May is Leave a Legacy month! We are sharing Nancy’s story to spread the word about this special way to give back to VON Oxford – through a gift in your Will.
If it weren’t for her courage, perseverance, tenacity, and her serious attention to detail, Sakura House might not be standing as it is today. Every cheque that paid an invoice to build Sakura House was written and recorded by Nancy Howse and signed by Nancy and Grace Breen. You see at the time, Nancy was the Treasurer of the Victorian Order of Nurses, Oxford Community Corporation Board of Directors. This group of non-profit directors were instrumental in making Sakura House a reality – including raising funds and obtaining a critical low-interest and flexible loan from Oxford County.
Nancy remembers how nerve-wracking it was in those times. “We were terrified. We didn’t know what it was going to cost to operate the Hospice and we had already borrowed $1 million for the construction costs. And, on top of that, picture two women being responsible for trying to understand the workings of the heating and cooling and mechanical systems?!” Nancy’s journey to join the Board wasn’t an accidental one. “I knew how important hospice care had been for friends I had worked with in Phoenix, Arizona and I couldn’t believe we didn’t have a hospice here in Oxford County. Being an accountant, I thought I could help..” She felt so passionate about the cause, she wrote an opinion piece in the local newspaper. Then, she put her name forward to the Board.
Nancy’s first experience with a hospice was in Phoenix when her friend’s Dad was in a hospice. “I remember there were conflicts within the family and she was so pleased to be able to visit with her Dad at the hospice, rather than at the family home. Then I learned more about it when one of my colleagues also had to go into a hospice. It never crossed my mind that hospices weren’t available in Ontario.” Nancy has had her fair-share of travels. From working in the Bahamas with her first husband for over four years, to spending 12 years in Phoenix, Arizona, Nancy says she has had “so many great experiences” in her life. Nancy’s time in Arizona would also become a big part of her mother’s life too. For seven years, her Mom would pack up her cat each year in December and spend four months in Arizona with Nancy and her two cats. Eventually in 2002 after it had become too difficult for her mother to travel, Nancy returned to Canada to look after her during the winter months. Nancy said “It was difficult for Mom to get around in the winter and I was worried about her driving her car in the snow.” Nancy moved back to Canada when her Mom was 87 years old.
When Nancy walked into Sakura House in September of 2009, she said it felt “amazing, and gratifying. I had such relief that it was finally open. But, it was scary too. Apart from Toyota, there wasn’t very much community support for the hospice at the beginning. We didn’t know for how long we could afford to keep it open. It was a real leap of faith.” After 11 years, Nancy says she is “so proud of Sakura House and also of the way our community now supports it. The Hospice has helped so many people. I believe it’s the best accomplishment of my life. I’m just sorry my Mom wasn’t able to be out there in her final days.”
Nancy continues to serve on the Board and her passion has driven her to leave a gift in her Will to VON Sakura House. She said it “made sense to me. I don’t have many close family members and I want to see the Hospice continue. I hope it is something that will be there for a long time.” What does Nancy want to say to other donors? “I hope that they find it in their hearts to consider it, knowing that it will benefit many individuals for years to come. It’s got to make you feel good. I hope they can see the importance of continuing to operate the hospice by helping to pay for the ongoing expenses. If they see the value, hopefully they can see leaving a legacy gift in their future too.” Sakura House is so lucky to benefit from Nancy’s leadership all these years and for this most generous gift in her Will.
If you are interested in learning more about leaving a gift in your Will to VON Sakura House, please visit this web page. Contact Trish Gergich, Manager, Fund Development if you have any questions at 519-476-8848 or email@example.com
Pat Csinos says when her sister-in-law first suggested volunteering at Sakura House she said “I resisted it. I had a fear of saying the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing.” It took Pat about a year and a half before she revisited the thought of volunteering and after six and half years she hasn’t looked back. We are so fortunate that Pat made that first step to join our team as a volunteer!
VON Oxford is excited to celebrate Pat Csinos during National Volunteer Week (April 18-24,2021), as the recipient of the 2020 HPCO June Callwood Award. Nominees must demonstrate selfless service, generosity of spirit, compassion and a commitment to excellence. Pat meets every piece of this criteria and beyond. Congratulations Pat! Typically, this Award would be presented to Pat at a special ceremony at the Hospice Palliative Care Ontario Conference in Toronto last year. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this was cancelled. On Friday, March 19th, VON Oxford presented Pat with her Award at a small ceremony in the backyard of Sakura House.
Pat began her volunteer career with VON Oxford in October of 2014 as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) at Sakura House. This position is relied on heavily by our staff members to provide extra emotional support to patients and family members and to help with all the “little extras” such as assisting with meals, hand massages, or taking patients to the patio to enjoy fresh air and sunshine. After settling in as a volunteer PCA, Pat immediately found other ways to help out, including: volunteering with the Sakura House memorial services, creating bears for the Memory Bear Program, assisting in various holiday meals, providing overnight respite to patients, facilitating Kids’ Circle and Teens’ Circle groups and other special activities, and signing up to volunteer at the Handbags for Hospice and Hike for Hospice fundraising events. Most recently, Pat began volunteering as a one-on-one hospice & bereavement volunteer to support individuals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pat says “my work with families and patients is a true privilege. There is an emotional intimacy in being with someone at the end of their life. They have had so many losses already – loss of independence, loss of health. I am drawn to speak with them about their losses. Sometimes it is easier for them to talk to a stranger, so they don’t burden their family. They can find peace.”
Our staff and volunteers couldn’t be more proud to work alongside Pat Csinos. Janine Jackson, Care & Service Manager, VON Sakura House says, “Pat is a very and gentle person and I couldn’t think of a more deserving volunteer than Pat to receive this award. Pat always goes above and beyond and puts her patients and families needs first. It is truly a blessing to have her as a volunteer.” We are so grateful to Pat Csinos for her amazing volunteer service these past six and half years! If you would like to learn more about the HPCO June Callwood Award, please visit this website.
VON Oxford celebrates more than 500 volunteers during National Volunteer Week for their commitment and dedication. Volunteers are essential to the well-being and comfort that VON Oxford provides to clients in various community programs, as well as at our 10-bed residential hospice, VON Sakura House. You can learn more about volunteering with VON Oxford by contacting our Volunteer Coordinator Nicole Dicy at 519-539-1231 ext. 232 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about volunteering at VON Sakura House by contacting our Volunteer Coordinator Jennifer Horwood at 519-537-8515 ext. 1022 or by email at email@example.com
With the rest of the world last March, we had to quickly adapt to keep our clients, staff and volunteers safe and ensure that we could continue to care for our community in Oxford County. While working remotely we had to find new ways to connect with our community, to be together, to uphold one another and our work. All of this could not have been done without you.
This past year was unpredictable but you helped us through. Your donations helped care for the most vulnerable in our community.
You helped bring smiles to not only the children, adults and seniors in our care, but to our staff and volunteers . We could not be more grateful.
Read below to see some of the incredible things we accomplished this year!
At the start of the pandemic, we learned that access to food, and having enough food to eat were emerging issues in our community. We knew we needed to act. Our VON Oxford team has been working diligently to help feed more than 80 clients during the coronavirus pandemic through the delivery of “Emergency Grocery Care Boxes”. These boxes were generously donated by an RBC Dominion Securities Branch in Woodstock, gift cards from the Sprott Foundation and incredible donors. Each box is filled with fresh produce, protein and basic necessities and were packed thoughtfully by our friends at Sobeys on Springbank Avenue. Each box cost about $100 and will help someone get by for two weeks. We continue to deliver these boxes and gift cards to our community with your help.
Since the start of the pandemic, Sakura House has seen a lot of changes in safety protocols, visitor regulations and health measures, but one thing hasn’t changed, our care. Our staff are working tirelessly to make sure that our patients and their families are receiving the best hospice care while keeping them safe. This kind of care is only made possible because of you, our donors. You help make every moment special, even during a pandemic. We continue to bake cookies, arrange bouquets of flowers, and take time to have conversations because of you. You help us ensure that the end of life is as beautiful as the beginning. You give our patients and family members the respect, peace, and dignity they deserve. Thank you.
Our Kids’ Circle Grief Groups have been busy! Twice a month they have been meeting virtually to talk about big feelings, have supportive discussions and activities. They have taken part in fun Virtual events like a Paint Night to Celebrate Children’s Grief Awareness Day, and our 3rd annual Christmas Bake & Take. Kits for these events are happily “porch-dropped” by our Kids’ Circle fairies and done together virtually. Each activity includes treats and a way to meaningfully connect to their deceased loved one. These events add joy and laughter for a moment of time in the lives of the children and families missing a loved one. As we continue to support grieving children and families, it’s important to be aware that joy and sorrow can be in our lives at the same time.
Our Falls Prevention and SMART Exercise Team have done an incredible job in transitioning our exercise classes to be virtual. They are offering eight virtual classes a week that include both standing and seated sessions. Our resident Kinesiologist, Tory has also taken to Facebook to share tips on how to prevent slips and falls during the pandemic. If you are 55 years or older or have a disability, have access to internet in your home, and are interested in our SMART Exercise program, call 1-888-866-7518 to register. Classes are free and training for the Zoom platform is provided if needed. We hope you will join us!
We were excited to safely celebrate the unveiling of the Booth Family Atrium on November 24th, 2020 with a small outdoor ceremony. Catherine Booth and Michael Kirk and Kevin and Rhona Booth, and their two children Chelsea and Brittany, were in attendance to cut the ceremonial ribbon. The family had made a generous gift to VON Sakura House in 2018 in honour of their parents, Walter and Marilyn Booth, who are no longer with us. The gift enabled Sakura House to complete two important projects: to build a new glass atrium at the front entrance and waterproof the front basement walls. The new entrance will bring comfort and shelter to patients and family members all-year-round and in any weather conditions.
When the pandemic first hit and funerals/memorials were scaled back or cancelled, our Grief and Bereavement Coordinators, Nancy and Anne Marie knew that our community would be struggling with their grief. So, in August, they started a video education series called “Mourning Chats” to teach you and your loved ones about grief, bereavement, mourning, and everything in between. They highlight information and tips for both adult’s and children’s bereavement. You can watch all of the episodes on our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages and share with family or friends who may be traveling through their grief and bereavement journey. New episodes are uploaded every Monday. We hope they help you and your loved ones.
Our transportation program was one of our programs that never stopped during the pandemic because of you. Our small but dedicated group of drivers ensure that seniors and adults with disabilities continue to get to their medical appointments. Our clients call to express their gratitude for the ride and for having the time in the vehicle to socialize, even if it’s only for a short ride. Most have gone long periods without contact from others during this pandemic. Our drivers are doing all they can to keep safe and do their part to ensure safe travel to and from their appointments even if that means longer wait times at medical facilities for screening. In addition to the Transportation service, some of the drivers have been able to help with Meals on Wheels deliveries and the Grocery Buddy Program.
In the midst of a global pandemic, you graciously participated in the very first virtual Hike for Hospice and you helped exceed our fundraising goal. With over 200 participants and $83,037 raised, our first ever Virtual Hike for Hospice was a complete success because of you. You joined us virtually from across Oxford County to the United States, hiking your favourite trails, in your neighbourhoods, and in the places that matter most to you, to celebrate the life of your loved ones and celebrate the care your family received at Sakura House. This is an amazing accomplishment by the Oxford County community! All of the funds you helped raise go towards the day-to-day operations of the house, providing care and comfort to our patients and families
On December 10th, 2020 you helped us turn the lights on at Sakura House for the first time in our 11 year history. Over 350 lanterns were lit to celebrate the memory of your loved ones who have died, and honoured those close to our hearts. Our virtual event had musical performances, and a memorial ceremony. You helped us raise $102,674 for Sakura House. Your donations will go towards the Sakura House Recovery Fund to help cover the increased costs due to the pandemic, including extra nursing care, extra cleaning and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gowns, masks and gloves. It will also help recover the loss in memorial donations we experienced due to changes at funerals and memorials.
The VON Oxford Adult Day Program has never seen such a change in the 36 years that we have been running until we had to close suddenly due to Covid-19 precautions. Thankfully due to our amazing staff, the support of our funders, and management, we have been able to reopen services in a limited capacity and provide over 917 monthly packages and 2,165 weekly client phone calls to 119 clients since the start of the pandemic. This has helped staff, clients and caregivers stay connected and provided connection with a small sampling of the ADP activities “In a Bag”, for clients and caregivers to enjoy. A few participants were even able to enjoy a physically distanced and festive Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at our Woodstock, Ingersoll, and Tillsonburg locations.
From the Bottom of Our Hearts, Thank You
As we reflect on all of the events of 2020, VON Oxford would like to thank you. Thank you for the trust you have placed in us with the care of your loved ones and for all you have done throughout 2020 to support our incredible staff, patients and families.
This has been such an unpredictable year, but we know that the love and support we receive from our community has shined above all else. You thought of others who are living with a terminal illness and extended your hand of support to them. Your help makes sure our community and over 800 clients we serve remain safe and healthy at home. The coronavirus pandemic may have changed how we deliver our care, but you are helping us adapt to these changes and meet critical needs of our clients and their families. We could not be more grateful.
We would be lying if we say it has not been challenging, but it has been incredibly rewarding to take care of our community. We could not do it without you. Thank You!
Dear Donors and Friends of VON Oxford & Sakura House:
I want to tell you about my Mom, Helen. She loved her garden. She loved to chat. And, she loved to help others.
Her connection to Sakura House was very special. For almost ten years, my Mom would go and sit with patients. If patients wanted to be read to, she would read. If they wanted to talk, she would listen. She would often sit with patients through the night. Staff would call and she would always come. Her routine was to arrive around eight o’clock and she would stay with a patient until the morning.
My Mom knew how important hospice care was for patients and families. She often spoke of how special the nurses, doctors and her fellow volunteers were. And, she knew how important donors were too. She would be proud to know her story is inspiring others to give. I hope her story will inspire you to make a gift today.
When my Mom’s health started to worsen, she knew where she would go. She knew she would go to Sakura House. She wasn’t afraid. It was like coming home.
I will never forget her last birthday. I remember walking into Sakura on December 3rd and hearing music. I walked down to the Great Room and found my Mom, surrounded by family, staff and volunteers.
Word had gotten out that my Mom loved playing the piano and listening to music. So, one of the nurses had taken it upon herself to invite two students to play for my Mom on her birthday. They had wheeled her bed down right down next to the piano. I could see the joy on her face.
When we were wheeling her bed back to her room after the party, she was eating her birthday cake with her hands. I tried to give her a fork, but she said “I don’t care!” and chuckled all the way back to her room. This moment of joy was made possible because of donors like you.
My Mom spent six weeks at Sakura, leading up to Christmas. The nurses would pop in and share stories of their times together. It was a time where our family would stop in to visit when we could. And, the staff took care of us too. They made sure you had a muffin or cookie or a bowl of soup. Everything was homemade too. There was a different soup each day and it was made with love. There’s a lot to be said for that. Those small things really made a difference.
I saw nurses in uniform, but they had a slower pace to them. It wasn’t like a hospital. You don’t have the buzzers. It was like a hotel room. I found it so welcoming and so did Mom.
Sakura House provided compassionate end-of-life care at no cost to our family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. A skilled team of nurses, personal support workers, physicians, a social worker and specially trained volunteers were there to help when we needed them most. I did not realize that Hospice care is covered only partially by government funding so they need to raise more than $600,000 each year to cover the gap. That is why your donation is so important. Especially this year. The pandemic has cancelled fundraising events and impacted memorial donations and your help is needed.
On Christmas Eve, we knew my Mom could hear us. She was asleep. We told her that her work here is done and it was okay to leave. We didn’t want to see her go but we wanted to give her the permission to leave. My Mom died on December 24, 2019 at eight o’clock that night. I am comforted knowing that she was at peace. She felt at home. I am positive her spirit lives on. She touched a lot of people. They will remember her.
This holiday season, please consider a gift to VON Oxford Sakura House in honour of my Mom’s passion to help others. Her time spent with patients in those wee hours of the night will never be forgotten. Thank you for considering a gift this holiday season.
Son of volunteer and patient Helen Hart
P.S. You can help make a family’s life a little easier with a gift to Sakura House. Your donation is needed now to give comfort to patients and their families. Donate by midnight on December 31st.
Our offices are closed for the holidays on December 25th & 28th and January 1st.
In order to receive your 2020 charitable income tax receipt, please make your year-end gift online by midnight on December 31st If you are sending in a cheque, please ensure your envelope is date-stamped by Canada Post on the 31st.
You can also donate easily and securely via credit card at:
VON Oxford: https://www.von.ca/en/donate-now-to-von-oxford
VON Sakura House: https://www.von.ca/en/donate-now-to-von-oxford-sakura-house
Thank you for supporting VON Oxford! If you need immediate assistance, please call Shannon at 226-888-7259 or email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org
We hope you have a wonderful holiday!
Lights of Love will be returning on December 2, 2022! Stay tuned for more information.
Accreditation Canada is an independent, not-for-profit organization that consults with experts to develop health care standards based on best practices. They accredit a wide range of health care and social services providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, clinics, and community health programs. Accreditation Canada has been helping providers improve health care quality and safety for more than 55 years.
Copyright by VON Oxford 2018. All rights reserved.