Light Up A Life: helping you prioritize for the holidays

Posted November 21, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: end of life, grief, hospice, Light Up A Life, special events, spiritual care

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

Light Up A Life logo - blueThe weather has grown cold (hello, polar vortex!), we’re starting to see holiday decorations in the stores, and gift-idea-loaded commercials are turning up on TV.  That can only mean one thing.  Our Light Up A Life gatherings are on the way!

What?  Not what you were expecting?  That’s fine.  Light Up A Life might not be on the top of your priority list, but I’m here to tell you that attending one of these gatherings would be a great way to commemorate the beginning of your holiday activities.  It will ground you; make you appropriately grateful for the great love of friends and family you’ve had in your life.

At our Light Up A Life gatherings, you’ll hear thoughtful readings, listen to beautiful music, and light a candle in memory of someone you’ve lost.  You’ll feel a wash of emotions — sadness, love, regret, nostalgia, happiness.  But ultimately, you’ll feel peace.  It’s a gentle, cathartic experience that will set the tone for the coming weeks; Light Up A Life can become a place in your heart and mind that you can revisit when the crazy, hectic pace of the holidays starts to overwhelm you.

Our first Light Up A Life gathering took place last weekend, but we’ve got several more scheduled throughout the service area of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region.  The way I see it, you have two options.  You could sit at home and watch another commercial for holiday shopping and get stressed out about how behind you are.  Or, you could come spend some time with us and let the peace of love and memories surround you, protect you, and remind you of what’s truly important.

Join us at the following Light Up A Life gatherings:

Jewish Community Center
Shalom Park
5007 Providence Road, Charlotte
Tuesday, December 2, 7pm

Lincolnton Cultural Center
403 East Main Street, Lincolnton
Thursday, December 4, 6pm

Elder Art Gallery
1520 South Tryon Street, Charlotte
Thursday, December 4 , 7pm

Levine & Dickson Hospice House at Southminster
8919 Park Road, Charlotte
Saturday, December 6, 3pm

Mt. Zion United Methodist Church
19600 Zion Street, Cornelius
Tuesday, December 9, 6:30pm

For more information, visit our website at

Corn chips, raisins, and black socks

Posted November 13, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, grief, hospice, Levine & Dickson Hospice House, spiritual care

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By Darryl Jefferson, Levine & Dickson Hospice House – Huntersville Chaplain

black socksThe Advent season has always been my favorite time of year, especially when I was growing up near Houston.  The weather wasn’t hot, football was everywhere, and because we lived close to both my parent’s families, my brother and I got to see everyone and receive our holiday presents all in one day.

Visits to my maternal great-grandmother were always interesting.  For as long as I could remember, the present she gave me and my brother was the same every year: a gift-wrapped shoe box with corn chips, raisins, and black dress socks in it.  It even seemed like the wrapping paper color was the same every year.  We knew what we were getting, so our level of excitement never changed.  We always said “thank you” when she gave us the boxes, but we really wanted to yell out “not again!”  But our parents were usually within arm’s reach so we did not have the luxury to truly express ourselves.

In the spring of 1986, my great-grandmother died in her sleep.  Our family went through the entire grief/funeral/graveside process.  But it wasn’t until a day in late December that year that it truly hit me.  While we were doing our family visits, my parents decided to drive by my great-grandmother’s house just to take a look at it.  I could hear something deep within me say, “Aren’t we going to stop? … Why not? … Oh, she isn’t there … If she isn’t there, then how are we going to get our presents? … No presents??? … No shoe box, no corn chips, no raisins, no dress socks? … My great-grandmother is gone.”

I don’t remember if I cried, but I do remember it being a hard reality to face.  My parents, other family members, and friends were there to help when the days got rough.  I also tried to recapture the days when my great-grandmother gave me that gift-wrapped box by buying those items for myself.  My attempts were unsuccessful.  For some reason, the corn chips and raisins didn’t taste the way they did when they were gifts from her.  And the black dress socks I bought always seemed to get a hole in them.  The socks she gave me never got a hole.

As I got older, I learned to look at the gifts from my great-grandmother as more than just objects, and to discover the meaning in them.  It’s equivalent to J. William Worden’s fourth stage of grief — “to relocate the person in your life and appropriately memorialize that person.”  It doesn’t mean I have forgotten her; it means that I put her in the highest regard and see how she has positively affected my life.

Here’s how I see it:
The corn chips symbolize sustenance; corn was used to help the early Americans sustain the cold winters. What gives me sustenance in life?

Raisins symbolize preservation; which means to keep alive or safe. What do I want to preserve in my life?

The black socks … well, I always wear black dress socks when I want to look my best, so the socks symbolize presentation and putting my best foot forward!

Who knew so many lessons could come from one shoe box?

Our Soup on Sunday village

Posted November 5, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, fundraising, hospice, Soup on Sunday, special events

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

(from l to r): Kay Etheridge, Jenni Hargrave, and Meredith Green

(l to r): Kay Ethridge, Jinny Hargrave, and Meredith Green

Have you ever been to our annual Soup on Sunday event?  If you have to stop and think about it, then you probably haven’t.  Because in my (very humble, of course) opinion, it’s one of the most memorable events in Charlotte.  How could one forget a Sunday in January, one of the coldest months of the year, where you get to taste delicious soups from some of our region’s finest restaurants?  It’s simply fantastic.  But (not to be cliché here), it takes a village to make it happen.

When you walk into the event, one of the first things you see is a room full of bowls.  Small ones, tall ones, shallow ones, deep ones, ornate ones, simple ones.  All beautiful and lovingly handmade.

What?  You think they just appear out of thin air?  Nope.  This is where the village comes in.

Ten years ago, when Soup on Sunday was entering its fifth year, Kay Ethridge, a Charlotte Country Day School (CCDS) mom, had a brilliant idea.  She was a volunteer (and potter) offering her services at the Urban Ministry Center, helping the neighbors there learn how to make pottery.  As part of a community service project, they would make bowls and donate them to Soup on Sunday.  But they had limited space, especially for storage.  Kay knew that Charlotte Country Day School had just built a beautiful new fine arts center and also knew that the school was devoted to community outreach.  So she approached CCDS with the idea of hosting a day to make bowls in their studio.  They immediately agreed.

bowl and hands

Starting a masterpiece

It was (and still is) such a good idea for many reasons.  It allows the Urban Ministry neighbors to be creative and give back to their community.  It allows the CCDS faculty and students, and Urban Ministry neighbors the chance to interact in a common setting and work together for a common goal.  And it populates that long table at Soup on Sunday I was talking about, giving soup aficionados countless options for beautiful take-home pieces.

Jinny Hargrave, potter and owner of Carolina Clay Connection, brings the clay to Country Day on the pottery day each year and, along with Kay Ethridge and CCDS art teacher Meredith Green, helps manage the bowl-making process.  In fact, Soup on Sunday was actually Jinny’s idea in the first place.  She had attended a similar event elsewhere and thought it was a wonderful idea that should be replicated in Charlotte.  She contacted HPCCR and we ran with it.  That was 15 years ago (!) and it just gets better each year.

Jinny is also a pottery instructor and each year she requires her students to make at least one bowl for Soup on Sunday.  If they get motivated enough to make ten bowls, they get free admission to the event.  Jinny herself makes around 100 bowls and asks other potters to pitch in for about 400 more.

Lots of work and details go into making a bowl.

Time and creativity are needed for a perfect bowl.

Long story short, there are a ton of bowls needed for this event.  And, for ten years now, a beautiful partnership between Charlotte Country Day School, the Urban Ministry Center, Carolina Clay Connection, and HPCCR has ensured that the pottery room at Soup on Sunday is a feast of vibrant colors, interesting textures, and unique sizes.  They are labors of love, modeled in clay, compassion, and creativity.

We adore our village.


Our 15th annual Soup on Sunday will take place on Sunday, January 25 from 11am until 2pm at the Phillip L. Van Every Culinary Arts Center of Central Piedmont Community College.  For more information, contact Nancy Cole, HPCCR Director of Special Events. 



My hospice heroes

Posted October 28, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, end of life, grief, hospice, long-term care, spiritual care

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by Heather Serfass, HPCCR Education and Resource Manager

support_24x7As an Education and Resource Manager for Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, I am constantly amazed by the compassionate stories I hear about our nurses, social workers, chaplains, and grief counselors.  When asked to compare our services to those of another hospice agency, I often rely on those stories to express why our organization is the best option for end-of-life care in the Charlotte region.  Last week, I learned of a truly moving experience that I feel compelled to share on a broader level.

Anyone who has worked in long-term care can attest that working side-by-side to care for chronically and critically ill patients creates a family-like environment.  You meet people in their time of need and spend some of the worst days and sometimes the best days together.  Most weeks, you spend more time with your co-workers than your family.  In that way, your co-workers become a secondary family.

A week ago, one of our local senior living communities experienced a sudden tragic loss of one of their staff members in the building.  A Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region hospice nurse happened to arrive just as this event was unfolding.  Immediately, she reached out to her team manager for help.  The response she and the community received from HPCCR perfectly displays the way we exceed the expectations of everyone we touch.

Our team chaplain set out directly for the hospital where the staff member was taken, to offer guidance and support to those who had gathered there.  One of our grief counselors and the team social worker raced to the senior living community to further support the nurse who was helping the shocked staff members.  Together, they helped inform the other employees of the dire outcome and made a plan to provide grief support in the coming days.  Although there was nothing our team members could do to prevent or change this awful event, the support they provided throughout that day (and continue to provide today) is remarkable.

Additionally, (and this one really got me) other outside agency representatives were in the building at the time of this tragedy and they did nothing — they just kept going about their day, onto the next patient.  Our entire team, on the other hand, dropped everything to support the community in their time of need.  Because it was the right thing to do.  Because it’s what we do.

Today I have new answers to the questions “Why should I utilize hospice services?’ and “Why HPCCR?”  Today, wholeheartedly, my answers are Caroline Mbugua, Maria Dobbins, Faheema Jones, Butch Branscome, and Beth Brittain, the heroes who rushed to help a grieving community when it was needed most.

The cutest Halloween parade ever

Posted October 22, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: hospice, Hospice & Palliative Care Palmetto Region, long-term care, special events

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

photo 1

What a face!

I saw Batman last week.  Also, Superman, a couple of bees, a butterfly, a princess, a wide receiver, and a handsome sailor.  It’s October so you know where this is going, don’t you?  Of course.  It was a Halloween costume contest with small, wiggly participants; no different from the ones you see everywhere this time of year.  Except for one thing — these participants all had tails.

I joined a cast of characters at Brookdale Place, an assisted living center in Rock Hill, SC served by our Fort Mill office, Hospice & Palliative Care Palmetto Region.  We were there to entertain the residents with some adorable dogs in even more adorable costumes.  The dogs were able to meet and greet each other in the parking lot beforehand so as to avoid any scuffles inside (which totally worked) and they were all surprisingly well-behaved once show time arrived.

The residents were gathered in the common room, circled around a large open area where, one by one, the dogs displayed their finest.  There was a small panel of judges at the front of the room, taking notes and enthusiastically eyeing each dog as they took their turn being admired.  The residents oohed and aahed and clapped loudly; the dogs strutted around, enjoying the attention.


The winner!

Everyone received a certificate of appreciation for attendance, but winners ultimately had to be chosen (1st, 2nd, and 3rd place).  And then the furry children and their humans had to hurry out the door because the day was not yet done.  They repeated this process three more times over the next several hours, creating a very memorable morning for residents at Brookdale PlaceWhite Oak Manor, Spring Arbor Assisted Living, and HarborChase of Rock Hill.

Batman won at Brookdale Place.  Don’t get me wrong — he was totally deserving of the honor (you could eat him up, he was so cute), but I could have sworn I saw him give an exaggerated wink to one of the judges as he pranced on by.

Check out more pictures from the Halloween parade on our Facebook page!


Veterans helping Veterans

Posted October 16, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: caregiving, end of life, hospice, Veterans, volunteering

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by Andrea Powell, HPCCR Marketing Manager

vets helping vetsDo you know who truly understands Veterans?  The answer is easy: other Veterans.  That’s why HPCCR is in the process of recruiting Veterans to help the patients under our care who could probably use their help the most — their fellow military comrades.

Watching Veterans interact is like watching a TV show in a different language; you can tell what the emotions are, but you’re not sure what they’re saying.  They have their own body language, their own speech patterns, and their own terminology.  If you’re a member of this unique society, you understand.  If you’re not, you watch with a mixture of awe and appreciation, instantly realizing that Veterans have a bond that goes much deeper than outward appearance.

That’s why this program is so valuable. The HPCCR Veteran-to-Veteran Volunteer Program will pair recruited Veteran volunteers with hospice patients who have served in the military. The volunteers then have the opportunity to relate and connect with these patients who share similar military backgrounds, creating a safe environment for sharing experiences. Our patients can talk to someone who truly understands their emotions; someone who’s been in their shoes and likely felt the same confusing combination of fear, frustration, pride, excitement, and elation that comes with serving in the military.

Veterans can help hospice patients in many ways — listening to their stories, helping them understand their benefits, assisting in replacing lost medals, providing transportation, and advocating for them in hospice team meetings.  More importantly, these volunteers validate the experiences of patients.  They offer much-needed recognition of a crucial time in the patient’s life.  They honor the sacrifice that these hospice patients made to protect the freedom of their country.

Veteran volunteers will be matched as closely as possible by specific branch or duty.  They will receive special training, similar to traditional organizational volunteer training, but with some extra emphasis on the needs of Veterans.  They will shadow other volunteers visiting Veteran hospice patients and will be allowed to ask questions and “debrief”.  Veteran volunteers have the unique opportunity to interact with patients who may have previously been unreachable.

If you are a Veteran who has time to help a fellow soldier, please contact Crystal England at 704.335.3578 or find out more about the program at

Chanel No. 5

Posted October 8, 2014 by hpccr
Categories: awareness, blog, cancer, caregiving, hospice

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by Phyllis Zellmer, HPCCR patient

Chanel No 5There are certain chemo drugs that prevent a patient from using fragrant lotions.  I’ve learned all about the non-fragrant products and decided to lend my considerable consumer influence to champion Aveeno.  This product is great for those undergoing any type of medical treatment that has you scouring the aisles of Rite Aid while scratching your back, butt, and legs at the same time.  You will not look like Jennifer Aniston after two-weeks usage but your skin will repair itself.

All this being said was not to minimize how much a woman desires her fragrant lotions.  My son exclaimed, “My God, Mom has her own Bath & Body Works store in this drawer!  And there is more upstairs.”  Nonsense.  I only buy some of my favorites products online during their closeout sales.

It is just awful to have a favorite signature fragrance, like Clean Cotton, only to wake up one day and discover the marketing department of Bath & Body Works has decided to slightly change the formula to appeal to a wider audience.  This really translated into “not to just old ladies.” So the newer fragrance became Sea Island Cotton.  I even checked out the ingredients to make sure this savvy consumer was not being ripped off.

During my third year of chemo, my friend, who I call the “Elizabeth Taylor Look-Alike”, gave me a bottle of Channel No. 5 lotion.  Oh my gosh, one sniff of that fragrance and it was as if the Sea Islands had fallen to the bottom of the ocean.

Unfortunately, I was on Gemzar which meant I could use only non-fragrant lotions, avoid sun, yada, yada, yada.  I dutifully did all the right things while the pink bottle of Channel stood haugh­tily in the fancy storage caddy next to my tub. Every month or so, the dust would get wiped off the black cap and I’d think, “Could I use that now?” Then those nasty side effects would appear just from trying Sea Island Cotton again, so my Channel went back to collecting dust.

One of the things that hospice does is provide help for every conceivable comfort that can be reasonably managed.  This includes sending out a CNA to help with bathing if needed.  Sorry to say, that little issue had to be addressed our first hospice week because I was just too weak to stand and wash my own back.  You hate it, but what are you gonna do?  The Lord has sent you some support, so are you going to say, “Nay Lord. I think that I’ll just pass out in the shower and stink for the rest of the day?”

Today when Janee, my CNA, came to help me with my toiletry, things got very aromatic around here.  I have been so nauseous for two days.  In this condition, you get weak and weaker as the malady literally drains you.  Of course, there is a shower seat inside our ample new bathroom but it does not prevent you from falling off the “half-moon” if you are not holding onto something besides a scrubby.  After shower time was over, the drying-off phase of “the lady’s toilet” started.

During the towelling-off time, I sit on a stool and behave like a baby.  I get dried from head to toe before I am allowed to stand.  No matter that Janee could slip and fall in the water we’ve splashed onto the floor, but I digress.  When the patting dry began, I looked over at the basket holding all of the fine toiletries a lady could ever want.  Janee and I eyed that little pink bottle at the same time.

“Miss Phyllis, what do you want to smell like today?” is barely out of her mouth before I lift the dust-covered bottle and ask her opinion of Chanel No. 5.  “Elizabeth Taylor Look-Alike” would have been proud to hear of Janee’s endorsement of this elite fragrance.

Janee dusted off that bottle and started smoothing lotion on my back and arms, and then took a break to gather crushed ice for the nausea, but nothing stopped us from getting that lotion rubbed in from my head to toes.

Our bathroom smelled like a salon and the fragrance followed me as I hiked from the bathroom to the screened porch where I spent the rest of the day admiring how nice I smelled, despite filling up a couple of barf bags.

Isn’t the Lord grand?  It was an absolutely beautiful day.  The Chanel did not camouflage the reality of nausea, but it just did not seem to be as awful as it could have been.


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