The Story Of Evelyn's House

When Aja Stokes’ sister spent her final months in a hospice house in Sweden, Aja and her husband Pat learned just how important a home-like sanctuary can be. In fact, they were so impressed with the care, they launched efforts to create a new hospice house in St. Louis to better meet the needs of patients and their families.

Not only did they make a significant lead gift to carry out their dream, but they became instrumental in leading community fundraising efforts to garner support for the facility. The family of Evelyn Newman, the late St. Louis philanthropist and community leader, matched the Stokes’ contribution. Other major donors included Ruth and Alvin J. Siteman, Marilyn and Ambassador Sam Fox, and the Edison Family.

Their generosity became the genesis of what is now Evelyn’s House, the 16-bed hospice facility that opened June 19, 2017, on the campus of Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital in Creve Coeur, Missouri.

“I can’t think of a more worthy investment right now than this hospice house,” Pat said during the groundbreaking. “Aja and I are so pleased and honored to have others join us in this mission. This hospice house exemplifies St. Louis’s can-do, altruistic spirit that drives the great achievements in our community.”

The house is named after Evelyn Newman, who was instrumental in the founding of a number of local institutions including the Greater St. Louis Book Fair, the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House, Forest Park Forever, the ScholarShop stores that supported the Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, the Gypsy Caravan that benefits the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, and First Street Forum (now Contemporary Art Museum).

Her family felt that naming the hospice house after Evelyn, who passed away in 2015, would be a meaningful way to preserve her legacy.

“She lived her life being so passionate about pioneering projects to help many St. Louis organizations thrive,” says her son, Andy. “In her last years, she focused on compassion, respect, and welcoming everyone … always.”

Evelyn’s House is designed to offer patients and families an alternative choice in special circumstances such as the short-term management of pain and symptoms, respite for caregivers, and when care in the family home is not feasible. It is the first hospice facility in the St. Louis area to provide beds to pediatric patients as well as adults.

“Hospice care recognizes, celebrates and respects the unique life journey of each patient,” says Barbara Westland, BJC Hospice director. “Hospice helps families make every moment count by focusing on the spiritual and emotional care of patients, as well as physical comfort.”

The 18,000 square-foot facility has the look and feel of a stately but welcoming ranch-style home, with a large open kitchen where families can cook, a cheerful kid’s playroom and expansive sitting rooms filled with comfy furniture, including some chairs that belonged to Evelyn.

Each of the spacious, private rooms at the hospice has a walkout patio. There’s also an outdoor garden that memorializes Aja’s sister. The Stokes said the garden is for “all sisters, mothers, daughters, fathers, brothers, sons and friends to reflect, relax and find strength amidst the challenges and beauty of life.”

Other Evelyn’s House features include a family sleeping area; natural surroundings with a walking path, gazebo and playground; gathering room with a fireplace; music and art therapy rooms, meditation room, and beauty salon and spa.

In addition, ice cream is always available to patients and families because it was one of Evelyn’s favorite desserts.

Evelyn’s House is led by Patrick White, MD, chief medical officer for BJC Hospice.

Dr. White is one of the first physicians in the country to pursue a PhD in comparative effectiveness research focused on improving end-of-life care. Dr. White was selected as one of the inaugural “Hospice and Palliative Medicine Inspirational Leaders Under 40” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Additional financial support for Evelyn’s House is from The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, St. Louis Children’s Hospital Foundation, Friends of St. Louis Children’s Hospital, and Friends of Wings, which supports the BJC Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Care program. BJC HealthCare is also funding the project.