Amid the many connecting hallways that make up the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital campus is tucked a 400-square-foot trailer that houses Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard. The organization has achieved and maintained a tangible presence on the Island since its inception 31 years ago, but its physical presence remains confined to a small, hidden space. The trailer has been an enduring home, said Hospice executive director Terre Young, but now it is time for change. “The trailer says we’re impermanent — almost invisible. We’re 31. We want to be 131 in this community,” she said.
In 1998, the Hospice board of directors created a drive to build an endowment with contributions from community and board members.
As Ms. Young recounts the story, after the endowment fund was started, board member Emily Bramhall brought her friend Bill Graham to see the trailer. The cramped space that Hospice was housed in made an impression on Mr. Graham and his family. When his mother, Katharine Graham, died in 2001, she left $1 million to the Hospice endowment fund. Half the gift was designated for a specific purpose —finding a new home for the organization.
After some searching, Ms. Young has now found that space and Hospice has purchased it. The organization will soon be moving out of the trailer at the hospital and into a new building in the waterside corner of the Tisbury Marketplace in Vineyard Haven.
“It’s a peaceful, serene environment,” said Ms. Young. “The rooms are filled with light. It is right for the work that we do.” The new space contains multiple rooms that will be used as offices, counseling rooms, nurses’ stations and a much-needed conference room. A gift from the late Don Davis will fund a complete lending library. Ms. Young took special note of several other community members who have made the impending move possible: Sheila Morse of Island Real Estate and Kate Shanor of Lighthouse Properties were especially helpful, she said, and many others who had a hand in shaping the new space threw in something extra.
“This is truly a space from the community,” said Ms. Young. “The money for lights ran out but the electrician said, oh, I’ll put in two more on me.” And the father of one of the builders pitched in by donating money for inside windows.
“People remember us for what we’ve done for their loved ones,” said Ms. Young. “They say, I want to make sure you’re here when it’s my turn.”
Ms. Young is certain that with the new space, Hospice is here to stay. “We’re going to be visible. We’re going to be permanent,” she said.
Having a home means more than having some room to stretch. Hospice currently functions without a central location. The trailer is stocked with side-by-side desks and filing cabinets. When a patient or family comes to the trailer and needs private services, Ms. Young has to move out of her office — it’s the only room with a door in the trailer. Bereavement counselors generally work out of their own homes or in the homes of patients.
Ms. Young said that with the new location: “People won’t be leaving a trailer, or a counselor’s home in Edgartown. They’ll be leaving a Hospice home.”
“From my perspective, the new space brings all Hospice services to one space. We can bring everything we do under one roof,” said Karen Achille, president of the board. The board still meets in Parish Hall at the West Tisbury Congregational Church, where Hospice started. She said the board, as well as every other group and committee of Hospice, will enjoy the spacious new conference room in the Tisbury Marketplace. “It will be bittersweet to leave [the parish hall], “she said, “But it’s an indication that we’re in the 21st century. It’s an indication that we’re moving forward.”
Hospice offers care for people with terminal illnesses completely free of charge and unfettered by insurance regulations. Because the organization takes no insurance, it relies on donations for much of its annual $417,000 operating budget.
The actual move will take place as soon as the summer momentum slows after upcoming fundraisers. “The move essentially has to happen overnight,” said Ms. Young. “We’ll have to pack this all up one night and start the next morning in the new space.”
And Ms. Young said while everyone is excited about the new space for Hospice, fundraising is more important than ever for the organization, which hosts it annual Summer Soiree at Farm Neck on Tuesday night.
“Fundraising is critical,” Ms. Young said. “The annual operating budget is bare bones. We rely on the community through events, applications for grants and general donations to raise the majority of the money we need. That money pays for our professional clinical staff — nurses and counselors — and for training our volunteers. It also pays for our staff to continue to educate themselves in this field of always-changing methods and ways to support families and patients.”
There are also administrative expenses, some of which can be paid with an annual withdrawal from the endowment, she said. “We really raise funds in order to support the clinical work — the patient care. And the beauty of our work is that we all understand how privileged we are to be invited into homes and offer services.”
Hospice will host its Summer Soiree at the Farm Neck Golf Club on August 14. Tickets cost $125 and are partially tax deductible. There is also a benefit night at Flatbread Company on August 21, and the All-Island Tennis Championship on the last day of the month. More information on each event is available online at hospiceofmv.org.