For the 19th year, an army of volunteers will host a wine tasting event Saturday to raise money for Hospice of the Central Peninsula and its ongoing programs for those in need of end-of-life care and the families who care for them.
The group’s loan closet — primarily a repository for medical devices such as hospital beds and walkers — was used by an average of 200 people a month in 2014, while volunteers helped close to 100 for the year, said Hospice of the Central Peninsula Executive Director Gale Robison.
She said the organization’s operating budget is under $200,000 a year and the wine-tasting event is critical to the non-profit’s continued existence.
The dinner will be held in the fellowship hall of Soldotna’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church, 222 W. Redoubt, and will include five courses of food with accompanying wines, live and silent auctions and a Heads or Tails game that involves correctly calling the flip of a coin for a chance at a vacation trip.
The 2015 menu includes vegetarian ravioli, sirloin, duck a l’orange, and a chocolate mousse — each paired with a wine, served by a volunteer and designed to raise money for a type of end-of-life care that can’t be found elsewhere on the central peninsula.
The cause is worthy, said event co-chair Teri Birchfield who said becoming involved with hospice care helped to prepare her for the stages of death involved when her aunt died.
“When you’re dealing with that kind of emotion and you’re facing a doctor, you can have a compassionate doctor but it’s different than somebody who just has your personal needs at heart,” Birchfield said. “They’re really outside of the medical field. They’re just waiting to help you.”
Birchfield, Robison and another co-chair Mary Green gathered recently in Robison’s office in Soldotna to talk about the importance of hospice care and the annual fundraiser to the organization’s bottom line.
Each had a memory of hospice care touching their lives. It’s a service that most people don’t know they need until the need arises, Robison said.
“Within the community, there’s no other place to go,” she said. “So we get a lot of phone calls like, ‘My mother has just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and I’ve just come from doctor so-and-so and they said, ‘really you just need to make preparations,’ and what do I do?’ So we’re there and I cannot imagine a community without this.”
Birchfield said the 2015 fundraiser has been in the works for nearly 6 months and will be a good place for couples to enjoy an evening out.
“When they walk in the door they’re going to receive a glass of ice cold champagne and everything is decorated white with a splash of red,” she said. “It’ll be filled with chocolate because it’s Valentine’s Day.”
The event has sold out and usually contains a mix of “Alaskan formal wear,” Green said.
“I see women in evening gowns to jeans,” she said.
“It’s very social and it’s not a quiet night. It’s so loud.”
Robison, who is in her first year at the hospice center, said she has been consistently surprised at how well the community supports hospice care.
“United Way provides about one-quarter of our operating budget, and Pick.Click.Give helps, but at at least one-quarter of our operating budget comes from donations,” Robison said. “It’s just so amazing.”
Reach Rashah McChesney at email@example.com.