Kathy’s House Foundation Continues Nurse’s Legacy of Caring

Foundation Continues Nurse’s Legacy of Caring

GLEN DALE — To honor the memory of a nurse who opened her heart and home to others, the Kathy’s House Foundation is continuing her legacy in Marshall County.

The foundation is operated by family and friends of Kathy Criswell Martin, who died unexpectedly at age 63 in November 2016. At the time of her death, she was the office manager at Glen Dale Medicine and Pediatrics.

The nonprofit organization’s ultimate goal is to open a small hospitality house — named Kathy’s House — near the campus of WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale. The house would provide a place of rest for families of patients and could accommodate overnight stays by patients’ out-of-state relatives.

As the group works to raise funds for this venture, the volunteers also undertake several other efforts to extend hospitality to patients and to veterans.

Dr. David Hess, CEO of WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital, is completely on board with this endeavor “to carry on the legacy and vision” of his former employee.

“It’s an incredible project,” he said. “I think Kathy herself would approve 100 percent.”

Martin worked at the physician’s office for 14-15 years. “She was my right hand as my office nurse and later as my office manager,” he said. “She always went out of her way. She would deliver medicine to their (patients’) homes at times.”

Reflecting on the project, Hess commented, “Having a legacy like Kathy’s House would be something to help us remember her forever and be a legacy of the type of caring person that she was.”

Martin’s sister, Jane Criswell Rickman of Glen Dale, added, “We have gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community.”

A site for the hospitality house has yet to be identified. “We’re trying to locate a good, long-term option for Kathy’s House,” Hess said, adding that the process has been “somewhat difficult” because of the area’s housing market.

WVU Medicine Reynolds won’t be involved legally in the project, but Hess said, “Our vision and mission are very much one and the same — helping patients get a good experience and making sure while out-of-state people are visiting or in with family, they have a wonderful place for them to stay.”

The need for such a facility is growing as WVU Medicine Reynolds is drawing patients from a larger radius for cancer care, orthopedic surgery and treatment in its skilled nursing unit, the CEO said. Kathy’s House would aid outpatients who need “to stay close for a couple of nights” and would offer a place for family members to rest during their visits, he added.

Hess envisions the hospitality house as a smaller version of the Rosenbaum House that serves families visiting WVU Hospitals in Morgantown.

“It would be a nice place to stay while visiting family,” he said, recalling that “Kathy would open her own house at times.”

Sharing similar memories, Rickman said, “As a family, every holiday was spent at Kathy’s house. Our parents died in 1985 and 1998 so she immediately took on the task of keeping the family together. It was rare when there wasn’t an added individual or two at our family events.

“Kathy’s house was always a safe place for kids and adults alike. She took everyone in and made them feel at home,” her sister recalled, adding, “We know how blessed we were and our hearts still mourn the loss.”

Rickman commented, “Kathy was such a selfless person … Hundreds of people came through the line (at the funeral home) to say their last good-byes. We heard the same story over and over and over. ‘She was my best friend. She was always smiling. She helped me and my loved ones so much. I don’t know what I will do without her. She never thought about herself.’ And so on and so on.”

Martin graduated from B.M. Spurr School of Nursing at Reynolds Memorial Hospital in the late 1970s and began working for the hospital.

“She worked there until her children were born and then continued working there on and off for years until Dr. David Hess opened his practice,” Rickman said. “She began with him on his first day of practice at Glen Dale Medicine and Pediatrics and was there until her time of passing.”

The Kathy’s House Foundation is undertaking a variety of ventures to raise money for the project. The first major fundraiser was a steak fry held Aug. 25 at St. Jude Park in Glen Dale. Rickman and her brothers presented the first Kathy’s House Appreciation Award to Hess at the steak fry.

Rickman said more than 500 people attended the event, which made over $250,000. The next fundraiser will be planned for spring 2019 and another steak fry will be held next August, she said.

Meanwhile, the foundation provides bags, featuring inspirational sayings and filled with goodies, to WVU Medicine Reynolds for distribution to patients.

The group also honored Marshall County veterans for the past two years, sponsored a luminaria service on Memorial Day in Glen Dale and helped with the Cinderella Project for the Ladies League of Marshall County, Relay for Life and the McMechen Women’s Club.

“We recognized 213 Marshall County veterans this year,” Rickman said.

Volunteers handed out gift bags at the McMechen veterans dinner, the Veterans Day service at Central Elementary School, Simpson United Methodist Church’s soup kitchen in Moundsville, Moundview Nursing Home in Moundsville and Cameron Nursing Home.

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