Submitted by Laura Young
ECB Publishing Inc.

Big Bend Hospice (BBH) is one step closer to having an office in Jefferson County, a development that will make a significant difference for the medical personnel, volunteers, and staff who provide patient care locally. The Jefferson County Big Bend Hospice Advisory Council began the project to establish an office here seven years ago, and through a grassroots fundraising effort, the “field of dreams” on North Jefferson Street is ready for a real building. With a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday, Dec. 5, the project moved from planning into its construction phase.

The ceremony brought together BBH leaders from across the eight-county service area, members of the local Advisory Council, locally elected officials, principal donors and BBH volunteers and staff.

Denise Vogelgesang, who serves as vice chair of the Advisory Council, opened the ceremony by describing community as “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”

The Advisory Council exemplifies this textbook definition of community, Vegelgesang said, and recognized the council members who were present at the ceremony, including Chair Juanice Hughes, Nancy Dodd, Christie Newell, Miner Brookins, Ola Syliva Lamar Sheffield, Sonja Brock, Polly Brown, Helen Braswell, Michael Angeles, and Marilynn Youtzy.

Next to speak was Tim Sanders, a member of BBH’s corporate board of directors.

“This is really a highlight of a caring, giving, sharing, loving community in Jefferson County. You all have a lot to be proud of,” said Sanders. “I am so proud and thankful for the work that is done in our rural, outlying counties. I’m thankful for the leadership we have. I’m thankful for the foundation that provides services… Most important I’m thankful for the people who go into the apartments and homes and care for the people who need us. This is a great day for Jefferson County and for Hospice.”

Dena Strickland, president of Big Bend Hospice Foundation, Inc., the fundraising arm of BBH, said, “Here in Jefferson County, you all are spirited people. You all are loving people with loving hearts, and you had a mission. Your mission was to help more patients and families in this community, to be sure that the patients and families in Jefferson County were going to have the quality services that Big Bend Hospice provides.”

Strickland noted that the new office building will provide space for the nursing staff, medical team, and bereavement counselors, concluding her remarks with heartfelt thanks.

“We celebrate Jefferson County for making it possible for our families to get that wonderful level of support,” she added. “Cheers to you.”

City of Monticello Mayor Julie Conley expressed appreciation for the Advisory Council’s work to ensure that the new building would comply with the design standards required for structures in the Monticello Historic District.

“As Mayor, I can tell you that the city is delighted that Big Bend Hospice has decided to increase its footprint in Monticello. It really adds a lot of value to our community,” Conley said. “Having all of these professionals come together and work here, I think, lifts the profile of our community, and we are very grateful.”

Conley shared that hospice care had been very important to her family, adding that “Whether you have six months or six weeks or six days or six hours, Big Bend Hospice helps.”

County officials in attendance included Commissioner J.T. Surles, Commissioner Chris Tuten, Interim County Coordinator Shannon Metty, and Commissioner Gene Hall, who was next to speak.

“This is a very momentous occasion,” said Hall, recalling emotional and touching times when Hospice had assisted his family. “We have a wonderful, beautiful edifice that is going to be built here,” he added. “This is going to really add to the beauty of our county and our city… My hat’s off to you for the good work that you all do.”

Tuten pointed to the sign on the property facing the street that reads “Future Home of Your Hometown Hospice” and commented, “I remember the old house that used to be here, and I’ve seen the sign for a long time. The day has finally come that we can break ground and have this incredible building in this county for these families that need it.”

Vogelgesang recognized all of the Big Bend staff in attendance as well as Michael Eurich, Senior Director of Strategy, Policy & Innovation for BBH, whom she said: “keeps our boat sailing in the right direction.” Also present were Heath Strickland and Jason Braswell of JH Construction and several major donors for the project. She thanked all of the officials, volunteers, and community members who had helped with the fundraising in various ways, noting that the Advisory Council had raised about $400,000 for the project. After expenditures for purchasing the property, having architectural plans drawn up, maintaining the site, and going through the planning and permitting process, about $280,000 remains, Vogelgesang reported.

“Do not think for one minute that we are finished raising money, because we are not,” Vogelgesang said. “We still have money to raise, but we have plenty so we can get a start with what we are finally going to call Phase 1, and expect that very soon. We couldn’t have done it without what I said at the beginning: community. We are so excited for this building to finally get moving.”

Following the ceremony, a reception was held at Oh Happy Day Gifts, with an opportunity to view the building plans.

Big Bend Hospice has been serving this community since 1983, inspiring hope by positively impacting the way our community experiences a serious illness or grief, one family at a time. If you would like information about services, call (850) 878-5310 or visit