Mary Greeley Foundation Newsletter | November 2019

Music Soothes the Soul

Stacie Link has experience with hospice. Both her parents received care through Mary Greeley’s home hospice services and her father-in-law was cared for at the Israel Family Hospice House. An accomplished musician, she has “played-around” with the harp for about three years. As she learned the instrument and felt its peaceful and soothing effect on her, she wondered how she could share that serenity with others. She thought of the Israel Family Hospice House.

“It’s not about me, it’s about the music,” sums up Stacie’s perspective on her volunteer work. “My hope is to bring peace to the patients and family and also leave family and friends with a good memory connected to their loved one’s stay at the Israel Family Hospice House.”

“We know people here may be in pain and are tired,” said Hospice Volunteer Coordinator, Pat Howlett. “Their families are tired, emotional and running on empty. There is something about this music that helps them and our staff. I’ve seen physical and emotional responses.”

Stacie shared some responses to her music.

“I recently watched a patient come out of her room, curl up with a warm blanket and sleep soundly the whole time I played. Yesterday after I finished playing, a family member came out into the hall and told me thank you, his father finally fell asleep listening to the music. It’s a good day for me when I hear that someone was able to sleep.”

“When she starts playing it’s like the whole building relaxes,” shared Cindy Lubinus, Israel Family Hospice House Volunteer. “We all relax, our patients, their families and even our nurses. It’s very calming. We are really grateful to have her here.”

Guiding Grief

When Mike Willer accepted the Bereavement Coordinator position at Mary Greeley in January 2019, he had recently made a life-changing decision. After serving as an ordained pastor for 19 years, he decided to change paths. He was drawn to Mary Greeley and this position because of the interaction with families – a lot of families.

“They are just so overwhelmed,” Mike explained. “Their world is so turned upside down that they literally just have no idea what to expect next. I’m able to journey with them and let them know that what they are feeling is normal. It’s just very rewarding to be able to almost see a weight lifted off of their shoulders when they realize they are not alone.”

Mike is creating a community network of support to help those grieving the loss of a loved one.

He leads both an informal weekly support group, largely driven by those who attend, and a formal curriculum-based grief class three to four times a year. He also provides short term one-on-one grief counseling and special events like the Tree of Love in November and the Valentine’s Luncheon in February. He hopes to host a care provider reunion at the Israel Family Hospice House this summer and is leading the efforts for Mary Greeley to become a We Honor Veterans hospice partner. This certification teaches hospice teams to recognize the unique needs of veterans and their families as well as learn how to accompany and guide veterans through their end of life journey to help bring them more peace.

Mike Willer, bereavement coordinator at Mary Greeley sits around a table offering small group support.

Mike sits back and listens during the informal support group and shares a couple of stories.

“Last week we had a gentleman who, after losing his wife of 40-some years, was lonely and he didn’t know how to connect with people in Ames. He asked for activities or groups in Ames and everybody there had ideas and were all giving him different information. It was others who had gone through a similar situation, reaching out, helping him and saying yeah, I remember when that first happened.”

“Another week it was almost like middle school. Everybody that was there was flighty, telling jokes and just couldn’t stay on task or stay focused -- or at least that’s what it seemed like. And then, just before we got done, one of the ladies said, ‘this is just what I needed. I’m tired of crying and I just wanted to laugh.’ And so, here for an hour I’m getting frustrated because it seemed like they were wasting time and then at the end of the hour – that laughter was the first time she felt like she could laugh in a long time.”

Small grief classes are offered three to four times a year and the Foundation provides the curriculum and a journal for each participant. Over the course of six weeks, they talk about 10 different touch stones that they will experience as they go through the grief process. Through grief they bond and become their own support network. “There is a huge range of life circumstance around death, but the emotion, the feeling, the process of grief is the same for everyone,” Mike explained. “Of course I work with our hospice families but Mary Greeley’s Birthways and Emergency Departments have also reached out to me as a resource to expand bereavement support in their areas as well.”

He continued, “It is an honor that people allow me into their world, to hear what they are feeling and going through. It is rewarding to help people, not get over grieving, but understand that they are okay. And, that they are more resilient then they thought and that they will be able to, with a little help, get on with life and be able to meet the challenges.”

He shared the experience of one participant.

“She never opened a checkbook because her husband took care of everything. He felt it was his responsibility to take care of her including paying the bills, and make sure she had everything she needed. And then all of a sudden, he died and she had no idea how to do any of it. That was very scary for her. Her kids are helping her but she recently said, ‘I still don’t get it but at least I know that I’m not going to be left alone.’ It was really a powerful moment.”

Donations to the Foundation built the Israel Family Hospice House, created an endowment to support operations and continue to support the people and services of Mary Greeley’s hospice programs. Mike shared, “I think about how our community supports what I do every time as I make a phone call to somebody that is in our bereavement program. Thank you. The material for each person in our grief classes, a book and journal doesn’t cost a lot of money, but when our donors provide that instead of asking a grieving person to purchase the materials it really does make a difference. One of the things most people say in their evaluation is how they really appreciate that Mary Greeley would invest in them. And so to our donors, thank you.”

For more information about bereavement services at Mary Greeley, email Mike or call him at 515-956-6038.

Gracious Gardeners

The Boone Garden Club has adopted the Israel Family Hospice House and its gardens.

Shirley Anderson and Bev Olefoson plant flowers around the Mary Greeley Hospice house.

Bev Olofson, the Co-President of the club, visited the Hospice House and took photos of the gardens.  After the Boone Garden Club came up with a plan, they brought their recommendations to the Hospice staff and then got to work. The Garden Club planted perennials this fall and will continue to maintain the gardens at the Hospice House on a regular basis starting this spring.

“We are so grateful to the Boone Garden Club members for their time and expertise. Our desire is to provide a beautiful environment for our patients and their families but our staff doesn’t have the capacity to include gardening in their day,” shared Alecia Krehbiel, Hospice Clinical Supervisor. “Because these master gardeners are willing to serve in this way, the Hospice House gardens will continue to be a peaceful place for those we serve.”

The Boone Garden Club also takes care of the flower gardens in Herman and McHose Parks in Boone and host monthly speakers to provide gardening education to its members.  Each May, they hold a plant sale to raise funds for organizations in the Boone area.

Join our Mailing List

Interested in joining the Foundation's e-newsletter mailing list? We send out updates monthly and we promise to never share your information. 

Sign up for the e-newsletter

How You Can Help

Make a Gift

Thank you for supporting Mary Greeley Medical Center.

Choose us as your charity on AmazonSmile

You can support Mary Greeley just by doing your regular Amazon shopping at smile.amazon.com. When you select Mary Greeley as your AmazomSmile charity, Amazon will donate .5% of the of the eligible purchases to Mary Greeley.

Choose Mary Greeley Medical Center as your charity on AmazonSmile*donations from AmazonSmile don't require additional costs

Annual ReportFoundation Annual Report Cover

Contact Us

MGMC Foundation
1111 Duff Ave.
Ames, IA 50010
515-239-2147
E-mail