Sipping and supping to support hospice care

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Ed Lacy led the Paddle Raiser for the new Hospice of Mercy residence at Soup for the Soul at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. The Paddle Raiser’s goal was $50,000, but attendees raised more than $68,000.

Whether it marks the end of winter or the first rite of spring, Soup for the Soul, Hospice of Mercy’s annual fundraiser, brings out folks of all ages and all walks of life.

In fact, it brought out about 420 people, who filled the Exhibit Hall at the La Plata County Fairgrounds on March 21. And for those who were wondering if the economy is really recovering, this event was proof it’s well on its way. Numbers are still tentative, but it’s looking as though the ticket sales, silent auction, sponsorships and floral sales helped bring in more than $64,000 for daily operations. It couldn’t be for a better cause.

The stars of the show were the restaurants, which prepared and donated the wonderful food for the ninth year. The only way I managed to taste most of them was by sharing with Janice Sheftel, who graciously kept “crutch girl” supplied along with tablemate Mike Bruce and Rotarian Bill Cartwright.

Everything was delicious, and I’m salivating just reminiscing.

Unfortunately, I don’t have space for all these generous restaurants and their goodies, but there are still a few standing out in my memory. East by Southwest’s coconut, carrot and ginger bisque was a revelation. The flavors were bright and fresh, and it tasted like spring. The Red Snapper’s crab bisque merited the title totally crabby – in the best way – and the Lost Dog Bar & Lounge went for the healthy orange look with a sweet potato bisque with spiced chicken and walnuts. Chimayo Stone Fired Kitchen’s chile chicken corn soup definitely woke up my tastebuds, and Cosmo Bar and Dining’s salmon volcano sushi roll may have been the best appetizer. Rumor had it the Ore House’s beef, barley and wild mushroom soup was stellar, but I’m allergic to mushrooms so had to forego the pleasure.

There’s got to be a sweet or two, of course, and the DoubleTree Hotel’s chocolate chip cookies are coveted for a reason.

There is no way to estimate how much work this event entails, and kudos go to Mercy Health Foundation’s staff members, Chief Development Officer Karen Midkiff, Development Officer Joy Hess, Kay Hoppe Jones and Lauri Wilson Lacy. There was a whole bevy of volunteers helping, but special notice should go to Anne Swisher and Betty Romero, who put together an incredible silent auction.

They divided it into categories, which included the Soup Pantry, with soup cans containing gift certificates from a wide variety of area businesses, the Wine Cellar, with tastings, select wines, wine dinners and so on, and the self-explanatory categories Creative Arts, Fitness, Health and Beauty, Outside Adventures, Bling and Christmas in March, with a lot of choice Christmas decorations.

My favorite was the Fresh Foods and Feasts category, with homemade peach and cherry cobbler for 20 made by Romero, Angie Cook’s secret recipe (and sample) for a fresh pumpkin roll with cream cheese, dinners in private homes, baskets with food goodies and, for little canine buddies, homemade dog biscuits.

For the first time, hospice gave an Award of Courage. Lenny and Andrew Papineau who have taken what could have been a family destroyer, the death of Papineau’s wife and best friend, and young Andrew’s mother, Mary Ellen Albright, in November 2011, and have found a way to come together in a newer, stronger relationship.

“Anyone can be a father,” said Beth Drum, president of the Mercy Health Foundation Board of Directors, “but it takes someone special to be a dad.”

Hospice is working to dispel some hospice myths, the first of which is that hospice is where people go to die. In fact, it’s the organization that helps people live to the fullest during the last days they’ve been given.

In fiscal year 2012, Hospice of Mercy served 514 patients in La Plata and Archuleta counties, for a total of 5,720 visits. Staff members, nurses and volunteers covered almost 69,000 miles delivering compassionate care to patients and their families. (That last part is critical – hospice isn’t there just to help the dying person, it provides services to help the family through the death and the grief in the aftermath.)

For the last two years, the foundation has been quietly beginning its capital campaign to build the Hospice of Mercy Experience, a welcoming 11,000-square-foot residential facility with 12 beds. It will be for people who can’t be cared for at home for one reason or another but don’t want to, and shouldn’t, die in the hospital. It’s particularly good to allow hospice to handle the physical care of the patient so the family and friends can just spend time together.

The total raised to date is more than $1.4 million, with $2.9 million or so left to raise. More than $68,000 came in at Soup for the Soul with a Paddle Raiser, where guest auctioneer Ed Lacy from Four Corners Broadcasting asked bidders not to raise their paddle to buy something but to donate.

BP and First National Bank of Durango kicked the bidding off with $10,000 each. Mark Daigle, president of the bank, said they had been discussing their donation, and Tom Fitzgerald, the majority shareholder in the bank, just happened to be in town that day for a board meeting, so the timing was fortuitous, indeed.

To learn more about giving, give Midkiff a call at 764-2804.

As the obituary writer, I talk to families every day about death, and to a person, those who have had Hospice of Mercy involved in their loved one’s passing are devoutly grateful for the help. I personally think this is one of the most important things happening in our community right now, and if I could, I would write a big check. But I can’t, so I’m hoping some of my very generous readers will step up to the plate.

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