By Lori Szepelak
GREATER SPRINGFIELD – Across the region, area residents like Diane Santos of Springfield are committed to seeing the vision of Ruth Willemain’s “Harmony House” come to fruition.
“I joined the board because the mission of Harmony House is near and dear to my heart,” Santos said during an interview with Reminder Publications
. “I can’t imagine anyone having to die alone.”
Santos acknowledged she was “privileged” to be at the side of her father, mother and sister when they passed.
“Each month that goes by, there are people dying alone in their beds without anyone to hold their hand, tell them that it is okay, and alleviate any fears they may have,” she said. “Each member of the board keeps that in mind every time we do something for Harmony House.”
Santos noted that Harmony House is important to Western Massachusetts because “there is no home like it in the area.”
She continued, “Harmony House will be a home where someone with financial or caregiver needs can come and live their final months in a private bedroom surrounded by their favorite things. Around the clock care will be provided and we will ensure that no one will be alone when they take their last breath.”
Santos, who serves as president of the organization, said when she imagines others who died without someone by their side, it brings tears to her eyes.
“I am committed to reducing the number of people that die alone,” she said.
Santos is not alone. Harmony House’s board of directors are engaged to help raise the necessary funds to see the home open its door this year. Board members include Judy Trudell, vice president; Jeanne St. Pierre, treasurer; Paul Pelequin, secretary; James Brown; David Tetro; and founder Willemain.
“Harmony House is in need of one acre of land in a quiet, semi-private area with city water and sewer,” Santos said, adding the acre would allow for a memorial garden and room to expand.
“We would like to start with a four bedroom prefabricated home while we continue to fundraise and then add on additional rooms for a maximum of 10 bedrooms,” she said.
Santos noted that with a pre-fabricated home, the blueprints can be “unique” and include a non-denominational chapel. The home would also be built handicap accessible.
“It would be beneficial for the land to be donated so we can use the funds raised to date to purchase the prefabricated home and have enough money to open the doors,” she said.
If the land is not donated, Santos said the board might not have enough money to buy the land, the home and still have start-up funds this year.
Santos said this year’s goal is to break ground and board members are available to speak at churches and organizations interested in more information about Harmony House.
“If we were unable to break ground this year, we would continue our tireless efforts to see that the home opens as soon as possible,” she said.
Brown and Tetro, members of Second Baptist Church in South Hadley, are spearheading a spaghetti dinner on March 29 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. to help raise funds for Harmony House. The church will also be donating most of the food and paper supplies, and church volunteers will be working behind the scenes to ensure the event is a success. The dinner is open to the public and tickets are $7 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 12, and free for children 4 and younger.
The menu includes spaghetti and meatballs, salad, rolls, dessert and beverage. A silent auction and bake sale will be highlights of the evening fundraiser. For tickets, contact St. Pierre at 592-7889.
“One of the auction items will be a weekend getaway,” Santos said.
Santos also noted that board members and fundraising committee members are always welcome to become a part of Harmony House.
“We are also looking for contributors of services and/or goods,” she said. “Businesses and individuals can donate property or land, materials to build/renovate Harmony House, donations of prizes, food or use of a facility for a fundraiser, provide free services such as legal advice, bookkeeping, printing, and construction.”
Santos added that individuals could also remember Harmony House in one’s will or by making a donation in memory of a loved one.
For more information on donating land which is tax-deductible, or providing any other service, contact Santos at 297-0242. Donations may also be mailed to Harmony House, P.O. Box 6135, Holyoke, MA 01041.