A hand for hospice | TheUnion.com

A hand for hospice

Friends of Hospice is the support system for Hospice of the Foothills.

“It started with a group of women wanting to support Hospice,” said Diane Wilson, president of Friends of Hospice.

Operating out of the new Hospice of the Foothills building in Grass Valley, Friends of Hospice is the all-volunteer fundraising auxiliary of Hospice of the Foothills. Its mission is to raise funds for, promote the work of and educate the community about the work of Hospice of the Foothills.

Friends of Hospice has raised more than $1 million for Hospice of the Foothills during the last eight years and $170,000 so far in 2010.

“We are one of the nonprofits that raises this much money with absolutely no paid staff,” said Wilson. “We just all volunteer our time. It’s a lot of work.”

Hospice of the Foothills, which has been in operation for more than 30 years, provides care for the terminally ill at local care facilities and in the patient’s home. The recently opened Compassionate Care Home at Hospice of the Foothills has been the fundraising focus of Friends of Hospice for the last three years.

“It’s huge,” said Wilson. “When it finally opened, it was wonderful.”

The 12-bed facility began accepting patients last month and is the first full-service hospice care residence in the area.

“For many people being cared for in their own homes, care becomes difficult in the last few days. That’s where the Compassionate Care Home comes into focus,” Wilson said.

In addition to medical care, Hospice of the Foothills also provides spiritual counseling, support for grieving families and services such as transportation and meal preparation. The focus is on quality of life and comfort for patients.

Friends of Hospice raises funds to keep these valuable programs intact.

Friends of Hospice has organized 70 fundraising events in the last 10 years, said Wilson. Seven events will be conducted this year, including the ongoing Pave the Way fundraiser. For $100, a brick will be inscribed with a message for a loved one. The bricks line the sidewalk around the Hospice of the Foothills building.

Annual fundraising events include the Butterfly Garden of Remembrance, featuring wrought-iron butterflies mounted on the lawn in front of Hooper & Weaver Mortuary in Nevada City in remembrance of loved ones; Breakfast in the Park, a social gathering at St. Canice Center in Nevada City; Heroes for Hospice, in which lunch with community members is auctioned off; and Tree of Love, a memorial service and lighting ceremony conducted in honor of deceased patients.

This year’s Tree of Love will be Dec. 9 at Sierra Presbyterian Church in Nevada City.

A penny drive is scheduled four times a year that involves members collecting donations outside of local stores.

“The stories you hear when people come along are incredible,” Wilson said. “That’s where we get our thank you from grateful families.”

Friends of Hospice’ next big event is its Side by Side fundraiser on Saturday. Side by Side chair and Friends of Hospice member Linda Campbell calls the event a celebration of the Compassionate Care Home and 29 years of Friends of Hospice working side by side with Hospice of the Foothills as the main fundraising arm.

“I believe in hospice, am touched by it,” said Campbell, who’s chaired seven Friends of Hospice events.

She estimates that it took 2,800 hours of volunteer work during the last 10 months to organize Side by Side.

“It’s going to be a magical journey of song and fellowship,” Campbell said.

“It’s a tremendous amount of work,” Wilson seconded. “The community came together for us and we are most appreciative.”

Four hundred patients a year are served by Hospice of the Foothills. Families will never see a bill for hospice care – Hospice of the Foothills works with insurance providers to cover costs.

If a patient has no insurance, Hospice of the Foothills will provide services free of charge.

“Not all hospices offer a charitable support program,” said Executive Director of Hospice of the Foothills Vanessa Bengston. “It’s unique to Hospice of the Foothills.”

The average daily cost of care for a hospice patient is $225, and the average daily reimbursement is $172, said Bengston.

“We operate at a negative cash flow, and the difference is made up by donors and events like those done by Friends of Hospice. That is why it is so essential,” Bengston said.

The only thing patients may be responsible for is room and board while in the Compassionate Care Home, just as if they were in a hospital, Wilson said.

“A patient will never be turned away,” Wilson said. “There’s always a way.”

Money raised by Friends of Hospice also helps Hospice of the Foothills’ pay its medical team of more than 70 people, including nurses, physical therapists and bereavement counselors.

As a nonprofit strictly for Hospice of the Foothills, Friends of Hospice is included in Hospice of the Foothill’s budget, resulting in a very low overhead for the organization and making it feasible for all money raised to go straight to Hospice of the Foothills.

“It’s a very easy organization to volunteer for because you know the results. The family appreciates it,” Wilson said. “It’s quite rewarding.”

To contact Reader Liaison Angela Diaz, e-mail adiaz@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4203.

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