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Nathan Schunke answers a question about the plans to build a new, four-bedroom hospice house in Tracy.

Hospice seeks to
build relationships
Name to be adopted soon for planned house

By Seth Schmidt


What’s in a name?

Plenty, when it comes to Hospice of Murray County’s plans to raise $250,000 to jump-start the construction of a $1.5 million hospice house in Tracy.

 “Some people still think that we are connected with Murray County government, or the county hospital in Slayton.  We’re not,” explained Nate Schunke, director of Hospice of Murray County, at a forum in Tracy last week.  “People ask why somebody from Murray County would want to build a hospice house in Lyon County.”

“It’s a huge issue,” said Cindy Swenhaugen, a hospice board member.  “People are hung up on that name Murray County.”

Schunke said the planned four-bedroom hospice house in Tracy will enhance existing Hospice of Murray County services, and better serve area families.  The Murray County name, he stressed, was never intended to limit the non-profit’s services to only Murray County residents.

 “The best way for people to look at this, is that we will continue to be one program, but we are expanding our services to a second location,” Shunke said.

Having a second hospice house is designed to handle needs that at times have resulted in 100% occupancy at Our House, and resulted in some terminally ill people being put on waiting lists. (The hospice had a 94% occupancy rate in 2015.)

 “There is nothing harder than having to tell a family,  ‘Sorry, we are full.  We cannot serve your loved one.”

Access to a second hospice house will provide the capacity to better handle the service requests that are being received from the Tracy, Walnut Grove, Westbrook, and Balaton areas, Schunke said, as well as the immediate Slayton area. Tracy was chosen as a site for the new hospice house, the administrator explained, because it is in the midst of an area where it has received many service requests, and because of its proximity to a hospital and nursing home.


Wide support sought

The capital campaign to raise $250,000 in money and pledges has no boundaries, Schunke said.  Every mailbox within a 30-mile radius of both Slayton and Tracy received information about the Tracy hospice house plans and an appeal for financial support.  However, Schunke said, small-town rivalries and geographic boundaries have been impossible to avoid.  Some people in Slayton are reluctant to support something that’s being built in Tracy, he indicated, while some in Tracy have been slow to warm to an organization based in Slayton.

 “If you are not a part of the community, it can be hard to break that barrier and feel welcome.”

He said that when the decision was made 10 years ago to raise $1 million to build a new hospice house in Slayton, Hospice of Murray County had developed relationships from nearly 20 years of serving the area. That community support made it possible to raise $1 million in one year to build “Our House” in Slayton.

In Tracy, Hospice of Murray County doesn’t have that long track record, so it’s taking longer for the fund-raising appeal to gain traction, the administrator indicated.

Schunke said he made a mistake in approaching the City of Tracy about issues related to the proposed hospice site, prior to starting the fund-raising appeal.

 “We kind of got ahead of ourselves. I’m a go-getter …I was pushing the city to get things done.  We should have started the capital campaign first.”

The governing board for Hospice of Murray County has set a $250,000 goal in dollars and pledges before construction can begin.

 “We want to make sure we have enough support here in Tracy before we commit to building a $1.5 million hospice

For more on this article, see this week's Headlight-Herald.