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Caring Hearts United lends hand to hospice
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Caring Hearts United is a non-profit organization founded in June 2011 by sisters Melinda Breedlove and Dianne Sneed who were grateful for the love and care given to their mother, Louise McKeel, during her final days on Earth. McKeel was diagnosed with cancer and was under the care of Lazarus House Hospice for three months in the summer of 2011.
Hospice care is end-of-life care provided by health professionals and volunteers who give medical, psychological and spiritual support. The goal is to help people who are dying to have peace, comfort and dignity in their final days. The caregivers try to control pain and other symptoms so a person can remain as comfortable as possible. Usually, hospice patients are expected to live six months or less. Hospice care can take place in the patient’s home, at a hospice center, in a hospital, or in a skilled nursing facility.
Hospice care also involves assistance for patients’ families to help them cope with what is happening and provide care and support while keeping their loved one at home.
“The hospice workers were so good to us and blessed us through the rough times. We wanted to give back,” said Sneed.
Breedlove said, “When my mother was sick, I reached for a box of Kleenex that someone had given us. During my grief, that comforted me. It made me feel good that someone thought of us. I thought starting Caring Hearts United would be a way to help patients and their families as well.”
Breedlove said she had the idea to start Caring Hearts United and wanted to help the hospice unit that had cared so kindly for her mother, but it was no longer in business.
“All hospice units are now for-profit organizations instead of not-for-profit ones,” said Breedlove. “A lady who had worked with Lazarus House suggested we start our own non-profit and that way we can donate assistance to the hospice organizations. They tell us what their needs are and we provide them.”
There is no longer a hospice unit in Warren County. Caring Hearts United provides assistance to Avalon Hospice in Tullahoma, Odyssey Hospice in Cookeville and Cumberland Hospice in Crossville. “Individuals needing assistance are referred to us by one of those hospice units. All of those have patients in McMinnville and Warren County,” said Breedlove.
Members make “Happy Baskets” for patients on Valentine’s Day, Easter, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Breedlove said when the organization was started, they only worked with one hospice unit and made 30 baskets. Today, they work with three hospice units and make 150 baskets for each major holiday.
The volunteers were making Thanksgiving baskets last week to be distributed this Thanksgiving. The baskets are made of laptop trays which are handy for those who are bedridden and contain Thanksgiving plates, napkins, a thermal cup, candy corn, fall decor and a copy of the “Serenity Prayer.”
Other holiday baskets may contain lap throw blankets, Kleenex, sanitizer, back scratchers, footie socks, chapstick, lotions and brushes or combs.
“We hear so many stories of how our baskets have brightened some people’s darkest days. We had a man who received one of our baskets on Valentine’s Day and in the basket was a stuffed animal. His daughter said it was one of his favorite things. He slept with it and it was beside him in the bed when he passed away on Feb. 22,” said Sneed. “Another lady was in a nursing home and when the hospice nurse delivered her Easter basket, the nurses at the nursing home told her they had not gotten any response from her in two days. The hospice nurse sat the basket down and the lady started grinning from ear to ear and started digging in the basket to see what she had gotten for Easter. That is why we do this,” said Sneed.
The volunteers do not take the baskets into the homes. They work with hospice nurses who relay the family’s needs. Caring Hearts United provides gas cards to families who must travel to see their loved ones. They also provide things like Ensure and adult diapers and even home-cooked meals for families who may be coming together for their loved one.
“We work with the hospice nurse and provide the things she says the family or patient needs. We do not go into the homes but we will meet the nurse to deliver the items or we can meet family members and deliver a hot meal to them,” said Breedlove.
Caring Hearts United’s largest fundraiser, Wonderland of Trees recently took place at Three Star Mall. Businesses or organizations get together to decorate a Christmas tree, wreath or other Christmas decoration and the public is invited to bid on and purchase them. Breedlove said Caring Hearts United netted approximately $5,000 after expenses at its recent fundraiser.
The “Feel You in Our Heart” tree is located inside Three Star Mall near the stage. For a $1 donation, anyone can add their loved one’s name to a wooden heart that will be displayed on the tree throughout the Christmas season. For a $25 donation, a name will be added to the “Wall of Stars” located across from J’s Restaurant in the mall. Donations for both of these are being taken in the mall office and proceeds will go to Caring Hearts United.
“We are hoping to add another unique fundraiser in the spring,” Breedlove said. “I don’t want to go into detail just yet but we think it will be a big hit.”
Today Caring Hearts United has 30 members. “We are looking for more volunteers, male or female. The only things we ask is the person must have good moral standing, be 18 years old or older, and possess a big, caring heart,” said Sneed. The organization also asks for a one-time only $25 membership fee.
Breedlove also said all local funeral homes have cards where anyone can donate to Caring Hearts United in lieu of flowers.
For more information about Caring Hearts United or to volunteer, call Melinda Breedlove at 212-4471.