Lewis County Hospice reaps a six-figure donation from Friends

Julie Abbass, Watertown Daily Times, N.Y.
·3 min read

Apr. 25—LOWVILLE — Every year, Friends of Lewis County Hospice presents a giant symbolic check for a significant amount of money to Lewis County Health System in support of the unique care people receive at the end of their lives through hospice.

On Friday, that check was for $125,000.

The financial relationship between Friends and Hospice is unique in that it is not driven strictly by the amount of money raised through donations or fundraising events and activities, but rather by the operating deficit for Hospice as shared with Friends by Health System Chief Executive Officer Gerald R. Cayer.

"We wait for Lewis County hospital who goes over finances for the Hospice program and then the (Friends) board decides how much to give every year," said Friends Treasurer Linda J. Noftsier.

The money donated comes out of the Friends' general fund that is kept as full as possible and "well managed" so that the organization always has enough to support Hospice and the projects that arise throughout the year as well.

Friends has two primary fundraising events, the Epicurean Delight tasting event and the Light up a Life memorial effort in the fall.

Friends' donation to hospice last year was $10,000, largely because the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with both the flow of information about how much was needed to cover Hospice's operating deficit and if or how the group's fundraising events could be held.

"Last year, it took Jerry (Cayer) a whole year to get to us because he was so busy with COVID ... so finally we pinned him down and he got back to us as soon as possible (this year)," Friends President Loretta Keys said.

"We weren't able to do the Epicurean last year. The $10,000 was the money people had sent in for that like for tickets or registration. We contacted everyone but they all said to keep it to give to Hospice anyway," Mrs. Noftsier said. "Our Epicurean normally brings in about $20,000."

The Light Up a Life event was held but, "We did it differently because of COVID. We didn't have anyone sitting at different locations like we did in other years. People mailed in their donations," Mrs. Noftsier said, "COVID has really interfered with how we raise money," she said.

Mrs. Keys noted that the adapted fundraiser brought in slightly more money than the traditional tables with person-to-person interaction.

"(Donations) came pouring in by mail. It wasn't a lot more, but it was more," Mrs. Keys said. "So we're wondering if that's the way we should go now."

They have not figured out a way to adapt the Epicurean but they already have the Elks Club booked for 2022, according to Mrs. Keys.

Other funding streams that made it possible for Friends to give a larger amount this year and cover last year's shortfall include donations, estate bequests, grants and some state funding.

Money in the general fund is also used for under insured or uninsured people who need Hospice care because, as Mrs. Keys said, "They just don't like to turn people away."

"The ongoing generosity and support of the Friends of Lewis County Hospice has been incredible," said Mr. Cayer via a news release on the donation. "Hospice depends on the support of a caring community to sustain access to services in rural Lewis County."

Hospice serves about 75 people in the county annually with palliative and end-of-life care for terminally ill people in their homes, in the nursing home, and general inpatient respite at the hospital.

The Hospice page on the hospital's website indicates the group promotes "quality of life through holistic comfort care" in all its physical, social and spiritual aspects.

Friends of Lewis County Hospice, in addition to fundraising, works to grow awareness of the services Hospice offers to the local community.

For more information about Friends of Lewis County Hospice and how to donate or volunteer, visit http://friendsoflchospice.org/.

More information about hospice and its programs can be gathered by calling 315-376-5308.