As the final touches are made to the Campbell House palliative care facility, the committee which launched Hospice Georgian Triangle in 1987 took a tour of the six-bed hospice before sitting down for tea and to reminisce about hospice’s origins in Collingwood.
“Absolutely amazing, incredible,” said Rev. Richard Newland, the inaugural chair of Hospice Georgian Triangle, as he stood in the homey front entrance that resembles someone’s living room. “I would have never dreamed that it would have developed into something like this.
“But having seen the facility, knowing what palliative people are faced with, Collingwood has a real gem here.”
Newland was a pastor serving the Anglican parishes in Batteaux, Duntroon and Singhampton in the mid-1980s, fresh from the seminary, and had spent his last year of training at the parish in King City. He had been introduced to the idea of palliative care services with Hospice King, the first volunteer hospice organization in the province, started by two members of the congregation.
“That had really, really stuck with me; prior to being ordained, I had been a funeral director, and was aware of all the end-of-life issues,” said Newland, who is now at a parish in Scarborough. “When I came up here to start my ministry, I never forgot the experience of King City, and that Hospice King environment.”
“Everybody was thinking about it, but nothing was happening until Richard pulled us together,” added Rebecca Wall, another original board member who is still part of Hospice Georgian Triangle. “We had no money and were just volunteers… but we were people who had passion and believed something more could be done for people at the end-of life.”
Newland contacted every agency he could think of, and organized a meeting at All Saints’ Anglican Church, “and we started to plot on how we could do this.”
“I can’t remember what was the impetus, but I do remember I called every existing agency in town, from the Cancer Society to the Red Cross, the VON, the hospital — every agency I could find to see if there is was anything being done around palliative care issues, and there was nothing,” said Newland.
“My idea was always community-based hospice, but I was using the Hospice King model, which was into the home,” said Newland. “This is certainly a wonderful way in which to do it.”
Every agency agreed to provide a representative for a board of directors, and one member’s husband was a lawyer and guided the group through the incorporation process to get a charitable status number.
“By the end of the first year we were incorporated, had a charitable status number, and we started to do some fundraising and find volunteers,” said Newland. “But it was such a foreign idea; a lot of people didn’t trust us — ’what are you guys about? You want to send non-medical volunteers into my home to help me with my relative who is dying?’ The answer was, ‘yes, we did, you need some help, if you want it’.”
The tour for the inaugural board was just one of several visits to Campbell House this week from local doctors, politicians, service clubs, and representatives of the Local Health Integration Network — which provided the final piece of the puzzle earlier this year by committing to $540,000 in annual operational funding.
That will help pay for the staff of registered nurses and personal support workers now employed at the facility, which will be operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week once it opens its doors.
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