A note from Mr. Williamsburg:
As a local realtor and resident of Williamsburg, I love being involved in community events and helping our non-profits succeed. Having served on the Hike for Hospice House fundraising committee this past year, I’ve learned so much about this amazing organization, and I wanted to share it with all of you. Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg (HHSCW) is a wonderful resource in our community!
Volunteer Williamsburg: Hike for Hospice House
One of the many wonderful things about Williamsburg is how generous and supportive its residents are.
One shining example of that generosity is the Hospice House & Support Care of Williamsburg (HHSCW) – a “home away from home” that provides short-term residential care for those facing the last phases of life.
Tucked back in a beautiful wooded section off Powhatan Parkway, HHSCW is a non-profit, charitable organization that provides hospice care and bereavement support free-of-charge to individuals in the community. Built in 2002, the Hospice House itself is one of very few “social model” hospice houses in the country – meaning it relies solely on community support, trained volunteers and grants.
“We simply wouldn’t exist without contributions from the community,” said Hospice House Volunteer and Operations Director Diane Schwarz.
HHSCW started out as a grassroots organization in the early eighties when there was no such thing as hospice care and no home health agencies. At the time there wasn’t a house, just a group of community members who felt that the same amount of time and effort should be put into those leaving this earth as there is for those who enter it.
The group was made up of volunteer medical professionals and other non-professionals who would assist caregivers and their loved ones in their homes during their final days.
“They were just an amazing bunch of individuals,” said Schwarz.
In the mid-80s hospice care began being offered through Medicare and nursing homes and eventually hospice agencies were established. The local hospice group continued to provide its volunteer care to families in the community and in the early 2000s, following a successful capital campaign, built the Hospice House in Williamsburg.
Why hospice house?
Schwarz recognizes that sometimes people are uncomfortable with the word “hospice” even though it is derived from the Latin word for “hospitality.”
“We think of our house as a welcome center for people on a journey,” Schwarz explained. “Hospice is a philosophy of care that simply means that you, your family and your doctor have decided to stop curative treatment and have decided to focus on quality of life and comfort for whatever time you have left.”
Though most people choose to die at home, sometimes it can be too much for the caregiver or sometimes the patient may want to complete their journey somewhere outside the home.
The Hospice House is a spacious residential center that is very much “a home.” There is a well-appointed library, a two-sided fireplace, large kitchen and sunroom, and it is surrounded by wooded walking paths, beautiful wildlife and gardens. The house has four rooms all outfitted with double French doors that open up to a patio. Though each room is required to have a hospital bed, the beds have footboards and headboards and colorful handmade quilts from volunteers.
“We even have Netflix and Pandora and other items that may be important to the person coming into our care,” said Schwarz.
The hallmark of hospice, says Schwarz, is having a team of chaplains, nurses, volunteers, social workers and medical professionals working together.
Since the Hospice House is not a medically-licensed facility, it works complementary with medical hospice agencies.
“In order to come into our home, you have to be certified hospice and engaged with a hospice agency because they provide the care plan and medication,” said Schwarz. “At Hospice House, we administer all of that.”
Another standout feature is that the Hospice House provides 24-hour care by trained professionals and volunteers who are compassionate, dedicated and present.
“In the end, when people are in their final days, caring can be exhaustive to a primary care giver,” said Schwarz. “Once at the Hospice House, caregivers are able to take a break and also resume the role their meant to have – such as spouse, son, daughter, mother or father or friend.”
HHSCW also offers bereavement support groups for the community and stays in touch with the families who have come to their facility. Additionally, the organization has a lending library, an equipment loaning program and educates other healthcare professionals about end-of-life support and care. The organization also has stayed true to its roots and continues to provide a home patient volunteer program.
“Our volunteers go into the homes of someone who is certified hospice but is doing fine living at home, and they read to them, sit with them, talk with them, etc.,” said Schwarz.
How the Community Helps
Since the inception of the hospice volunteer group in the 80s, HHSCW has relied completely on community support and volunteers.
“We have approximately 250 volunteers who help us,” said Schwarz. “They help with family support, baking, planning events, working in the gardens and so much more. A lot of them have been touched by hospice care and they want to give back and that’s the circle of life here. We are incredibly grateful and fortunate.”
There are two major fundraising events the HHSCW relies on each year. One is the Elegant Culinary Affaire – a black-tie sit-down dinner hosted by Kingsmill Resort at the end of January and the other is Hike for Hospice House coming up May 4, 2019.
The hike is in its seventh year and accounts for nearly 10% of the HHSCW annual budget.
The leisurely two-mile walk through the beautiful trails in the Governor’s Land community offers family and friends an opportunity to remember their loved ones in an uplifting and festive way. There will be song dedications, team costume contests and refreshments.
“We have 400 hikers register every year and it’s really a celebration,” said HHSCW Advancement Director Stacy Keating. “People get dressed up, make costumes and make signs…It’s a beautiful, beautiful day.”
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