would be the only one of its kind ­“between Needham and Sandwich; there are only 82 hospice beds in the entire Commonwealth,” she said.

The need far outstrips that number and will only increase as the population ages, Doherty said.

“We’re seeing a huge need as people age and [their] families live in another part of the country,” she said.

Terminally ill younger people with children often choose to die in a hospice residence rather than “stay at home and die in front of [their] children,” she said.

Residents must have a life expectancy of six months or less to qualify for hospice residence care, she said.

“This place will be homelike, in a peaceful, tranquil setting,’’ she said. “The grounds are magnificent, and our neighbors are Weir River Farm, with beautiful views of pastures and gardens, and in the distance Hingham Harbor and the ­Boston skyline. It’s lovely.”

Renovation plans include adding a nondenominational chapel, updating the elevators, replacing windows, and creating two kitchens, one for ­patients and their families and a second for volunteers or ­caterers to prepare meals. ­Future plans call for expanding to 18 patient rooms, she said.

“We would love to have it open within 2012, but [it will] probably be early 2013,” she said.

Doherty said she expects that running the hospice residence will cost about $700,000 a year, and she anticipates that it will run an annual deficit of about $250,000. She said she hopes the community will help support it.

“We know we will have to fund-raise to keep it open through the long run,” she said. “We are excited about this oppor­tunity to serve the community in this manner. We have been around for 92 years, and it’s really an honor and privilege to provide the community with what we feel is such a great benefit.”

Campus of Caring’s board president, Ralph Tedeschi, said his group had been looking at another site to build a hospice residence but decided on the New England Friends Home instead.

While it was a little farther from the highway than he had wanted, the pastoral spot on the top of Turkey Hill offered access to walking paths and scenery that would have “a calming effect, not only for the patient, but for loved ones,” he said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.

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