A Reason to Give: Local businesses find a common cause worth supporting in Haven Hospice

Written By: Scott Costello

From banks to caterers to insurance companies, they may not have much in common, but one thing all of these Gainesville area businesses do share is a passion to give back to the community. In particular, they have all made it a priority to support one local nonprofit organization whose mission is to honor life by providing comfort, care and compassion to those in need.

“The businesses that support Haven Hospice realize that we are a vital part of the community,” said Susan Follick, Haven’s director of marketing and communications. “In many cases, we have cared for someone in their company or an employee’s loved one.”


An anchor in the community

This year Haven Hospice celebrates its 34th anniversary in the Gainesville market. Haven’s humble beginnings go back to 1979, shortly after hospice care was introduced in America. A year later, the organization became a licensed not-for-profit hospice. Today, Haven has 600 employees and nearly the same number of volunteers.

“What makes us unique is that out of the 6,000 hospices around the country, fewer than 300 have free-standing in-patient care centers,” Follick said. “New York City has none. Los Angeles, Houston and Miami each have only one. Haven has five throughout its 18 counties in North Florida. The care centers, which are used for patients who need intensive symptom management, are a warm and welcoming home with fold-out couches for family members.  “Our care centers are also available for respite care to provide the caregiver a break from caring for their family member.”

Since 1979, Haven has served more than 60,000 patients and their families. In 2011, they cared for 4,854 individuals facing life-limiting illness. Haven’s staff comprises physicians, nurses, bereavement counselors, social workers and chaplains. Patients are typically referred to hospice by their physician when curative treatments will no longer provide benefits. Haven’s team then works with the patient’s doctor to manage their symptoms and provide comfort.

“Unfortunately, people think hospice is what you do in the last week of your life, but many patients could benefit by coming to us sooner,” Follick said. “When symptoms are managed and pain is under control, patients often eat better, feel better, are happy and can spend more quality time with family members.”


Supporting the Cause

 Local businesses support Haven Hospice in numerous ways, from donating funds annually to sponsoring special events such as Run for Haven held in March and VIVA!, Haven’s annual fundraiser held in April.

Avera & Smith, LLP has had a presence at VIVA!  for at least six years. “I have admired Haven Hospice and E. T. York for many years,” said Rod Smith, partner at Avery & Smith. “Most of us will become involved with hospital and hospice care at some point. The main difference is hospitals give aid and comfort to the patient; hospice includes the surviving family members in that circle of care and comfort.”

Rick Scarborough, principal at Scarborough Insurance, has worked with Haven since 1990 and has supported them financially for at least 10 years. Scarborough became personally involved with Haven two years ago as his father faced deteriorating health.

“They made a very difficult situation much better,” Scarborough said. “Since then I have referred Haven Hospice’s services to several friends and employees going through the same situation. In all cases, these folks said that Haven was the saving grace in dealing with their loved one’s final days.”

In 2011, Wells Fargo invested more than $2.3 million to more than 500 nonprofits and schools in North Florida. Among those was Haven Hospice, which Wells Fargo has supported since 1996, donating a total of $80,000 through the years.

“We are proud to help further the missions of organizations like Haven Hospice that provide critical services to the people in our communities,” said Kathy Harrison, vice president of corporate communications for Wells Fargo’s Florida region. “We are also committed to those particular organizations or causes that our team members are passionate about. Jennifer Costello, a financial advisor in our Wells Fargo Advisors group, is a volunteer at Haven Hospice.”

Cox Communications also focuses on supporting organizations that enhance the lives of its customers.  In 2012 they awarded more than $250,000 in cash and in-kind sponsorships. Haven Hospice has been a recipient for several years. “By giving back, these organizations help ensure that our community is a better place to live, work and play,” said Devon Chestnut, public relations specialist at Cox Southeast. “We encourage all businesses that serve or reside locally to identify opportunities to give back.”

Adam Brewer, owner of Adam’s Rib Co., said the ability to help the community comes from the success and support it has given him. “The best way for me to show my appreciation is to give back.”


Opportunities for Involvement

While Haven is growing and serving more patients, it is also seeing reductions in Medicare reimbursement rates. “We are continually finding ways to do more with less,” said Follick of Haven. “Fundraising will become even more important for us in the future.”

In addition to sponsoring special events, Follick encourages businesses to get involved in other ways. “Consider bringing a group of employees to Camp Safe Haven for a day to volunteer with children who have recently lost a loved one, or host a donation drive at your company for our Haven Attic thrift stores,” she said. “And of course, employees can volunteer on an individual basis.”

Regardless of how much a business donates or in what way, they can feel good knowing that their contribution will help local patients receive care and comfort at the end of their life and will provide support for the family members left behind.

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