Southeast Texas Hospice Director Mary McKenna – who with her staff invites the community to celebrate an anniversary this week – says she’s seen a few changes over the years.

“When we first started, we’d call someone and say we were from Hospice,” she says. “Then later they’d ask, ‘Now what hospital did you say you were from?’

“There was no Medicare Hospice back then, and there were no for-profit Hospices when we first started. I believe all the hospices nationwide have since served over 1 million patients. So those are the biggest changes I’ve seen – the overall growth.”

Southeast Texas Hospice is a nonprofit group which started with 16 patients in 1979. It now has a board of 12 directors, 16 staff members and more than 65 volunteers.

Now very well-known in the community for its work with caring for terminally-ill patients, the organization will mark 30 years from 4-6 p.m. Thursday in the St. Mary Parish Hall, 912 W. Cherry Ave.

“We just want the community to come out and celebrate with us,” McKenna says. “We want to thank the community for supporting us.” 

Founding members to be honored include Almera Brannick, Joan Lyons, the Rev. Bill Manger and Peggy McKenna. Brannick was the original director.

Features include refreshments, an anniversary cake and a continuous DVD presentation showing the history of the organization accompanied by soft music.

“Each guest as they exit will receive a commemorative mug of the event, as long as supplies last,” McKenna says. “We always say that it takes a village to raise a Hospice, and we want to thank our village.”

Each year, Southeast Texas Hospice sponsors four issues of a newsletter (“Heartbeat”), monthly meetings as part of a bereavement program, volunteer educational meetings, a Mystery Dinner Theater and a memorial service. In December, the “Holiday Dove Tree” remembers those who have passed away recently, and the annual “Toilet Paper Tea” is an open house to collect donations for soap and other essentials.

“Because of Hurricane Ike, we were not able to have our annual Mystery Dinner Theater,” McKenna says. “So for the anniversary we’ve invited the actors to dress up in the costume they would have worn, or a favorite one from years past; and they’ll be serving drinks or singing songs and basically just roaming the building.”

For more information about the anniversary, or to refer a friend or family member to Southeast Texas Hospice, call 886-0622, drop by the offices at 912 W. Cherry Ave. in Orange or e-mail

Office hours are 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays.

From the Southeast Texas Hospice Web site (, here are some of the services Hospice provides.

• Special care: Hospice care provides home visits by a physician, professional nurse, member of the clergy, social worker, home health aides, trained volunteers, various professional therapists, and other specialists who work together as needed.

• Physician supervision: Dealing with terminal patients requires a different type of doctoring. The Hospice doctor works closely with the patient’s attending physician who determines which medical services are needed by their patient and which services they wish for the Hospice physician to provide.

• Nursing assistance: Hospice nurses provide skilled care and evaluative monitoring of the patient’s condition with compassionate care for as often and as long as necessary. Hospice nurses spend time visiting patients to make them comfortable and to answer questions that family members may have. Hospice understands that families need to feel secure in the care they are providing to their loved ones.

• Spiritual counseling: If requested by the patient or family, the Hospice Chaplain can help establish spiritual closeness by coordinating religious resources from the patient’s own congregation. The forthright manner in which the Hospice staff deals with each patient’s case is helpful to both the patient and family to accept the reality of the situation, their own mortality, and their relationship to God.

• Referral for help: The responsibilities of caring for a patient may seem frightening or overwhelming to a family. The Hospice social worker explains the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects connected with a terminal illness. Information is also provided to the patient and family about community resources and financial assistance available to families for medical supplies, counseling services, food stamps, and disability income. Hospice serves as a reliable source of information and as a reassuring friend.

• Personal help: Hospice home health aides provide personal care services to a patient like helping with their bath or personal grooming. And, hospice aides assist families in routine activities such as washing clothes, cooking, cleaning and even buying groceries if needed.

• Companionship: Hospice volunteers provide friendship, a kind word, extra help around the house or respite–so family members can leave for a few hours to take care of errands, shopping or personal needs. Each volunteer is carefully screened and trained before being assigned to a patient and family.

• Continued support: Hospice provides emotional counseling to its patients and families throughout the final stages of their illness. Hospice has found that many people need the continued emotional support after their loved one has died. Many families take advantage of Hospice’s “Bereavement Program” which lends support for a period of one year after a patient’s death.