Q & A with Gina Ciaccia and Kim Todd

Leaders at Abraham House talk about the role of the organization in helping terminally ill patients

Interview by David Podos

Abraham House Executive Director Gina Ciaccia, left, and Assistant Director Kim Todd.

Q: There are two Abraham Houses, one in Utica and one in Rome. How long has the Abraham House been operating out of the Utica location and how long out of the Rome location?

A: Ciaccia: Our Utica home was established in 1998. The house itself was a gift from A. L. Shaheen, MD, who saw that there was a lack of services in our community for the dying in our area. He wanted a place where the terminally ill could receive care without charge and Abraham House was born. Our Rome home opened in the spring of 2019.

Q: What kinds of services are offered at the Abraham House?

A: Todd:  We are caregivers who offer end-of-life care in our homes, both Utica and Rome locations. We step in when the families of our guests can no longer provide the help their loved ones need, and do not want their loved ones in a hospital or nursing home setting, but rather in a home environment.

Q: What are the criteria for someone to receive your services and are there any oversight organizations that assist you?

A: Ciaccia: There are two criteria that have to be met. First, someone has to have a terminal illness. Secondly, they must also have a diagnosis of having approximately three months to live. We partner with Hospice Care. They are the provider of our medical care and have medical oversight for our guests. While hospice care provides medical oversight, they do not own us. Abraham House is a standalone 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

Q: How many staff do you have?

A: Todd:  We have around 25 staff that includes both the Utica site as well as the Rome site.

Q: What is your operational budget?

A: Ciaccia: We have a $750,000 operational budget for the 2021 year.

Q: How is your organization funded?

A: Todd: Much of it comes from our thankful families which is totally voluntary on their part. We also receive some financial assistance from several grants as well as monies from the City Development Block Grant for both Rome and Utica sites. Additionally we hold three fundraisers throughout the year. The biggest fundraiser we have is our annual fall gala held in November. We get anywhere from 500 to 600 attendees. That gala is held in Utica.

Q: How do your services contribute to the emotional and psychological health of your guests as well as their families?

A: Ciaccia: Our services shift the perspective on death from something people fear and dread to a more healthy holistic experience, first and foremost for our guests as well as their families. We take an enormous burden off the family members. We tell them it’s our turn to serve you and take care of your loved ones. We give both our guests and their families peace of mind.

Q: Do you foresee more houses in different locations?

A: Ciaccia: We are hoping an opportunity will present itself so we can establish a home somewhere in Herkimer County, but that still is a ways off.

For more information about the Abraham House, please go to: gciaccia@theabrahamhouse.org

They can also be reached by calling 315-733-8210.