Hospice celebrates 25 years of dedicated service
Three Harley Davidson motorcycles roared into the big, star-studded tent, surprising the guests at Hospice of Martha's Vineyard's summer soiree on Monday evening. The dramatic entrance highlighted the final auction offering of the evening, "an Island tour for four to six lucky people with the Harley Riders."
The fundraising efforts, a free wheeling auction led by Tripp Barnes and several helpers, and the casual raffle sales, seemed almost incidental to the affair at the Farm Neck Golf Club, which focused on celebrating Hospice's 25th anniversary. The Sultans of Swing provided an upbeat tempo during cocktail hour and dinner and later for dancing under the stars.
The event reflected the cheerful attitude of staff, board, and volunteers, who provide a myriad of services to about 80 people each year who, along with their families, are facing an advanced illness. The 40-some regular hospice volunteers were also lending a hand on Monday.
Noel Bagnall, Nancy Whipple, and Terre Young helped organize the 25th annual fund-raiser. Photos by Ralph Stewart
Jacquie Renear, a volunteer for two and a half years, was selling raffle tickets for a bench and clock. She described the hospice staff and volunteers as "the nicest group of people I've ever met."
In providing bereavement counseling for hospice patients and families, Ms. Renear said, "I think I benefit more than the people do." She spent time with one person who was supposed to live 10 days, but lasted seven months and one last night with another.
"It was the most beautiful, spiritual experience I've had in my life," Ms. Renear said of the latter.
Nancy Whipple, a hospice board member, also had high praise for the organization. "It is the most genuine organization that I've ever worked for," she said, describing the board, staff, and volunteers as "sincere, dedicated, and fun."
She also said hospice workers are willing to try new methods of fund-raising. For example, this fall, they will sponsor a butterfly release at Felix Neck.
Joanne Cassidy provided vocal entertainment.
Sue Ellen Piccus, an office assistant, said she got involved with hospice as a volunteer after receiving support from hospice when her son died. Hospice continues to help people after their loved one is gone, she noted.
"They were so wonderful. I wanted to do something," she said, so she offered her secretarial and typing skills. "I'm so thrilled I can be there for them. They go so far out of their way." Ms. Piccus said she does not find the hospice work depressing, adding, "It feels good."
Ann Ledden, one of the hospice nurses, had similar comments. "I meet the greatest people in the world. I like the job I have," she said. "The relief you see in families is your reward, and I'm not the type of person who needs a reward."
Ms. Ledden told how she works with patients in conjunction with other health providers, such as hospital staff and Visiting Nurses. She also provides care to patients who have been referred to Hospice by other off-Island agencies while they are on the Vineyard for the summer or a short vacation.
Hospice administrator Terre Young had a busy evening directing the evening's workers. In a brief formal moment before the auction, she thanked her "sisters," the soiree committee that has been working since October on the event, as well as the office staff, nurses, volunteers, board members, donors, and business supporters.
She acknowledged Ted Mayhew, one of the organization's only founding members at Monday's event.
Then Ms. Young said, "Hospice is about the patients," as she thanked the families for the "privilege of being with you. We're here to make certain we can do it for free in our community."
She later expanded on the generous support of the community members who have benefited from hospice and want to give back. "It's a wonderful circle that goes round and round," she said. As an example, Ms. Young described one couple who volunteer at the soiree, whose twins want to help with the event next year when they will be 12. The family had cared for a single man under hospice care in their home.
Margaret Oliveira is one of the many Vineyarders who have relied on Hospice support.
Ms. Young thoughtfully discussed hospice's challenge in keeping a balance in its efforts to raise money, because so many residents and businesses are stretched thin from solicitations from the Island's many community service agencies. As a result, Hospice decided to eliminate the silent auction and cut back on the number of live auction items this year, she said.
Hospice of Martha's Vineyard is distinct from most other hospice and health service agencies in that it operates independently without any government funding, Medicare, or other insurance. The hospice does not charge for services to patients or family members, noted Polly Brown, past president, current board clerk, and volunteer.
"We don't want restrictions," she said. The services are available to anyone who needs them.
Ms. Brown said hospice requires more than $1,000 a day to operate, or about $450,000 a year, to pay for the paid staff of two nurses, two part-time social workers, an administrator, and office staff. The office is in a trailer on the grounds of Martha's Vineyard Hospital. The organization runs on fund-raisers it conducts and proceeds from events sponsored by other organizations, and a general annual appeal.
"It's fabulous how the community supports us," Ms. Brown said.
Hospice of Martha's Vineyard raised $56,000 from its summer soiree, including auction, ticket sales, advertisements, and donations, Ms. Young said. Although the proceeds were $20,000 less than last year, she said, "I am happy about raising the money and thanking people who support us. That covers 52 days of 350 of our ability to provide nursing, bereavement and grief support."
The next fund-raiser will be a butterfly release on Sept. 23 at Felix Neck.