Renucci Hospitality House a helpful asset for local patients

OSCEOLA COUNTY — While many area residents find health care close to home at Spectrum Heath Big Rapids Hospital or Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital, some may have procedures other types of emergency situations which take them to a facility in Grand Rapids.

To help ease the burden of travel and other expenses, Spectrum Health offers the Renucci Hospitality House, located in the city's downtown on Ransom Avenue. Guests must live at least 30 miles away from the facility to reside at the facility, which offers a low nightly rate, and have a loved one hospitalized in Butterworth Hospital, Blodgett Hospital or Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

The five-story building was constructed in 1999 and continues to operate and upgrade through community donations and volunteers. It offers 37 rooms and amenities including a kitchen, laundry room, children's playroom, a guest food pantry and more. There also are eight rooms available at Blodgett Hospital and four family overnight rooms at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital.

"The majority of the time, patients find out about the Renucci House by word of mouth from the emergency department staff, nurses, social workers, physicians or pastoral care," said Kirk Bart, operations manager at the Renucci Hospitality House. "For planned procedures, the same group of people give them our brochure prior to their appointment.

"I think the house is much more than what people expect. New guests are wowed by what we have to offer."

Patients from around the world have come to stay at the Renucci Hospitality House, which serves an average of 3,800 each year. Local patients also have benefited from the facility. Bart said the house serves an average of nearly 400 patients from the Mecosta County area per year.

One of those patients is Big Rapids resident Cindy Konrad, who has stayed at the hospitality house on multiple occasions while her family members were admitted for surgeries and other procedures.

"It reduces a lot of stress because you know it's there and available," Konrad said. "It's cheaper than anywhere else you'll stay, and you can walk right in and they will guide you where you need to go."

She is appreciative that Spectrum offers the facility and enjoys the amenities the house provides, including its location and regular meals created by groups of volunteers.

"It's so convenient because it's connected to the hospital," Konrad added. "They give you a key card and you can come and go. In winter, I don't even have to walk outside in the cold if I don't need to, and I don't have to worry about driving in bad weather."

Bart believes the house offers patient families something special, including it's convenient location and spacious area.

"When I'm able to give tours, I show families around. When I open up their room, you can see the stress come off of them," he added. "Usually when people hear about hospitality homes they often expect a dorm or hostel, but we are so much more than that. Thanks to our generous donors, it's going to shine as a wonderful service that Spectrum Health offers."

Rachel Hofer of Hersey also was a guest at the Renucci Hospitality House following the birth of her premature twins in 2014. She stayed at the Renucci Hospitality House for 13 months while her children received care and her husband commuted between their home and the hospital during the week.

"The Renucci House is wonderful," Hofer said. "Everybody was really nice and helpful. It saves a lot of money and a lot of time. It became a home away from home for a while."

While staying at the facility, Hofer became friends with many staff members and met a number of other guests, including some from the southern region of the U.S., England and Scotland. Talking with people sharing similar circumstances was another form of comfort, she said.

In addition to the hardship of seeing her children in the hospital, Hofer said the expense of eating out each day and commuting to and from Hersey in an unreliable vehicle would have been next to impossible. Having a reliable and affordable place to stay right next to the hospital was a convenience she never took for granted.

"It was a life saver," Hofer added. "I don't know what we would have done without the Renucci House."