By Mike Anderson
Hospice Georgina, a community hospice that provides free programs and counselling for clients who are palliative or have a life-limiting illness, is the recipient of a $98,500 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF).
The grant is from OTFs Resilient Communities Fund, which helps not-for-profits rebuild and recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
MPP Caroline Mulroney made the official announcement on April 30 during Shred It!, a unique fundraising event where people paid $1 a pound to have their documents shredded by Iron Mountain at the Georgina Ice Place parking lot.
“Hospice Georgina means so much to York Simcoe,” Mulroney said.
“Led by a team of dedicated employees with assistance from exceptional volunteers, Hospice Georgina provides quality of life, dignity and grief support to all those living with or affected by a life-limiting illness.”
“In difficult times, the team is here for families, making our community a better place. And throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, they did not waver from their commitment to helping residents.”
According to Hospice Georgina, the grant is being used to purchase PPE for staff, clients and their caregivers, HEPA filters for the offices and program room, and computer tablets allowing clients to access programs virtually through ZOOM.
It will also help market the organization to potential volunteers. Currently, Hospice Georgina has 30 volunteers visiting homes. But more volunteers are needed, especially males.
“The impact of this Ontario Trillium Foundation grant cannot be underestimated,” said Mary Margaret Thorburn, Chair of Hospice Georgina.
“This grant will allow us to continue supporting our clients and their families in new and innovative ways throughout the pandemic and going forward. We will also be able to offer programs and support in the safest ways possible during this challenging time.”
“In addition, this grant will allow us to continue to reach out to people who might be interested in joining our dedicated team of volunteers. Our services cannot be provided without our truly amazing volunteers. Volunteers are the backbone of a truly caring community and for providing the people with the opportunity to age well in their homes.”
While Mayor Margaret Quirk acknowledged the grant would help Hospice Georgina rebuild after the pandemic, she also praised the not-for-profit’s innovative fundraising efforts during COVID-19.
“The pandemic really through a curve ball at so many groups, and I hate to use the word pivot, but you guys did pivot, certainly with the Catch the Ace fundraiser,” she said.
“So many of the not-for-profit groups suffered for not being able to meet in person, to do fundraising, and to keep their activities going. But Hospice Georgina persevered.”
“You all did such a great job. So thank you so much on behalf of myself, members of council and the Town of Georgina residents for all that you’ve done over the years.”
One of the long-term goals of Hospice Georgina is to build a residential hospice.
“Our dream is a residential hospice in Georgina,” said Executive Director Laurie Knapp.
“That’s why we are doing Catch the Ace and taking workshops to help us learn how to do a capital fundraising campaign.”
According to Knapp, there are currently only 13 hospice beds in York Region, servicing a population of 1.2 million, including ten beds at Margaret Bahen Hospice in Newmarket and three beds at Hill House Hospice in Richmond Hill.
While Knapp says hospice beds are urgently needed in Georgina, Hospice Georgina has only been able to raise $90,000 towards the estimated $10 million required to build a residential hospice like Margaret Bahen Hospice.
Sandra Walter-Smith, Vice-Chair of Hospice Georgina, points out that with the chronic shortage of hospice beds, most terminally ill patients are being transferred to overflow hospitals in Toronto, making it difficult for family members to visit their loved ones.
She also says many people are dying at home in difficult, stressful situations and could receive better end-of-life care if residential hospice beds were available.
“It’s more comforting for the family, the patients get professional nursing care, and it’s in the community, and that’s what we need in Georgina,” she said.
According to a 2016 Ontario Auditor-General Report, hospice beds offer more compassionate care and are also one-third of the cost of a hospital acute care bed.
Mulroney, surprised by the low number of residential hospice beds in York Region, promised to take the issue up with Christine Elliott, Ontario’s Minister of Health.
“Thirteen is low, especially with a population that’s growing in York Region. Older people are going to need additional supports. Part of the work that I’m doing at Queen’s Park is to make sure that those voices and those concerns are brought forward. It’s something I’d be happy to take back to the Ministry of Health and see what we can do,” she said.