In 1982, a small group of community leaders came together to created a program for specialized care for people facing life-limiting diseases. Home Hospice of Grayson County received its state charter as a non-profit organization in September 1982 and will be celebrating its 35th anniversary with a birthday party from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 13 at the office located at 505 W. Center Street in Sherman. There will be food, birthday treats and patrons will get to pin a leaf on the Home Hospice tree.

“Initially we were housed in a spare office at First Presbyterian Church in Denison and then in the Silver Wing complex of Grayson College,” Grayson County Home Hospice Community Development Director Nancy Jackson said. “We then relocated to Sherman in two different locations on Travis Street before moving to our current location in Sherman at 505 W. Center Street. Growth of operations kept us moving to larger spaces and in 2008, we expanded our existing location.”

The group that started Home Hospice of Grayson County included Kyra Lucchessi Kerr, Howard Starr, Cherry Cunningham, John Dannel, Dennis Wilkinson, John Purcell, Joan Douglass, Mary Swetnam, Carolyn Sewell and Sue Sappenfield. These individuals supported the organization by volunteering services, participating in board meetings, speaking in the community and talking to medical professionals.

“Home Hospice is a 501(c)(3) organization, licensed by the state of Texas, certified by Medicare and accredited by the Community Health Care Accreditation Program through an exhaustive self-study and on-site survey process that occurs every three years,” Jackson said. “The organization is a member of the Texas and New Mexico Hospice Organization and the Texas Non-Profit Hospice Alliance. We have been a United Way agency since 1985.”

Funding for Home Hospice comes from foundation grants, memorials and fundraisers like the organization’s annual cook-off and “Light Up A Life” program. It also receives money from donors.

“The Home Hospice mission is to provide the best care and support enhancing the quality of life of our patients and their families — regardless of ability to pay,” Jackson said. “We continue that mission today by expanding on our vision — we envision a community where everyone facing serious illness and loss will experience the best quality of life possible.”

Jackson said the hope of Home Hospice is to deliver on its vision each day by helping anyone needing end-of-life services.

“Working with the health care community, our services can help reduce the impact to hospitals and reduce the overall cost of medical care while providing an improved quality of life to our patients,” she said.

Home Hospice has a staff of more than 50 people that include nurses, social workers, personal care aides, spiritual counselors and bereavement and administrative support. There are also more than 200 volunteers.

“Our staff brings a high level of experience and expertise in patient care and bereavement services,” Jackson said. “Our commitment is to the care and support of patients and their families who are dealing with advanced, chronic and terminal illnesses. We help them address physical, emotional, psychosocial, financial or spiritual symptoms, and needs and issues reflective of their disease process. This care and support is done through the services of an interdisciplinary team including physicians, nurses, social workers, aides, chaplains, volunteers and office staff.”

In 1987, Home Hospice expanded to Cooke County by opening an office in Gainesville. Now, Home Hospice serves Cooke, Fannin and Grayson counties.

“Each year we have added new programs and services based on the needs of the community,” Jackson said. “We use patient and family surveys, community feedback and changes in health care throughout the year to help us identify new bereavement and community services including support groups, advance planning workshops, grief programs, special events and disease education.”

One of Home Hospice’s most recognized programs, Jackson said, is Camp Dragonfly, a bereavement camp for children 8-12 years old.

“We began the program in 2008 with one camp and 17 children in attendance,” she said. “The camp is held over a weekend with activities, games and group time. Our next camp is October 20-22, 2017.”

In 2016, Home Hospice rolled out its newest program, Pathways Palliative Supportive Care, a consultative service with primary care physicians for those dealing with advanced and chronic illnesses.

“We support the patient in pain and symptom management, emotional and spiritual issues, helping with resources and coordination of care with other health care services,” Jackson said.

Over 20 years ago, Home Hospice began its bear hugs program as part of bereavement services.

“In the program, volunteers create memory bears for family members from a patient’s article of clothing or other cloth item that belonged to the patient,” Jackson said. “Family members cherish this unique remembrance.”

In 1986, the Home Hospice Auxiliary was established. The Grayson and Cooke County auxiliaries lead the “Light Up A Life” event, hold annual membership luncheons and work to promote programs throughout the community.

“We average over 10,000 volunteer service hours each year,” Jackson said. “In 2016 and 2017, we received the Hospice Honors award as a hospice providing the best patient and caregiver experience. This prestigious annual review recognizes hospices that continuously provide the highest level of quality as measured from the caregiver’s point of view. Hospice Honors acknowledges high performing agencies by analyzing performance of Hospice CAHPS quality measures, a third-party survey company.”

Twelve staff members have been named best in their discipline by the Texas and New Mexico Hospice Organization.

“Hospice does not mean you give up hope, for there is hope in hospice care,” Jackson said. “We help people deal with the pain and symptoms of their disease so that they can feel the best possible each day, focus on things that are important to them and support their family in dealing with the family and caregiver side of the disease process.”

On Sept. 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Home Hospice will have a membership luncheon at First State Bank Conference Center. On Sept. 13 from 4:30-6:30 p.m., there will be a birthday party with food, treats and more at the Sherman office. Then on Sept. 14 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., a membership luncheon and a birthday party will be held at the Hilton Garden Inn. Tickets are available for this event.

In November, to celebrate National Hospice Month, there will be open houses and “Light Up A Life” events.