On Saturday, a demolition crew will rip off the main entrance of the building at 817 Camp Meade Road. Then a corps of volunteers will begin hammering and sawing. By December, they will have converted the vacant health center into the county's first in-patient residence hospice.
"This is the most exciting single project that I have ever been involved with because it's an expression of commitment by the community, county government and the hospice," said Erwin E. Abrams, president of Hospice of the Chesapeake, the Millersville organization that will run the center.
The Friendship Area Health Association, which helped pay for the building in the 1970s with a $10,000 grant from Anne Arundel County, gave it to the hospice.
Business leaders from throughout the county have donated supplies and material and will provide laborers to complete the job. And students from the Center of Applied Technology-North will help with masonry, carpentry, welding and plumbing.
"All of us are giving our time to develop this residence for people who are in dire need," said Annapolis developer Robert P. DeStefano, a hospice board member who is overseeing the project. "This has been a team effort."
Work on the project originally was to start in March and be finished in the fall, but it was delayed for six months while the hospice searched for volunteers and coordinated their efforts.
Now, work is about to begin to convert the one-story building, renamed the Chesapeake Hospice House, into a residence with six bedrooms where patients with terminal illnesses can receive care.
This project will give the students "some experience working in the field," said Steve J. Mitas, assistant principal of the Center for Applied Technology in Severn. "It will give them an idea of how the community comes together and gets things done."
The work would have cost about $250,000 if it weren't for the donated services and materials, said Allison L. Alexander, director of community relations and development for the hospice.
When the work is done, the building will have a pitched roof, wide windows and a large front porch. Each bedroom will have a private bathroom and French doors that lead outside.
The residence will have a full kitchen, sitting room, dining room, a large deck overlooking a garden and room for loved ones to stay overnight.
Nurses and certified nursing assistants will staff the residence, and a nondenominational clergyman will be available for patients and family members.
The hospice accepts patients in the final stages of terminal diseases regardless of ability to pay.
The hospice still could use more lumber and concrete and a few more volunteers to finish the job, said Mr. Abrams, who added that he has been pleased by the response from the civic and business community.
"Hardly anyone has said no to us," he said.