PITTSFIELD, Maine — More than 50 years ago the Cianchette family helped raise funds to build Sebasticook Valley Hospital. Half a century later, the family is supporting the facility’s expansion.
Carl Cianchette, founder of what would become the Cianbro construction company, co-chaired the first fundraising committee to build Sebasticook Valley Hospital in the early 1960s. The groundbreaking on the hospital took place in 1962, and the 25-bed facility was completed in 1963.
Carl’s son, Mac Cianchette, senior vice president of Cianbro, is the chairman of the capital campaign committee aiming to reach a $2 million fundraising goal for the SVH expansion. The first phase of the project was completed last week. There are three more phases planned, but are only concepts at the moment.
Cianbro Regional Vice President Charlie Cianchette, Mac’s cousin, is also a member of the capital campaign committee and on the hospital’s board of directors.
“We, as family members, recognize what a wonderful thing it was to have in the early ’60s,” said Mac Cianchette. “Charlie and I just wanted to support that. We’re here locally. We work locally.”
Charlie Cianchette said Carl Cianchette and Dr. Ernest Stein, a well-known Pittsfield area doctor, saw the need for a hospital in the area.
“They recognized the need for this community. Back in the early ’60s, going to Bangor or Waterville wasn’t as easy as it is today [because Interstate 95 wasn’t yet constructed],” he said. “There was a need to have more advanced medical treatment.”
Carl Cianchette served as the hospital’s first president. He died at age 77 in 1997. Dr. Stein died in 1996 at age 84.
Although travel is now easier to bigger hospitals in Bangor and Waterville, the need for SVH is still there, according to its supporters.
“It has saved lives. You can talk to people who will say, ‘If that hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have made it to Bangor,’” said Charlie Cianchette.
Having a hospital in the community also allows patients to see loved ones.
“We had an aunt pass away there last spring,” said Charlie Cianchette. “The ability for her to be right there in her final days was big. She was visited by a lot of people she wouldn’t have seen if she was in Waterville or Bangor.”
Although family was able to be with their aunt Ethel, it wasn’t comfortable because of having to share the room with another patient, said Charlie Cianchette. Expanding and privatizing the rooms was necessary.
Patients shared rooms and as many as four patients shared a bathroom. The $14 million expansion of the inpatient facility increased the space from roughly 6,000 square feet to roughly 14,000 square feet, while keeping its bed count at 25. It includes 20 private rooms. Cianbro is the construction manager for the expansion.
Fundraising is still underway to help pay for the project. A strategy used by Chuck Cianchette, Charlie’s father, is still used today.
“Charlie and I use one of Chuck’s terms when he was out soliciting to ask people to donate — ‘We’re not asking you to give until it hurts. We’re asking you to give until it feels good.’ I love that,” said Mac Cianchette. “Everybody said that makes a lot of sense.”