GLENS FALLS -- Except for the wheelchair ramp in front, there isn't much to distinguish Saint Joseph's House of Grace from any other two-bedroom house in the neighborhood.
But inside, the family that comes and goes is fairly large.
The family, so to speak, is made up of some 80 individuals who volunteer in four-hour shifts once a week to care for terminally ill patients who do not have sufficient support to live in their own homes.
"For the time these individuals are here, we are the family. We are the ones who are providing care for them," said volunteer Gene Connell.
Volunteers provide basic care, such as preparing meals and making sure residents are comfortable.
One of their primary roles is to be listeners.
"The very first thing I learned in nursing school is the difference between empathy and sympathy," said Alyce Linscott, a volunteer. "This part of it, just as with birth, we need assistance with. We shouldn't be alone."
The home, which opened in November, was about five years in the making.
"The Lord had his timing, and we were at times frustrated with his timing," said John O'Brien, a board member. "It crawled at times. It really did."
The vision began with Mary Anne Woodard, a hospice nurse for many years.
"She saw the need and then heard about some of those homes in the western part of the state," O'Brien said.
The home is not a hospice program per se, but local hospice programs provide some services.
Woodard began speaking with people who attended St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church about the concept.
The group considered using the former Sisters of Saint Joseph convent on Maple Street, hence the name Saint Joseph's House of Grace.
The convent building, however, was too large to be practical.
A break in the planning came when Richard Carota, chief executive officer of Finch, Pruyn & Co., allowed the group to lease the company-owned house on Henry Street for $1 a year.
"We had a meeting with him -- very impromptu," O'Brien said.
Next, they asked Tom Albrecht of Hilltop Construction in Hudson Falls to evaluate what renovations would be necessary.
"Eventually that evolved into him being the volunteer reconstruction manager," O'Brien said.
Renovations were completed using donated labor and materials valued at about $100,000.
The home is operated as a nonprofit organization administered by a volunteer board of directors. It is not affiliated with any organization.
The program operates with a roughly $85,000 annual budget, which includes salaries for some staff. The budget is supported solely from contributions.
It does not charge residents, and does not receive government funding.
HOW TO HELP
Those interested in volunteering should call 793-8509 for information.
Contributions can be mailed to St. Joseph's House of Grace, 33 Henry St., Glens Falls, NY 12801.