JOLIET — Back in 1983, the Joliet Area Community Hospice took its first patient.
The hospice — the first of its kind in Illinois — has emphasized community from the start.
“We were birthed from the community,” said Arcillius Calhoun, director of business development.
“That’s why we’re so passionate about serving the community.”
And now, as they celebrate their 30th anniversary, they’re looking to spread the word to make sure their community is aware of them.
“The thing we always hear from families is, ‘I wish we would’ve known about you sooner,’” Calhoun said.
Nearing 10 years in their current facility — at 250 Water Stone Circle in Joliet — the Joliet Hospice was the first freestanding hospice in the state, Calhoun said. It features 16 bedrooms, a living room, dining room, nondenominational prayer room, and a playground for kids.
It’s a place that they work to make resemble a “home, not an institution.”
“[Our patients and families] are already going through enough,” Calhoun said. “The last thing they want is that sterile hospital feel.”
That sense of home is also something achieved through the work of more than 250 volunteers, who contributed 14,000 volunteer hours last year.
“We can’t do what we do without our volunteers,” Calhoun said.
One thing volunteers help with is the creation of stuffed bears made for bereaved family members using a piece of fabric from one of the deceased’s garments.
One, Calhoun said, is made from the part of one deceased’s Navy uniform.
“Part of our job is to provide support for the family, too,” Calhoun said.
In addition to providing end-of-life care, the hospice also tries to help in other ways.
For instance, when a school experiences a tragedy, the hospice often provides counseling services, Calhoun said.
“We are a community hospice,” Calhoun said. “We want to go that extra mile.”
The hospice serves 1,200 patients a year.
“There is no greater feeling than helping to care for somebody,” Calhoun said.
“These are our neighbors,” CEO Rick Kasper added.
Kasper said it is a frequently difficult job, but that it’s one employees and volunteers are glad to do.
“It’s not a job,” he said. “It’s a calling.”
And, Kasper said, it’s a rewarding one.
“It’s amazing,” Kasper said. “It’s such an honor to be able to serve the community.”