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A hands-on lesson in building Hospice: Participants in a nonprofit training program are building the county's first home for the terminally ill -- and learning valuable skills in the process.


Reginald Epps 37, likes working with wood and wants to be a carpenter, but yesterday the Glen Burnie resident was more concerned with the location of a steel stud over a door frame.

Epps was getting an impromptu lesson in how to move the stud so that he and fellow participants in a nonprofit training program could hang dry wall properly in what soon would be the Chesapeake Hospice House.

The house will open this fall in Linthicum as the only residence in the county for terminally ill patients. But for now, the one-story building on Camp Meade Road is a hands-on classroom for contractors-in-training and a full-sized workshop for workbench hobbyists.

Epps, four other participants in the construction and maintenance program with the Business and Work Force Development Center and their supervisor, began hanging dry wall at the site yesterday as part of a program that combines classes with hands-on experience.

"It gives you a sense of purpose, something that you've actually done for someone else," Epps said of working on the hospice. "What goes around comes around. I would love to see people move in here and know that I had a hand in it."

The father of two, who has experience pouring concrete, was out of work when he saw a notice about the development center last month and said he hopes the three-month program will lead to a career in carpentry.

Crew member Willis Day, 42, had no experience in contracting work before he joined a private, nonprofit training program last month. Yesterday, the Annapolis resident used a razor and saw to cut a hole for a wall sconce in a sheet of dry wall and, with a fellow trainee, lifted the sheet into place in what was starting to look like a hallway.

"I feel real good about it," Day said of the training he will receive in carpentry, electrical and plumbing work over the next three months. "It's something I can achieve that I've never been able to do before. This will give you a big step in life as far as a better career."

Day, who is a cook on evenings and weekends to support his wife and three children, joined the program to gain the skills necessary to become a building maintenance worker, a field he says offers better pay and benefits than restaurant work.

The crew members and supervisor Matt Killian joined volunteer laborers who have been working for months to turn the former health center into a home with six bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining and lounge area, and a wraparound porch.

The home will be operated by the nonprofit Hospice of the Chesapeake, which helps patients in the final stages of terminal diseases and their families.

The building was donated to the hospice by the Friendship Area Health Association. Donations of cash, materials and labor from businesses and the community will cover most of the approximately $250,000 cost of transforming the building, which officials said could open in four to six weeks.

The hospice still could use cash donations and volunteer dry wall finishers, trim carpenters and tile setters, said Bill DeStefano, the owner of a convenience store chain who is volunteering his time as superintendent of construction.

Those interested in making donations or in volunteering should call Hospice of the Chesapeake at 987-2003.

Ken Hall, 63, of Millersville has been pitching in at the construction site every Tuesday since spring. Yesterday, the retired federal employee and private contractor was installing door latches on a set of French doors leading from one of the patient rooms to the front porch.

"I just enjoy doing it," Hall said just before taking a lunch break. "Some guys golf and I do the building."

Pub Date: 9/04/96

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