By Corey Evan

Independent-Enterprise

St. Luke’s just celebrated the grand opening of its long-awaited brand new Fruitland Respite House on Sept. 21, holding a ribbon cutting ceremony in conjunction with the opening during which public tours of the facility were given. The Respite house will be used by Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI), Fruitland to house patients awaiting cancer treatment.

St. Luke’s raised more than $1 million for the construction and furnishing of the facility, which will be utilized by MSTI patients and their families.

According to St. Luke’s Foundation Director Christen Wilmer, the purpose of the facility is to ease the burdens of those who travel for their treatments.

“The Respite House is a home-away-from-home for our cancer patients who travel long distances, Baker City and beyond, to come and do daily treatments at St. Luke’s MSTI Fruitland for their chemo, radiation, anything they have to do on a daily basis for a prolonged period of time,” according to Wilmer. “It just saves that travel, especially in the winter, which is really difficult for our patients who are undergoing cancer treatment.”

Part of the purpose behind the Respite House is providing a place for cancer patients traveling from out of the area to rest overnight as they receive cancer treatment. There’s even truck parking available.

“We currently have four bedrooms and we have five RV spaces,” said Wilmer. “Future plans include another four bedrooms. … We’re not sure how much we’re going to have to use at the beginning, so we wanted to start with the four and expand from there.”

She said the idea for a Respite House came from Dr. Sarah Bolender, a physician with MSTI Fruitland.

“[Bolender] was the mastermind behind this and just really saw the need and said, ‘We need a place for our patients to go who are coming from so far away to stay and be able to rest in between their appointments…’ and not have to travel so far home,” according to Wilmer.

Amenities at the Respite House include a kitchen and dining room for use by patients, a media room where patients can read or use their devices, and a grand room to just relax in.

Each of the guest rooms has its own bed and bath for patients, as well as a door which opens straight to an outdoor courtyard where patients can take in fresh air and enjoy the scenery.

More than 400 donors chipped in funds used for construction of the facility. Further donations included labor, bedding and some items of furniture come handmade to the Respite House.

“Just wonderful, wonderful donations from the whole community,” said Wilmer.

As she points out, St. Luke’s mission in the treatment of cancer patients is to give them hope.

“Cancer is multi-faceted. We have an integrated medicine program here, supportive oncology that covers all the bases; Spirituality, things like meditation, yoga, financial support, just all of the gamut that really helps to support our patients… their whole selves.”

St. Luke’s Public Relations Manager Anita Kassee points out that rounds of treatments can last up to eight weeks, which is why the medical facility seeks to ease patients’ burdens this way.

“That’s a long time for them to go back and forth from their rural communities; A lot of these folks are farmers, a lot of these folks are driving big, huge diesel trucks. And if you think of the amount of money they’re having to spend not only on their health care but then on the gas money that they’re spending going back and forth, this is a great option for them not ... have to make those trips every day.”

Wilmer expressed gratitude toward St. Luke’s Fruitland Community Council and Bolender for spearheading this project, as well as those members of the public who gave of their time to build Respite House.

“Everyone has really pitched in, this has really been a community effort to get this going,” said Wilmer.

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