Dundas County Hospice looks forward to 25th anniversary celebrations, Oct. 1

Seen in above photo: (Clockwise from front Left) Mary Gibson -volunteer, Lisa Casselman - Executive Director, Sandra Jennings - past Chair, Betty Guy - Board Member, and Lynn Gee- Programming Assistant flipping through nostalgic newspaper clippings and photos of the past 25 years. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Offering hospice support services without beds for a quarter century

Kelsey Smith
Nation Valley News

WILLIAMSBURG — Hard to believe it’s been 25 years since the Dundas County Hospice was first established.

On Saturday, October 1, the centre will hold an anniversary party and have invited board members and volunteers — both past and present — and of course the public to celebrate their many years of free service to the community.

The current Director of Client and Volunteer services  — also known as “Jack of all Trades” Linda Johnson — would like to send out a special invitation to the past board members so that they may “see where we have landed.”

In the past 25 years they have added several new services and expanded on their pre-existing ones.

Johnson says the community is welcome because they “need to know what we do. Many people drive by not knowing” all the services they offer.

She wants to make everyone aware that many prospective clients aren’t being referred fast enough. They and their families miss out on an extended amount of help and support “because they always come to us too late.”

The organization should be notified sooner in the process of a loved one’s deterioration, because they want to help everyone involved.

Executive Director Lisa Casselman shared that there are a lot of misunderstandings about the organization.

There are no beds. They go to the clients home and have many pieces of equipment they can loan out so that it is possible for them to live out their last days in the comforts of their own homes.

Their services aren’t limited to those who are terminal and only have a week or two left. They are happy to help anyone who is sick.

“There’s nothing we like more than supporting someone and then having them discharged,” says Casselman.

Day programs are available to the public as well. 

People always associate the word ‘hospice’ with something negative, explained Johnson.

“Hospice is not a scary word. It’s not a about death. It’s about living your last days as full as possible.”

For caregiving family members they also have support groups such as a coffee break every first and third Tuesday of each month. For grieving family members they also offer support services.

The 25-year-old organization is funded partly by the province, through the Champlain Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). Forty percent of the budget is privately fundraised thanks to service clubs, in memoriam contributions and other donations.

An upcoming example is a Main Street Clothing fundraiser by owner Lisa Williams, October 22 at the Old Town Hall in Winchester.

The hospice is always in need of volunteers and board members. 

Seen in above photo: (left to right) Board Members Lisa Casselman, Linda Johnson, and volunteer Nancy Carruthers, of the Dundas County Hospice. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Johnson assures that the centre “couldn’t survive if it wasn’t for the volunteers. There are only three full-time employees here and we’re all part-time.”

Nancy Carruthers — “one of our more valued volunteers” according to Johnson — loves being apart of the organization.

“As a volunteer, I find it’s a very fun job to do,” Carruthers said with glee.

The volunteer roles are changing and are becoming more practical. “Sometimes people overlook the simple things,” exclaimed Johnson. “Sometimes all they need is someone to cook, or clean or go to the store for a bag of milk,” she added.

All of their services are free. “That’ll probably never change,” said Casselman. “Our board is very adamant about our services being free to all,” she continued.

Employees do their best to have things worked out that someone is always there Monday through Friday 8:30 to 4 p.m. With that being said, they advise it’s always best to call ahead.