A Waco nonprofit with a worldwide mission is launching a thrift store this weekend in an effort to raise funds for a hospice house, which would provide free care to patients nearing the end of their lives.
The Lord’s Work has set a grand opening from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for the thrift store at property it bought recently at 1208 N. Robinson Drive, with live music, free food and games planned.
The faith-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit, known for supporting livestock and microloan projects in developing countries, is planning to branch out into end-of-life care with the free hospice house, cofounder Dr. Jeff Bates said.
Bates, a medical officer at Coryell Health and at Bluebonnet Health Services hospice program, said he and his wife have wanted to open a free hospice house for about 10 years.
Bates said The Lord’s Work last year purchased the 14-acre property where the thrift store is located. The six-building complex formerly housed Harvest Time Revival Center and still includes a church, a child care center and service dog training facility, which will continue.
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Initially, Bates said the nonprofit had bought the property with the thought of using it as a base for its international ministry, which involved helping farmers build herds of goats. But as those plans changed, the idea of a free hospice house came back to him.
“My day job is I’m a hospice doctor, I’ve been doing that for 12 years,” Bates said. “My dad died in a place just like this. So I said ‘What if we do a project at home? What if we build a hospice house right here in Waco?’”
Bates said he hopes to open the hospice house next year.
Hospice care is focused on providing the best quality of life for someone as they are in the last few weeks of their life. As a doctor working in the field, Bates said he felt there was a need for a free hospice house in the Waco community.
By providing care in a home-like setting, Bates said the burden of caring for a dying relative is removed for loved ones, and guests are able to have a peaceful and comfortable last few weeks of life. Bates said he wants to provide this care for free so that cost would not be a barrier to people receiving needed care.
“You can get out of the hospital, come here, your family can be around you and care for you,” Bates said. “Hospice companies, they provide the doctor, they provide the nurse, they provide the medication, they provide the bed. What they don’t provide is a place to live. They don’t provide 24/7 care.”
Bates said the hospice house would have 24-hour trained staff with a certified nurse’s aide to care for guests at the house. Bates said other employees and volunteers would include nurses, chaplains, social workers and physicians. Bates said the house would be able to take three guests at a time.
Officials with The Lord’s Work hope to use the Waco facility as a model for hospice houses in other Central Texas communities, according to the organization’s website. The houses would not receive funding from Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance or other governmental resources but would rely on private donations and the proceeds from the resale shop.
Paige Jones said she is a care transition nurse and works with Bates. She said she decided to become a volunteer after hearing about the project.
“When people go in hospitals, and they don’t have any place to go, I don’t have the answer for them,” Jones said. “Our elderly are one of our most vulnerable populations, and they’ve done so much for us in the past. I feel like we owe it to all of them to give all this last comfort.”
Bates said he estimates the yearly cost to operate the hospice house at $200,000, with an additional $100,000 to $200,000 needed for renovations on the property. Bates said The Lord’s Work has already received over $50,000 worth of donations from the community, and said he hopes community support for the hospice house project continues through the thrift store.
Bates cofounded The Lord’s Work in 2018 with a group of friends, including Dr. Maudelin Mesadieu of Haiti; Tom Wright, owner of Waco’s Built Wright Construction; and Dr. Kevin Dwyer, a radiologist at Coryell Health.
The idea was send goats and small loans to families and communities in the developing world to help them become self-sufficient. The Lord’s Work has worked in Haiti, Nepal, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia and India, according to its website.
“You give a person a bag of rice, at the end of the week they say they need another bag,” Bates said. “The goat can have a baby, and you can give the baby goat back. What we do is we loan people a small amount of money, $20 or $50, no interest, but enough money that they can start a hot dog stand, they can sell bottled water on the street, and they can make money and then pay us back. When they pay back the money, we just give them another loan or find new people in the community.”
Bates said the hospice house is a different direction for the nonprofit, but he sees the hand of providence in it all.
“It’s a little hard to figure out how the goats figures into that, but the Lord has his own way of doing things,” he said. “We started with one thing, and now we’re doing others.”