Donald Sussman donates $1 million for Pen Bay Healthcare Hospice House
ROCKPORT — Pen Bay Healthcare received a $1 million donation to help get its new Hospice House off the ground, construction of which has already begun on the northern edge of the 64-acre Pen Bay Medical Center campus in Rockport.
Donor — hedge fund founder, financier, philanthropist and newspaper owner — Donald Sussman was in Rockport Monday morning with his wife, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), touring the site of the $6.8 million project. The Pen Bay/Kno-Wal-Lin Hospice House, expected to open in July 2014, is to be a place where patients will receive end-of-life care. The Hospice House is to be named after Ida Sussman, Donald’s grandmother.
"One of my favorite adults as a child was Ida Sussman, who died of leukemia and didn't have the benefit of Hospice Care," Donald Sussman said Monday at the site. "When I first heard about the project I thought this was a perfect way to memorialize her. She was an unusual woman, she came to this country in 1905, and she was the first person in her immediate family that knew how to drive a car. She was very strong, very outspoken and a great community leader, so it's great to memorialize her."
The hospice site has a separate access driveway from Route 1 just to the north of the main hospital entrance and clearing of the land has already begun.
According to Pen Bay Healthcare, Sussman’s donation comes at a strategic moment in the organization’s Capital Campaign, ensuring that construction costs of the Hospice House are covered.
“Remaining project costs to be funded include start-up costs for the facility — equipment, furnishings, staffing, and other costs incurred before target revenues are achieved — as well as the accumulation of a small endowment to help support the facility and its patients into the future,” said a news release issued by Pen Bay Healthcare.
Holly Miller, executive director of the Pen Bay Healthcare Foundation said Monday the funds will go a long way in providing the funds needed to make the Hospice House work.
"I'm very excited because this gift that Mr. Sussman has made really takes us near the top with our fundraising and we're going to be able go forward and work on things like start up costs and establishing an endowment for the Hospice House with this gift."
Sussman said Monday he was honored to be able to make the donation.
"This is our community, this is where we live and we love being part of it. What was really the thought is how great this community is," he said. "I've been fortunate to have medical care in this hospital when I managed to almost cut my thumb off opening some cheese. Fortunately, that was the extent of the medical care I needed, but the great thing about Maine is how we take care of each other and this is the ultimate."
Pen Bay Healthcare is now part of the larger Portland-based MaineHealth network of hospitals, elder care facilities, doctors groups, visiting nurses and mental care services that stretch from Wells to Belfast, and inland to the western mountains.
Pen Bay took its hospice plans to the Rockport Planning Board last year, obtaining approval for the project. More recently, the Rockport Select Board agreed Nov. 12 to help Pen Bay Health Care and its associated nonprofit, Kno-Wal-Lin, pursue a $390,000 Community Development Block Grant to finance the seven-bed hospice house.
The Hospice House is one of three projects in the organization’s Better Together campaign, the other two being Partnership Care and Women and Family Services. The total campaign goal is $15.5 million. Of that, $6.65 is relegated to the Hospice House. Pen Bay reported that the campaign has raised $12.6 million so far from more than 1,000 donors.
Sussman lives in Portland and on North Haven. He established a successful hedge fund in 1981, Paloma Funds, which has since grown into the Greenwich, Conn.,-based Paloma Partners Management Company, a privately-held financial advisory firm that manages three accounts totaling $6.13 billion.
Sussman and Pingree operate the Turner Farm on North Haven. He is also the primary shareholder of MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald.
According to an article in Hedge Funds Review, Sussman sits on Carnegie Hall’s board of directors, and is chairman of Skidmore College’s investment committee. Spurwink Services honored him with the Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2011. He gave Blue Hill Hospital $1 million in 2007. His philanthropy is wide-ranging, and includes giving to higher learning, welfare and environmental organizations.
"My grandmother, Ida Sussman, was a thoughtful and forward-thinking person who was always concerned about helping those in need," said Sussman, in the Pen Bay Healthcare press release. "She would strongly approve of what's being created here at Pen Bay. I am honored to be able to keep her spirit alive while supporting families during some of their most difficult times. Thanks to everyone who has helped make this important community resource a reality.”
Hospice care seeks to provide comfort to those in their final days. With the opening of Maine’s third free-standing hospice house in Rockport, the options for end-of-life care in Central and Midcoast Maine communities will expand to offer an alternative to hospital or long term care facilities.
According to Pen Bay: “The newly named Sussman House will offer a tranquil, private atmosphere with the look and feel of a New England farmhouse.”
WBRC Architects and Engineers of Bangor, Portland and Sarasota, Fla., designed the hospice house. The Pen Bay campus currently consists of the hospital, two medical offices, a daycare building and a wastewater control facility. The property sits within the town's Hospital and Resort District 909.