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Building a Home Away from Home

The weather may have been chilly, but the words spoken at the ribbon cutting for the John Zay Guest House addition on October 20 were entirely heartwarming.  Nine years to the day after the celebration of the original Guest House, members of the community came together to celebrate yet another labor of love. 

The expansion has nearly doubled the size of the Guest House, adding nine new rooms and two suite for families who live more than 30 miles from Penrose Hospital and whose loved ones are undergoing critical medical treatments.  The John Zay Guest House had run near full capacity since its opening in 2008, with wait lists as long as 20 parties. 

As Penrose-St. Francis's reputation as a regional center of excellence for oncology and cardiovascular services grows, need will only increase for the complimentary lodging and loving support services offered by Guest House staff. 

"We were bursting at the seams," said Sister Lou Krippel, manager of the John Zay Guest House.  "We estimate that this addition will enable us to provide as many as 4,000 additional nights of lodging per year.  These are people who might have otherwise ended up on the wait list.  HBA Cares has been an incredible partner in supporting our mission to help more patients and their families." 

HBA Cares and the Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation partnered to raise approximately $2.5 million in funds, services, materials, and in-kind donations to drive the project.  These initiatives are spearheaded at HBA Cares by "builder captains," who solicit hands-on help from member tradespeople and manage the project to completion.  George Hess III, founder and CEO of Vantage Homes Corp. and a CSHBA board member, served as a builder captain for the addition project - a role he also filled when HBA Cares rallied its members and supporters to partner with the Penrose-St. Francis Health Foundation to build the original John Zay Guest House in 2008.

"We've all been touched in some way during our lives be an illness that requires extended treatments," Hess said.  "The John Zay Guest House helps to ease the pain of patients and families - how could we as an industry not be involved?  I think this is evident by how the industry has stepped forward to make the beautiful place possible.  This is a caring and giving group of folks.  

"For me and the connection is very personal," added Hess.  "When a friend asked me to head up the building of the initial structure in 2008, I learned that it was to be constructed on the site of my father-in-law's (Dr. Herb Thomson) old office - he was a pediatrician in the Springs - and that the initial funding came from a gift left to the Foundation by one of our industry peers.  Ironically, when we dedicated Zay I in 2008, my father was undergoing treatment for cancer on the 11th floor where my wife had once served as a nurse.  When Margaret Sabin asked me to consider building the addition, it was an easy decision."

The Guest House is named in honor of John Zay, a cancer floor chaplain at Penrose Hospital for more than 14 years.  John was a cancer survivor of 20 years and heard his call to minister to cancer patients during that experience.  John died in 2004, but the ministry he loved is gratefully continued in the home away from home. 

The house is managed by Sister Lou Krippel and Mickey Zay, John Zay's widow, and the many dedicated volunteers who console, pray, celebrate, and grieve with house guests.  The addition's new rooms were opened to guests on November 3, 2017. 

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