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Hospice Caring Celebrates 25 Years of Service

Multiple programs for those at life’s end and for the families they leave behind.

Pam and Bill Hard both volunteer at Hospice Caring.

Pam and Bill Hard both volunteer at Hospice Caring. Photo Contributed

— In 1989, Penny Gladhill, and six other Frederick Hospice volunteers saw and felt the need for free hospice services in Montgomery County. With enthusiasm and determination, they initiated Hospice Caring — a nonprofit organization that has affected thousands of lives in Montgomery County for 25 years.

The group launched Hospice Caring in Gladhill’s family room, moved to the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, then to the Isaac Walton League — and finally to the Hospice Caring Cottage in Gaithersburg, a peaceful location for the organization that brings comfort and support. “Holding Hands and Healing Hearts” is the inspiration that binds them, but it is the volunteers who make a difference to many in their time of need.

Hospice Caring has grown to more than 400 volunteers and a wealth of programs that “provide caring, compassionate, practical and high quality non-medical support services without charge to every Montgomery County adult or child who is facing life-threatening illness or grieving the death of a family member or loved one.” Gladhill has remained the heart and soul of the organization, promoting Hospice Caring and the many programs they provide, training and cheering on volunteers and staff and fundraising — all while serving as Interim director, co-director of bereavement and director of Camp Caring.

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Hospice Caring Volunteer Leslie Libby who leads Good Grief Clubs at schools in Montgomery County.

“I don’t have enough superlatives for Penny Gladhill,” said volunteer Leslie Libby of Potomac. “The program is so well thought out. She is incredibly skilled and inspirational.”

Hospice Caring serves the citizens of Montgomery County by offering a variety of programs that support both adults and children. Although one of their main missions is to serve those who are on their “end-of-life” journey, they do more than help people face death.

Volunteers often accompany patients for treatments, take them grocery shopping or accompany ambulatory patients on outings. They spend time listening to stories and concerns and support families and friends as they lose their loved one. After the loss of a family member or friend, they offer bereavement groups for adults and children. They organize and lead “Good Grief” groups in Montgomery County schools, and also teach classes for 10th grade health students on loss and grief. In addition, Hospice Caring provides 30 youngsters each year with a weekend at “Camp Caring,” a summer camp that brings together children who are grieving the loss of a loved one with volunteer facilitators and Big Buddies who listen and help them deal with their loss through activity, love and caring. The camp is free for all children.

“Our volunteers are the key to this organization,” said Gladhill. “They are unbelievable. They go through a training and then they are off and running. People who are drawn to this work have a gift. They just know that they want to help people who are grieving — and they change lives. Our volunteers have always contributed their time and talents to whatever we need: decorating and painting the Cottage, planting our beautiful gardens and more. From the very beginning, there was a star over this organization. Whenever we thought we would have to close our doors, somehow the funds to stay open would appear. Being able to keep the doors open for 25 years has been an amazing feat.”

Libby leads Good Grief Clubs at Little Bennett Elementary School and at Cabin John Middle School. The seven-week program gives children a gentle, compassionate place to express their sadness.

“These children feel so isolated and are really suffering,” Libby said. “This amazing program gives them a peer group and suddenly they don’t have to feel ashamed or different and they have a place to express their feelings. I see such positive changes in the children — there is nothing more fulfilling than helping children feel better and to see them smiling and involved with life again.”

Pam and Bill Hard of Potomac also serve as volunteers. Bill Hard is the treasurer for the board of directors and Pam Hard devotes her time and energy as a caregiver and volunteer coordinator.

“What attracted me to Hospice Caring was the desire to help those in need at the end of their lives and be supported by an organization who shared in this mission,” she said. “It is such a privilege to accompany someone on their final life's journey as well as to provide much needed emotional and practical support to their families. The giving spirit of Hospice Caring's staff and volunteers makes it such a unique organization. We are like family.”

Hospice Caring is celebrating 25 years of service to Montgomery County — and they need the support of local residents to continue their mission. The Hospice Caring Cottage is located at 518 Frederick Ave., Gaithersburg. Call them at 301-869-HOPE to volunteer; they can use administrative, event or garden volunteers, or volunteers who would like to be trained to lead bereavement groups or to provide hospice services. Donations to continue their work are also appreciated.

The non-profit holds several fundraisers each year to fund Camp Caring as well as their many other programs. On Monday, May 5 from 1 – 3:30 p.m. they will host their annual Garden Party and Tea at the Hospice Caring Cottage. This year’s event will feature Afternoon Tea, hosted by Tranquil Traditions and an indoor theatrical performance by Mary Ann Jung as Clara Barton. The cost is $35 per ticket. The Hospice Caring Gala will be Oct. 18 at the Bolger Center in Potomac. The gala features a silent auction, live auction, live band and dinner. The cost is $250 per ticket and all proceeds go to Hospice Caring. Find out more about these events and purchase tickets at www.hospicecaring.org.