A BIG JOURNEY: Mark Munro and Graham Barron have been involved in Toowoomba Hospice since before it opened its doors 15 years ago, and hope everyone will give $15 to mark the milestone.
A BIG JOURNEY: Mark Munro and Graham Barron have been involved in Toowoomba Hospice since before it opened its doors 15 years ago, and hope everyone will give $15 to mark the milestone.

Chip in $15 for great birthday present

JUST $15 to mark 15 years of service to the community.

That's what Toowoomba Hospice hopes every resident who can will give as a special 15th birthday "present" to the hospice as it aims to reach $15,000 by July 31.

The hospice counts July 1 - the date it welcomed its first client - as its official birthday, and administration and fundraising manager Mark Munro started as the first staff member just before that date.

Mr Munro said the budget for the six-bed palliative care facility had risen from $700,000 for 12 months in that first year to almost $1.7million this year, with more than 50%half of that still coming from the community.

"The Toowoomba community is really supportive of fair dinkum local charities where the money raised locally stays local," Markhe said, explaining that 95 per cent of the hospice's needs (the exception being medical equipment) were bought locally.

One of the best fundraisers, he said, had been this year's Hang the Boss Out to Dry, which alone raised $52,000. Without the public's support, he said, the hospice would not exist, pointing also to the foresight and dedication of the late Sister Frances Flint OAM and management committee chairman Graham Barron OAM.

Mr Barron is undeniably passionate about the hospice, which he became involved in initially in his role as a councillor, hosting the inaugural meeting requested by Sr Frances in October 1997.

He admits that he didn't have much idea what a hospice was before talking to Sr Frances but, having lost his mother to cancer two years earlier, could immediately see what a valuable asset it would be to the community.

He recalls the initial exaltation of the fundraising launch at the Toowoomba Regional Gallery in May 1998, when Pro Hart did a painting which was auctioned for $5400. They had no idea that the project would eventually cost $1.2million.

"It was a good start... It was a big journey, but we battled on," Mr Barron said.

While he said the hospice had been Sr Frances's dream, "her vision", she had often said to him, "God chose you and I to deliver this hospice".

Mr Barron paid tribute to "the team" behind the hospice, including fellow management committee members Bob Goldsworthy, also at that inaugural meeting, and Janice Swannell and Steve Davis, who followed closely behind, as well as other committee members, the 30 staff and 120 volunteers.

"To be on the management committee, on the staff or a volunteer, you've got to be here for the right reasons, and it's all about the six people in those beds," he said.

He also acknowledged the huge contribution of the then-Heritage Building Society, which initially pledged $100,000 to the hospice once it had raised $500,000 but, realising the committee's struggle to reach that target, offered to match community donations dollar for dollar to an additional $100,000.

"I remember Brian Carter (Heritage chairman) said 'take the offer to your next board meeting' and I said 'I'll call one now - motion carried!'" he laughed.

"We had eight weeks, and in that time we generated $209,000 in community money."

It wasn't just a case of raising money but educating people, many of whom, like himself, had no idea what a hospice was.

On July 8, 2002 the first sod was turned, and the building officially opened on June 7, 2003, with the doors opening to the first client on July 1. Since that time the hospice has cared for more than 1300 clients and their families.

"People don't die at the hospice - they spend their last days with love, care and dignity," Mr Barron said.

And it's not just the clients but their families and friends for whom the hospice cares, offering pastoral care for 12 months after someone is lost to help deal with the grieving process, as well as regular remembrance services. And while he has given much, Mr Barron said he had also benefited.

"It's been a major part of my life, and it's made me a stronger, better person in myself," he said.


To donate, or lend some time as a volunteer, go to toowoombahospice. org.au or phone 4659 8500.

For the full story, go to seniorsnews.com.au

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