With annual gala canceled, HopeWest offers new ways to donate

The annual HopeWest Gala is always a sold-out event, as it was in 2016 (above). The pandemic makes a 2020 gala impossible, and HopeWest is offering new ways to donate to the local palliative care program that has helped almost 100 Meeker patients since 2014. The volunteer-run program also provides grief support programs for young people, who tend to be “silent grievers.” — HT File Photo

MEEKER | Losing a family member is one of the hardest things someone has to endure in their lifetime. It comes out of nowhere and there’s nothing you can quite do to help. It’s a time of uncertainty and stress. Every helping hand counts, even when it might just be running an errand or writing letters. Anyone who’s been helped by HopeWest knows they strive to achieve that with every patient. 

HopeWest has officially been a part of our community for six years, accepting their first patient in January of 2014. They’ve been a pillar for our community, caring for almost 100 people during that time. It all started with the founding board: Solveig Olson, Bev Steinman, Kent Borchard, Betty Lou Moyer, Father Scott Hollenbeck, and Toby Smith. They worked for two years trying to get a hospice program in Meeker before finding out they couldn’t meet the requirements. They finally decided to talk to Christy Whitney, hoping she would have an idea on how to bring hospice to Meeker. She originally told the founding board no, saying, 

“After I did all this analysis, we were going to lose $100,000, we didn’t have the money.”

It wasn’t until six months later, when traveling in Kentucky, Whitney figured out how to get hospice care to Meeker. 

“I sat up in bed in the middle of the night and thought, I know how to do this, this is the same thing I did in 1979 in Durango. We raised the budget and we didn’t have any rules about who we could care for — like what insurance they had or what prognosis or illness they had. So I redid the budget and sure enough we only had to raise $65,000.”

Christy Whitney of HopeWest, in costume at the 2014 gala. — HT File Photo

After the interview process, Solveig Olson was hired as the program director, Jen Phelan became the patient care coordinator and nurse and the first group of volunteers was trained.  The new program worked closely with Pioneers Medical Center, who provided office space in the Home Health building.  It was agreed  HopeWest would coordinate with Home Health when people were eligible for both services.  Since Phelan worked for Home Health and HopeWest,  patients who didn’t fit the criteria for home health or who needed more nursing were able to receive extra visits paid for by HopeWest. Volunteers have provided as much as 1,000 hours a year, but COVID-19 has decreased some of their availability. Currently there are 12 patient care volunteers and another 40 or more are special event volunteers. Volunteers are the heart of the program and it wouldn’t run without them.

The first Hopewest Gala was held in the fall of 2013. It was a Halloween event called “Wicked”.  Through the gala and grants from the Fairfield Foundation, HopeWest opened their doors in January 2014.

“Money was primarily raised through our gala event,” Whitney said. “Which is kind of a miracle in itself to make that amount of money in one night and in a community of 2,500 people. It shows how much people value the program.”

In addition to caring for the patients in Hospice care, HopeWest has also started youth programs. A total of 80 kids have benefitted from grief groups, equine groups, and youth groups. A new Teen Cowboy grief support program has also been started. Under the guidance of Hallie Blunt, HopeWest Youth Counselor, high school students work one-on-one with kids enrolled in grief groups. 

“Kids are silent grievers. No one can influence a kid more than someone their own age,” Olsen said, noting how important the youth programs have become.

Nick Massey, who lost his older brother Jake in 2015, spoke at the 2019 gala about how important the youth grief programs provided by HopeWest were to him in the grief process. — HT File Photo

One of the most unique qualities about HopeWest-Meeker is that it is completely funded by the community and operates as a program of the larger non-profit which serves Mesa, Delta, Montrose and Ouray counties as well as the towns on the Grand Mesa.

Most hospice programs in the U.S. are for-profit companies, whereas HopeWest is completely non-profit. HopeWest is owned by the community, it relies on the generosity of donations from Meeker residents and the people served in all of their communities. In past years, the Galas were HopeWest’s main way to function. This year however, holding a gala is not possible. HopeWest needs the amazing community support more than ever. Whether that’s through generous donations or going to HopeWest’s website and joining The Circle of Hope designating the Meeker program. The Circle of Hope allows you to donate to a specific county of your choice. If 200 people donate $17 a month, HopeWest can raise enough money to continue serving our community. 

HopeWest is having a booth at this week’s local farmers market on the 31 of July. Be sure to stop by and buy Christine Halandras’s Baklava sundae. All proceeds go to HopeWest and other donation opportunities will be available. 

“HopeWest is forever grateful for all the community has done for them since the beginning. We hope to see that same energy this year. We can’t do it without you” Olsen said. 

By SOPHIA GOEDERT | Special to the Herald Times

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