Public invited to SunPorch of Smith County dedication/groundbreaking

This illustration depicts a Green House, which will be part of the SunPorch of Smith County new construction.
This illustration depicts a Green House, which will be part of the SunPorch of Smith County new construction.

A new era in long-term-care services will be launched Wednesday, Aug. 22, with the official dedication/groundbreaking for SunPorch of Smith County, Administrator Tammy Pettijohn said.

Activities will begin at 11 a.m. at the construction site south of the new Smith County Memorial Hospital (SCMH). Attendees are asked to use the Kansas Avenue entrance.

The public is encouraged to attend to learn more about the one-year construction project and how Smith and area counties will benefit. Refreshments will be served.

“This innovative-design project has received a wide range of support throughout the Smith County community,” Pettijohn said. “Because of this coordination, SunPorch is creating new homes for more than 20 elders currently living at the SCMH long-term-care unit. In addition, new assisted-living apartments will be home to at least 12 people.”

During this first phase of the project, two Green House residences will be built; each will be home for up to 10 people. The 12-unit apartment complex will include 10 one-bedroom suites and two with two bedrooms, along with common dining and living rooms.

Phase two will entail two Green Houses and 12 senior independent-living apartments; the timeline will be determined later.

“Some of our local elders may have been faced with moving away from family and friends,” Pettijohn noted. “But the Green Houses and apartments will afford them the opportunity to remain in their home community.

“The visionaries at SunPorch are working closely with the progressive hospital and its outstanding team of medical providers and staff. Because of our mutual commitment, we can extend the reach of high-quality medical care and emotional support to elders in north central Kansas.”

In addition, Pettijohn commented, the project will have a significant economic development impact on Smith County. “The Green House project is saving the 37 jobs of our professional, compassionate employees who are caring for elders in their current setting every day,” he explained.

In October last year, the management of the current long-term-care unit was transferred to SunPorch by agreement with the hospital board of directors.

“This transition went smoothly because of the hospital and our outstanding employees,” SunPorch Executive Director John Grace said. “Tammy Pettijohn became administrator earlier this year. She is now leading our team of caregivers, while coordinating educational opportunities so that everyone will be trained in the Green House model of care.

“This model varies widely from the traditional nursing home,” Grace continued. “Elders make decisions about their lives in a home-like atmosphere with privacy and dignity. The 10 private suites surround an open kitchen, dining area, and hearth or living room. Elders are happier and maintain their independence longer in this homey setting.”

Local dignitaries

During the dedication, U.S. Rep. Dr. Roger Marshall will share the podium with Grace and others, who include: Art Befort, Smith County Commission chairman; Dr. Joe Barnes, SCMH board member and SunPorch fundraising chairman; and Tammy Windscheffel, advanced practice registered nurse and SunPorch of Smith County board member.

They will be joined by colleagues representing these boards and commissions.

Others who have been invited include USDA Rural Development representatives and members of the Smith Center City Council, Smith Center Chamber of Commerce, Smith County Economic Development and Smith County Community Foundation.

Other representatives of SunPorch and the Grace Team also will attend, along with donors to the project.

Even though construction is already underway, a line of dignitaries equipped with shovels will officially launch the project. This will happen next to the tent set up for the ceremony.



       Financing for this $7.3 million first-phase project has been provided by loans totaling $6 million from USDA Rural Development and the Local Initiative Service Corporation. The SunPorch of Smith County Fundraising Committee has a goal of $1.3 million in donations.

“Local individuals, businesses and foundations have been extremely generous in supporting this non-profit Smith County project,” Dr. Barnes commented. “Anyone interested in learning more about the Green House project and how to donate is encouraged to visit with one of our committee members. Any of us would be more than happy to explain the project and its many benefits in detail.”

Dr. Barnes suggested contacting Julie Troy by calling 785-282-6722 or sending an email to