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Hospice House: Q&A with executive director Wendy Marlow

From a bare lot in Sahali to a home that houses the dying, the Marjorie Willoughby Memorial Hospice Home has become a centre for compassion. This series traces the history of the Kamloops Hospice Association while visiting with staff, volunteers and a woman with terminal cancer
hospice Wendy Marlow
According to executive director Wendy Marlow, private donations and charity make up a big portion of the annual operating budget for the Marjorie Willoughby Snowden Memorial Hospice Home.

KTW: How is hospice funded?

Wendy Marlow: “We have about a $2.5-million budget. The majority of that is wages, staff, because our building is paid for, which is really great. So we are funded sort of broad strokes, two ways. We have a contract with Interior Health. That’s a five-year contract that we negotiate and renew. That covers, I can’t even say 50 per cent of our budget any more, but close to 50 per cent of our budget. That, as you can imagine, means there’s a lot that we’re responsible to bring in to keep what we do operational. It’s one thing to say, ‘OK, we fund the clinical staff,’ but you need someone to pay them. You need someone to get the donations and write the letters and so what we do is we have different revenue streams for the rest of that.

“Part of that is the [Flutter Buys] thrift store. One thing I love about the thrift store is we’re helping ourselves. All the funds come here and it’s manned by about 45 volunteers and one-and-a-half paid staff management. It’s great because it directs funds here. It also gives people affordable shopping, people who need that in their lives.

“There’s people who want to help us, but maybe they can’t write a cheque, but they have things they no longer need and they take it to our thrift store. It’s over in Brock shop on Tranquille and it’s amazing. People, no matter where they live, because they know it’s their way to help hospice, they’ll drive across town to take their things.

“The other is donations. You often see in the paper, in lieu of flowers, donations to Marjorie Willoughby or Kamloops Hospice. That forms part of it. The other is what we just call general donations, where somebody just knows we’re part of their community and they want to support us. We get a lot of donations at Christmas, but even throughout the year, where people are just wanting give donations. We do events and others do events. Events, we split into two forms.

“The hospice events — the big one, Evening to Remember and Celebrate a Life, there’s a big craft fair with that. It raises about $20,000. There’s a Blazer night [in February].

“Then we talk about third-party events, where someone will phone up and say, ‘I want to put on a golf tournament and I want the funds to come to you.’

“This cheque, you’ll see NextGen Electric, they had family members die here so he put on the golf tournament over at [Bighorn] and raised $10,000 for us. It could be as simple as a school group does a bake sale and raises $200. … We do apply for some gaming grants to help with one of our community programs. There is a user fee, which at this point is $37 a day and Interior Health sets that fee. There’s always ways to evaluate that if people can’t pay, but there is a fee that way.”

KTW: Do patients ever leave?

About 10 people unexpectedly leave the hospice each year, Marlow said.

W.M.: “When I started, there was a fellow here — let’s call him, Stevie. Stevie had nobody in his life and he lived on his own and he wasn’t eating. His diagnosis was really failure to thrive. I’m really, I’m done.

“So, what a great thing that this man who was alone could come here and be in this beautiful comfortable place. Stevie started having regular meals and getting a little attention from the staff and volunteers and weeks went into months. Stevie was about 96 and it took us a long time to realize, Stevie’s not ready to die. So after some months, he was moved to one of the residential-care facilities and celebrated his 100th birthday and has since, last year, died. I love that story because I tease that Stevie failed to fail. But you know, one thing it should teach all of us is just some TLC and attention, what does that do to people?”