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Aroostook House of Comfort

It took 28 days for Rick Duncan’s mother to die after she was admitted to the hospital. Rick says she was in tremendous pain from breast cancer and even morphine wouldn’t ease her suffering. “As a family, it was hard. She was mostly unconscious, but it was apparent she was in pain. You don’t want to see your loved one suffering,” Rick recalled.

That was nearly nine years ago. Rick realized, after witnessing his mother go through her end of life in a hospital, that there must be a better way. He started to visit hospice homes in other parts of the state.  Eventually, he would find other like-minded people who shared his vision that Aroostook County needed a hospice home where people could spend their end of life in comfort, surrounded by family; where they could receive physical, emotional, and spiritual support. “Most of the people who came together with us were people that had some experience with a family member. We found out there were a lot of those experiences and the need was growing and growing.”

They formed the Aroostook Hospice Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit. Rick then visited all the hospitals in Aroostook County to get their support. He and the other members of the board began fundraising. The first big lump sum was the $40,000 they raised at the Logan Graves Golf Tournament in Presque Isle.  Logan was six years old when he died of brain cancer. His parents were supporters of this project.  The Presque Isle Rotary’s annual auction on Time Warner Cable raised $450,000. “Everyone has given of their gifts and talents,” Rick said.

Those gifts included donations of handmade quilts from a quilting club in Washburn to supplies of building materials. Huber Engineered Woods of Easton donated all the oriented strand board used for wall and roof sheathing. “There was such a need in Aroostook County for that type of service. Huber felt very strongly about that project so that folks could have their loved ones nearby,” explained Tammie Fletcher, office manager for Huber Engineered Woods. “Being from a small county my whole life, I’ve lived here and worked here. There has always been someone willing to help out in some shape or form,” she said.

Aroostook Hospice Foundation raised $1.5 million to fund the construction and create an endowment—low-interest financing from the USDA funded the remaining $2.8 million. They broke ground last May and one year later, plan to open in next month. Guests recently gathered for their open house on April 7 and received tours of the new facility. The 18,000 square foot facility sits on 15 acres of land in Presque Isle and can accommodate up to six families. Some of its amenities include six bedroom suites with bathrooms, a great room with a stone fireplace, a family meeting area, a conference room, chapel, office space for physicians and nurses, and a kids’ playroom named after Logan Graves. VNA Home Health Hospice will staff and operate the facility. There will be one full-time nurse and two CNAs staffing the facility 24/7. 

When asked what his mother might think of this new facility, Rick replied, “I think she’s smiling. My mother was the type of person who ignored herself taking care of other people. It’s a continuation of the legacy she left us.”

The Aroostook Hospice Foundation will continue fundraising to help with operating costs. If you're interested in learning more or donating, visit http://aroostookhouseofcomfort.com or call 207-769-2402.