“I think everyone who comes to the Wine Tasting event has a Hospice story, whether it’s here locally or with a Hospice experience with a loved one somewhere else. We don’t think of end of life as dying but as your final act of living,” says Executive Director Janice Nightingale.
And come they did with all tickets being sold out days before the event according to Mary Green and Terri Birchfield who have organized the event for many years.
“The fun thing is many years we sell out but not everyone who buys a ticket is able to show up, but this year all but two people showed up which is rare. So all the tables were full and everyone had a great time, bid like crazy and made it very successful,” said Green in an interview after the event.
For the last 22 years the Wine Tasting event and auction has been the major fundraising event for Hospice of the Central Peninsula that provides their services to the community free of charge.
“Our basic concern is direct care for people at the end of their life. We have a great group of trained volunteers who all go through background checks who will spend time with your loved one and respite care to make the passing easier toward the end. Our services are available to anyone on the Central Peninsula wherever you are we will be there and all of our services area free of charge, which is why our fund raising events are so important,” explained Nightingale.
“I was really very thankful,” added Green, “the people were being very generous and competitive with their bidding. We ran our silent auction a little different this year, not closing out the last two tables until the end of the evening and it was really fun. Chris Story came up from Homer for the outcry auction this year and we enjoyed working with him and Kenai Catering did a wonderful job pairing the dishes and the wines, it was an impressive evening.”
Terri Birchfield has been on the board of directors for many years and says she has seen a change in Hospice awareness.
“We have more community activities now like Camp Mend-a-Heart that weren’t available in the past, but what I’ve seen the most in the last ten years is the increase in community awareness. Just five years ago the majority of folks on the Peninsula didn’t even know we had a local hospice. So a big thing that we have worked on is community awareness of what we do, where we are and how we support our community,” she said.
“At this point we strictly a volunteer hospice. The goal is to work with a medical hospice. It’s something we believe very strongly that needs to happen in Alaska. Many families are separated from their families and have a hard time staying in their homes or having a place to go for the end of their life and hospice is so informed of dealing with people and families, helping to educate them on end of life and how to get the support they need in the community,” said Birchfield.
After chairing the Wine Tasting event for more than ten years, Green and Birchfield said this will be their last event.
“We decided that it was time for somebody else to take over and bring in new ideas, fresh blood so this was our last year running the event and we are happy that it was so successful,” they said.
However, no one has stepped forward yet, so anyone who would like to become involved and is great at organizing fun events now is the time for all good men/women to come to the aid of the Hospice party. Hospice of the Central Peninsula is located in the AK Maxi Storage on the Kenai Spur Highway in Soldotna and is open Monday-Thursday from 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.