After seven years at the helm of the Chilliwack Hospice Society, Geri McGarth is ready to take on a new challenge as executive director of the Vancouver Hospice Society early next month.
The decision to pull up stakes in Chilliwack, however, hasn't been an easy one.
"It's been one of the most difficult decisions I've had to make," she told the Times Tuesday. "I'm going to miss my community; I'm going to miss my team; I'm just going to miss it all."
But the new position was an offer she just couldn't refuse.
Her first task as ED will be to pull together a brand new team, including both hospice society staff and medical staff, to prepare for the opening of the Vancouver Hospice's brand new six-bed facility.
"They've been quite small but they've grown," said McGrath of the Vancouver organization. "They've raised the money to build this facility and they've built the facility. Now they're ready to take the next step and so they've hired me to help them go there."
Every hospice society is different, McGrath said.
The Chilliwack Hospice, for example, doesn't manage local hospice beds, partnering instead with Cascade Lodge (a for-profit organization) and Fraser Health.
"The bulk of our work is supporting the community, in the hospital, in their homes and, of course, at our centre here," McGrath said.
In Vancouver, however, the hospice raised capital to build its own facility, and will now manage its own beds-a venture McGrath will be in charge of right from the beginning.
"It's very exciting," she said. As for the job she's leaving, McGrath said she's most proud of the team she has gathered around her over the last six years.
"We work so well together, and we've grown the organization, quadrupled the programs and our volunteer base," she said.
The organization has also made some strides towards more dependable sources of funding during McGrath's tenure in the form of the hospice's Thrifty Boutique second-hand store.
"When you're relying on events year to year and you're hoping to get gaming each year, it's really hard to plan ahead with programs," McGrath said. "So we have had to be very careful not to offer programs that we can't sustain . . . but something that's given us a bit more stability is our Thrifty Boutique."
The Chilliwack Hospice Society board hopes to have McGrath's replacement in place by March 11.
It's a challenging role, McGrath said, one that requires a systems thinker, good communicator, deep listener and a person who knows how to take care of self and staff to avoid burnout.
- For more information, visit www.chilliwackhospice.org.