Grant-A-Wish has own wish--a home for families of children treated at Hopkins

December 09, 1990|By Audrey Haar

The Grant-A-Wish Foundation has been granting wishes for critically ill children since 1982.

Now the Baltimore-based organization has its own wish list: concrete, drywall, furniture and all types of labor to build a home-away-from-home for the families of children being treated at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Baltimore land developer Stewart Greenebaum and his wife, Marlene, of Brooklandville made the initial donation of $800,000, and other businesses and labor unions started pitching in recently to help build what is called the Children's House at Johns Hopkins.

The ceremonial ground breaking for the house, on McElderry Street across from the Wolfe Street entrance to the hospital, will be nextmonth. Construction will start in February or March.

Brian Morrison, executive director of Grant-A-Wish Foundation, envisions the house -- valued at $2 million -- as a refuge for the families of children with life-threatening illnesses who are being treated at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

Mr. Greenebaum, a Grant-A-Wish Foundation board member and owner of Greenebaum & Rose, a land-development company in Baltimore and Washington, said he has visited the hospital many times and is well aware of the need for a house near the hospital.

Mr. Greenebaum was deeply touched the time he met a Frederick woman, whose first name is Theresa. Her child was hurt one evening, and 15 minutes later she was on a helicopter on her way to the Johns Hopkins Pediatric Shock Trauma Center. "She had no money at all. She had nothing, no place to stay," he said. "Nobody thinks of the Theresas of the world."

The four-level brick building will have 18 bedrooms, kitchens on each floor, laundry facilities, a playroom, libraries for children and adults, an outdoor play area and several common rooms.

"The building grew to a 'while you're at it, why not have more rooms, an adolescent meeting room, a library.' The house has grown significantly in size," Mr. Greenebaum said.

The house will be staffed by an around-the-clock resident manager, a weekend manager, a pediatric oncology social worker and volunteers.

"This project would never have taken place without Stewart Greenebaum. He is the key person behind this," Mr. Morrison said. "The help from the corporate level and the labor unions has been an incredible experience. We have people helping from all walks of life."

Companies lending help include Virginia Brick Co. in Roanoke, which donated 90,000 bricks; CSX Corp., which volunteered to transport the bricks; and Saco Supply Co. in Timonium, which will provide trucks to move the bricks to the building site.

"I had been told that labor unions would never get involved because non-union companies were involved. That was never a consideration.They have gotten involved and are ready to work," Mr. Morrison said.

"It's been fantastic and unbelievable. The contractors are so supportive of this program," said William Kaczorowski, president of the Baltimore Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, an umbrella organization for 17 construction trade unions.

Hopkins Hospital donated the land and cleared it this summer. The hospital wanted a homelike environment for children and their parents, Mr. Morrison said.

Rooms will cost $10 a night for those who can afford it, and there will be a sliding scale of lower fees for others. The hospital's Social Work Department will manage the selection of residents. Certain illnesses and situations, such as housing for parents of Pediatric Shock Trauma patients, will have priority.

The house probably will lose $80,000 a year, so an endowment fund is being is established to offset losses, Mr. Morrison said.

Though there has been a great deal of support for the project from businesses and unions, the project has not been problem-free. Mr. Morrison said he has had a hard time finding someone in the city government to help the project through Baltimore red tape.

"It makes you not want to do it. It makes you believe that no good deed goes unpunished. Things don't need to be as difficult as they are. It's difficult to move rapidly," Mr. Morrison said.

The Children's House will be run by a board of directors headed by Stewart Greenebaum and his wife, Marlene, that will be separate from the Grant-A-Wish Foundation. The foundation will oversee the house and management, and will work to raise a $2 million endowment fund.

In addition to the $800,000 donated by the Greenebaums and the materials and services that have been promised, $140,000 has beenraised.

There are other similar houses in the Baltimore area for families of hospital patients. Near Hopkins Hospital is the Hackerman-Patz House, built in 1986, and the Joanne Rockwell Memorial House, built in 1985. Both are exclusively for families of adult cancer patients.

Near University Hospital is Hope Lodge, operated by the American Cancer Society, which opened in 1986 for adult cancer patients. Also near University Hospital is the Ronald McDonald House, which opened in 1982, primarily for children who have cancer and their families. Both houses near University Hospital transport residents to several area hospitals, including Hopkins.

In June, the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda opened the Children's Inn, for sick children and their families, with the help of a $3.7 million grant from Merck & Co., a pharmaceutical company in Rahway, N.J.

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