Saint Mary’s medical staff and friends participate in the Bishop’s blessing of Saint Mary’s new guest quarters for families of patients from out of town. Sophia’s House is named for Sophia Dubridge Wege, the mother of the lead sponsor Peter M. Wege. On the far left, Michelle Rabideau, Saint Mary’s Foundation executive in charge of fundraising for Sophia’s House, stands beside her associate Keri Kulala, who delivered her first child four days later, a healthy baby boy named William Briggs Kujala.
Sophia’s Guest House at Saint Mary’s Health Care is named after Sophia Dubridge Wege, Peter M. Wege’s mother. The three-story Guest House – built in 1959 to house hospital interns – has been gutted and renovated earning LEED certification for environmental construction.
Sophia’s House’s 15 private rooms with bath offer families of overnight patients who live 30 miles or more from Grand Rapids a welcoming home across the street from Saint Mary’s. Since one-fourth of the hospital’s in-patients come from out of town, Sophia’s House fills an important need.
While all patients’ families are welcome, Saint Mary’s sees the new Guest House as vital to its kidney transplant program. As West Michigan’s only adult kidney transplant hospital – the University of Michigan’s is the next closest – Saint Mary’s needed a comforting place to house those patients’ family members on short-notice.
“We have a kidney for you. Come now!” The phone call patients have been waiting a long time to hear comes anytime 24/7. Packing is the last thing on that family’s agenda. They are in the car and gone.
Exhilarated and exhausted, these families now have a homelike place to crash, eat meals, do laundry, and then cross Lafayette Street to spend time with their hospitalized loved one. In their rooms they’ll find free WiFi, cable TV, a coffee maker, a master bedroom with a king/queen mattress, and a guest room that sleeps up to four more family members.
Sophia’s House, with its fireplaced living room, a fully stocked community kitchen, and quiet reflective spaces, charges $35 a night for families who can pay it and reduced rates for others. Thanks to a generous endowment, no family will be turned away.
**Pictured above in hard hats on a construction-site tour of Saint Mary’s Sophia’s Guest House: L to R, Simie Bredeweg, R.N. Manager of the Kidney Transplant Center; Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation, and Terri McCarthy, The Foundation’s V.P. of Programming; Caitlin Wege, great-granddaughter of Sophia Louise Wege for whom the Guest House is named; Michelle Rabideau, Director of the Saint Mary’s Foundation.
In the 1950s, Peter M. Wege gave his first gift to Saint Mary’s by printing the hospital’s bulletin. Wege was 36 when he was elected Chairman of Saint Mary’s Board of Trustees in 1958. The Trustee next closest in age was 62. Over the next half century, he would become Saint Mary’s most generous donor.
After The Wege Foundation helped fund the third major building campaign between 1998 and 2009, Saint Mary’s CEO Phil McCorkle could not help asking a serious question. “For all you’ve done for us, Peter, could we have the hospital renamed for you and your family?”
According to McCorkle, Peter Wege turned him down with this explanation. “My mother prayed to Mary to protect me when I was born at Saint Mary’s. That’s why Saint Mary has always been dear to me and her name should remain the hospital’s name.” And it did.
In 1998 The Wege Foundation was behind a new 80,000 square-foot Peter M Wege Institute for holistic medicine at Saint Mary’s; Wege was a major donor to the Richard J. Lacks Cancer Center that became the second LEED-certified hospital building in the country because of Peter’s influence.
In 2009 the $60 million Hauenstein Center for Neuroscience opened, again with a major donation coming from the Wege Foundation. And again LEED-certified coming from Peter M. Wege’s environmental vision.