Hospice agencies are combining services

MIDDLEBURY — Two of Addison County’s most renowned providers of hospice-related programs are joining forces under a single banner: “End of Life Services Inc.”
This impending merger of Hospice Volunteer Services (HVS) and Addison Respite Care Home Ltd. (ARCH) is expected to result in better coordination of services to area residents in the final stages of their lives and their families.
And officials added the consolidation will likely spawn new initiatives to benefit those in hospice care and the loved ones who will mourn them.
“We’ll have one budget, one office, once staff,” said Laurie Borden, who will serve as End of Life Services program director.
Officials from HVS and ARCH brainstormed together on names for their joint organization. They decided End of Life Services aptly describes their mission and client base, while giving flexibility to add new partners in the future.
“It’s not exclusive to hospice,” Borden said. “It allows for us to take on other partners if we want to in the future. It allows us to look at what the community needs and not just focus on one particular area of end of life services.”
Established 35 years ago, Hospice Volunteer Services has provided a variety of supports to the dying and their families, including bereavement groups, public education events and school curriculum. 
HVS coordinates nearly 200 volunteers in extended outreach programs providing patient care, caregiver respite support, grief support, as well others who provide office and fundraising services. HVS is also responsible for the Wellspring singers (profiled several years ago by the Independent), who provide soothing and uplifting song to those who are passing away.
Established in 2004, Addison Respite Care Home is a nonprofit that has worked with Porter Medical Center in establishing, on the Porter campus, four suites/for terminally ill patients. The ARCH amenities place terminally ill patients close to the services they need and provide a home-like environment in which they may live their final days in dignity.
Representatives of both organizations recently determined that given the similarity of their missions, it would behoove them to merge. A collaboration, they reasoned, would help them achieve economies of scale and create joint fundraising efforts and training programs.
So they decided to create End of Life Services, which will formally begin business under that name in the coming month. The new organization will:
•  Maintain the existing partnerships, services and contracts held by HVS and ARCH.
•  Seek new partnerships and contracts that will support training for those providing end-of-life care, as well as assistance to people planning for future care needs.
•  Look for opportunities to expand the number of spaces available to Addison County residents who are unable to die at home.
•  Bolster educational outreach to increase the community’s awareness of issues surrounding the end of life.
•  Expand bereavement services through the use of volunteers trained to support family members after a loved one’s death.
•  Help terminally ill patients who haven’t enrolled in hospice care programs.
“We are so excited we are bursting with the possibilities of where we can expand,” said End of Life Services Administrative Director Shirley Ryan. “What we have done (with HVS) for the past 35 years is set the foundation of where we hope to go. We just have to control ourselves and make a concerted effort to do ‘step A’ before ‘step B,’ because we want to do so much.”
The agency’s new board has assembled a staff of four full- and part-time people to oversee the ambitious merger and goal of expanded services. Along with Borden and Ryan, the team includes Executive Director Cindy Jones and Bereavement Care Provider Margaret Olson.
“It was very much a mission-driven merger,” said Jones. “We felt it was the right thing to do at the right time, and that it would strengthen our ability to offer end-of-life services.”
Funding will be an annual challenge for End of Life Services, just as it is for all small nonprofits. The organization will depend on donations, grants and fundraisers — including its popular annual raffle for a dream vacation. The raffle next spring will involve a trip to Ireland, according to Ryan.
It might take a while for the new organization to get up to full speed, but there’s no lack of enthusiasm to make that happen.
“The next year is going to be an exploratory, transitional year,” Borden said. “We’re going to be looking at our systems, our contracts and what we can provide … It feels like we have an exciting year ahead.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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