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Family House breaks ground

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By Leslie Williams

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Amid driving rain, people from across the state gathered on June 14 to celebrate the groundbreaking for a new facility that will provide housing for the relatives of critically ill patients.

Almost five years after the launch of the SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals, legislators and community leaders are one step closer to their goal of providing a temporary home for the families of patients receiving extended treatment at the hospitals.

“Though this weather pales in comparison to the difficulties and hardships facing the future guests of the SECU Family House, it offers us a glimpse of the importance of a comfortable environment during difficult times,” said Matt Hapgood, president of Family House.

With $4.9 million of the $6.2 million needed to build the facility raised, the group’s board is awaiting passage of legislation by state lawmakers that would provide Family House with an additional $500,000 to $1 million.

Greg Kirkpatrick, director of development and manager of the capital campaign, says the board is “guardedly optimistic” about the appropriation. Another $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awaits passage by Congress, Kirkpatrick says.

Fundraising for Family House was jump-started a year ago when the State Employees Credit Union Foundation awarded the project a $2 million challenge grant, which since has been met with the help of individual and corporate donors.

Jim Merrill, chair of the foundation, presented the $2 million check at the groundbreaking.

“This clearly is a grant from the people for the people,” he said.

The success of fundraising efforts to date has led the steering committee to seek an additional $1 million to create an endowment to support needy families during their stay.

The new facility, which will bear the name of the credit union, will be built on nearly six acres adjacent to the Ronald McDonald House in Chapel Hill.

Its 40 bedrooms with private baths will be a vast improvement over current arrangements that have families sleeping in nurses’ dormitories, cars and lounges, says Kirkpatrick.

Hapgood expects construction to begin within the next few weeks and take 10 to 12 months, with the facility opening in the summer of 2007.

“We think we’re going to be slammed from the get-go,” Kirkpatrick says.

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