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Features Health & Wellness Mission Foundation sustains Rathbun ‘house with a heart’

Lewis Rathbun Center founder and philanthropist Adelaide Daniels Key, Ph.D., presented the key to the house to president and CEO of Mission Foundation Bruce Thorsen in ceremonies last month.The Rathbun Center, a temporary home for almost 52,000 members of patients’ families and caregivers during the last 19 years, has transitioned to the Mission Foundation. This will ensure the “House with a Heart” will remain the warm, comfortable and well-maintained environment it is today and will sustain its availability for visitors to all major medical facilities in Asheville.

“Thanks to the Mission Foundation, my dream will live on,” Rathbun Center founder and philanthropist Adelaide Daniels Key, PhD, said, upon receiving approval for the transition of control to the Mission Healthcare Foundation. It was the inspiration of Dr. Key to transform 18 acres of bare land into 36 well-appointed temporary residences in 1994.

“Having known Adelaide since the inception of The Rathbun Center, I understand how passionate she is about keeping Rathbun a strong, first-class facility for everyone in Western North Carolina,” Bruce Thorsen, president and CEO, Mission Foundation, said. “Adelaide’s legacy is a precious gift to this region, and we are honored that Mission can play a role in sustaining her vision.”

The Rathbun Center provides overnight and short-term accommodations to thousands of family members annually from throughout Western North Carolina and the nation whose loved ones are receiving care in Asheville-based medical facilities. These include CarePartners, the Charles George VA Medical Center and Mission Hospital. Mission Health and its member hospitals have been long-time financial supporters and partners of the Rathbun Center.

The Mission Foundation, which actively raises funds within the communities Mission Health serves, will maintain and operate the Rathbun Center in addition to cultivating funding for the center to keep it free of cost to its guests, Thorsen said. Mission Hospital will manage the center’s staff members, who now become employees of Mission Health. The Office of Patient Experience at Mission Hospital will oversee the day-to-day operations of the Rathbun Center as well as its many dedicated volunteers who staff the center.

“The Rathbun Center has been a driving force in my life for more than 20 years,” said Dr. Key, who will remain on the Rathbun Center Board of Directors. “I am very proud of its operation – and I know the Rathbun Center will be in good hands with Mission Health.”

Dr. Key, who moved to Asheville in the late 1980s from Franklin, saw a need two decades ago for a high quality, “home away from home” for the many families who travel to Asheville each year for medical care. She single-handedly mounted a community campaign to raise $3 million to build the mountain residential center that currently has 36 bedrooms and support facilities. Dr. Key began the campaign with a significant personal gift that helped to draw other donations to the project.

“In 1990, I had a real dream about building a house for people from outside Buncombe County in crisis or in need of medical treatment in our fine Asheville medical community,” Dr. Key said. “I woke up from my dream and went to work.”

Her dream came true in 1994 with the opening of the Lewis Rathbun Center, named after long-time Asheville physician Dr. Lewis Rathbun, now 99 years old. The land, house and fixtures are valued at more than $8 million.

Mission Foundation will continue the fundraising activities that have provided $500,000 a year for ongoing upkeep and for underwriting the center’s costs. The center has traditionally asked those who use the center to consider making a contribution, but the majority of support has come from individuals, churches, companies and foundations within the entire western part of the state, Thorsen said.

“The Foundation Trustees are elated to be able to add the Rathbun Center to the many regional programs we help underwrite at Mission Foundation,” he said. “These programs range from the MAMA helicopters to Mission Children’s Hospital to the Genetics Center, Stroke Center and Heart Services.”

Families connected to all major Asheville area medical facilities will still be welcome at the Rathbun House, Thorsen said. “The Rathbun Center is not exclusively for Mission- related patients and it is open to anyone getting medical care in our community either inpatient or outpatient,” Thorsen concluded.

About Mission Foundation

The Mission Healthcare Foundation is a 28-year-old 501(c)(3) public charity governed by a 29-member board of Trustees.

Mission Healthcare Foundation serves as a link connecting philanthropists to opportunities for enhancing local healthcare. Through comprehensive capital campaigns, we actively raise funds within the communities served by Mission Health System as well as nationally. Since its founding in 1985, Mission Hospital’s centennial year, Mission Foundation has solicited and received more than $124 million in gifts and grants from all parts of Western North Carolina and the nation.

It is the only locally based charity to have earned national accreditation by the Better Business Bureau-CharityWise Alliance and is one of only 280 such charities in the United States to have this accreditation.


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