Blue Ridge Hospice celebrates 35 years

Samantha Markley, thrift store manager for Blue Ridge Hospice, checks a garment on the rack inside the Strasburg store off East King Street. Blue Ridge Hospice is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Rich Cooley/Daily

Blue Ridge Hospice is excited to celebrate its 35 year anniversary, said Jeanne Mezzatesta, director of development for the organization.

“Since 1981, our not-for-profit organization has cared for patients and families in the region,” Mezzatesta said. “We started with just one nurse and a handful of volunteers. Today we staff over 200 employees.”

She added that over 200 terminally ill patients are cared for by Blue Ridge Hospice staff on a daily basis in eight counties. Last year, they cared for more than 1,100, she said.

“So this not-for-profit hospice is making, and has made, a real difference in our community,” she said.

Blue Ridge Hospice offers end-of-life care through the “physical, mental and spiritual needs of patients and families,” she said.

A team of clinical staff, which includes physicians, nurse practitioners, medical social workers, certified nursing assistants, music therapists, and chaplain and bereavement counselors, provides “comfort, dignity and choices in their own plan of care,” she added.

“Over the years Blue Ridge Hospice has added what we consider some very crucial programs that increase the quality of life for the patient. Music therapy, a robust Bereavement Counseling Department, and chaplaincy complement the physical care dictated by the Medicare Hospice Benefit,” she said. “These particular programs are not provided by many hospice organizations across the country because they’re not reimbursed by Medicare or health insurance.”

She said the organization sees the importance and need for this program of care, and with generosity of the community has endured over the years.

In order to raise the funds to pay for these programs and The Patient Care Fund that allows hospice to care for anyone in need, regardless of financial ability, they turned to a thrift shop business, she said. In 2004, the first shop opened in Purcellville and now has nine locations, from Leesburg to Harrisonburg.

“Donations and purchases at each shop help to underwrite these programs and ensure that no one qualifying for hospice care is ever turned away based on financial ability,” she said.

“We remain true to our mission of caring for patients and families facing end of life and anyone in our community affected by death, dying and loss. Thanks to our generous community, we remain a not-for-profit organization purely focused on caring for those in need, not profits,” she said. “We hope to continue brightening life’s journey for many years to come.”

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com