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Hospice lauds Island for support; $5.5 million raised so far
The East End Hospice cocktail party and auction fundraiser at the Shelter Island Yacht Club on Saturday evening raised a record — more than $87,000 before expenses — for the regional organization that helps patients and their families face fatal illness in their own homes, event chairperson Kathy Zarchin reported at Tuesday’s Town Board work session.
She said more money was still coming in and that the fundraiser had “sent 10 kids” to bereavement camp at Camp Good Grief, which this year will be conducted August 20-24 at Peconic Dunes in Southold.
Ms. Zarchin was part of a small delegation from East End Hospice that attended Tuesday’s meeting to report on the non-profit’s connections to Shelter Island, the support and inspiration it has received here and its need for additional funds to continue its work — including the construction of an eight-bed residence in Quiogue for people with terminal illnesses whose needs and circumstances make staying at home impossible.
“It has been a real joy for us to be on Shelter Island,” said East End Hospice CEO Priscilla Ruffin.
In the 21 years since East End Hospice was founded, the organization has taken care of about 9,000 people on the East End, Ms. Ruffin told the board. The fourth person of them all was a Shelter Islander, a “harelegger” Ms. Ruffin said: someone who had been born on the Island and wanted to die here.
That Islander lived alone and was of modest means, Ms. Ruffin said, “and Islanders really put it together,” working with East End Hospice to set up a schedule to provide help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Ms. Ruffin, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, said Islanders had set an example of “the real spirit of what East End Hospice has become.”
She described East End Hospice’s work launching Camp Good Grief, initially a three-day program for 26 children at Camp Quinipet on Shelter Island. Now there are at least 150 kids every year at the camp. It’s no longer at Quinipet because that venue was booked with its own programs during the time East End Hospice wanted to schedule its bereavement camp. It will be in Southold instead.
Nevertheless, a Shelter Island connection remains in place. A book called “Jeremy Goes to Camp Good Grief” has “gone international,” she said, noting that the book and its cover illustration are based on Camp Quinipet and Shelter Island locales. The book is “in Australia, it’s in London, it’s in Canada, it’s in South Africa, it is in Europe, it’s in England, it’s everywhere. So little Shelter Island here, where we started our little tiny camp … has really had an international impact and we are very proud,” Ms. Ruffin said.
When the organization was founded in 1991, almost all patients could be cared for at home, she said; now that ratio is down to 65 to 75 percent. The reason appears to be that there are now fewer people in the home who can provide care and also many patients are undergoing treatments “right to the end” that make them “much sicker.”
The new residence in Quiogue, a community in Southampton Town on Moriches Bay between Quogue and Westhampton Beach, will offer an alternative to facilities at hospitals in the Bronx, Port Jefferson and Huntington for people who cannot get the care they require at home.
“It’s expensive,” Ms. Ruffin said. The organization has raised well over $5.5 million “but we have a way to go.”
Shelter Islanders alone have donated more than half a million dollars to the organization since it was certified in the early 1990s, Ms. Ruffin said.
She said the East End Hospice “on a good day” gets 70 to 75 percent of its costs back through Medicare and Medicaid. It sees 600 patients a year and each one costs the organization money so “you have to turn around and fundraise.”
East End Hospice, she said, was “very proud” to be part of the Shelter Island community.