Tucumcari's Helping Hands Hospice celebrated 10 years of service to the people of Quay County, Conchas Dam, Clayton and Santa Rosa on Sunday at Lena's Cafe. Courtesy photo
The dream of longtime Tucumcari native Earlene Klaverweiden was to open a hospice in town. Although she died four months ago, she was around to witness that dream — as did more than 100 others who showed up for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Helping Hands Hospice on Sunday at Lena’s Cafe.
Marge Cooper, who has been on board since the hospice’s beginning, said Klaverweiden was thrilled when she saw her dream come true.
“She was just a good person,” Cooper said of the born and bred Tucumcari woman who had no background in health care. “She figured we needed that (a hospice) in this town.”
Cooper said Klaverweiden herself received high honors when Mayor Mary Mayfield attended her birthday party earlier this year and presented her with a proclamation.
That was just one of the highlights of working with the hospice, Cooper said, whose claim to fame is the longest-term volunteer with the hospice who is still a volunteer. She noted three more zeniths at Helping Hands’ 10-year anniversary.
“Mayor Mayfield came out and brought us (another) wonderful proclamation,” Cooper said of the document that outlines the hospice’s history, from the plans that began in 1991 to its certification in 1995 to its thriving status of today.
Highlight two for Cooper was the live bluegrass band on hand, although she did not dance. “The room was too full,” she said.
The third high point of the celebration was the homemade ice cream at the social — one flavor of which was purple grape.
“It sounds awful,” Cooper said, “but everyone liked it except the woman who made it.”
The personal touch is one of the main points of Helping Hands Hospice, Cooper said. The organization, which started with roughly two staff members and 10 volunteers, has grown into a fully staffed office on South Second Street with 25 volunteers, Cooper said. It’s now large enough to service all of Quay County, Conchas Dam, Clayton and Santa Rosa.
The nurses make house calls while the professionals in specialized fields — like dietitian Cooper — meet once a week to review their patients’ progress and concerns.
“The hardest thing is understanding the grievance process,” said Head Nurse Marylou Cordova, who recently left her job with Laurel Hills Nursing Home to care for the terminally ill at Helping Hands. So far she said she has found many aspects of her new job challenging and fulfilling.
“The whole organization is wonderful,” Cordova said. “The most satisfying thing is being part of our patients’ lives, being able to help them with their needs, to offer physical and emotional support. We have pain management so there is no suffering.”
In part, funds for the hospice are raised through events held by Helping Hands. Cooper said they hold about four yard sales a year — one of which is from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. today near the hospice’s South Second Street office — as well as a Christmas home tour and a twice-yearly enchilada dinner at the Elks Club.
Cooper said she enjoys the fund-raisers almost as much as she enjoys her volunteer work — and she is not wary of spreading her pleasure.
“We try to do things to make the patients happy,” she said.