LAKEWOOD — A surprise celebration honoring the leadership of Bert and Mary Rappole was held July 19 at the soon-to-be-completed Star Hospice House in Lakewood. Family, board and campaign volunteers gathered to reveal the naming of a residence bedroom in their honor.
The Rappoles successfully led the campaign through the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most challenging times this country has ever faced.
The Rappoles each have long and proud medical careers in Western New York and played important roles in local hospice care and the development of Chautauqua Hospice & Palliative Care. Dr. Bert Rappole was an early advocate of better care for those at the end of life, was instrumental in the formation of local hospice care and helped secure early funding which enabled the organization to incorporate and achieve Medicare certification.
Mary Rappole was an on-call hospice nurse in the 1990s and returned as a nurse practitioner in the newly formed palliative care division in 2014 until her retirement. She brought a wealth of medical experience to CHPC and was on the frontlines of caring for patients and families in the most stressful and challenging of circumstances.
“Bert and Mary were ideal candidates to lead our campaign,” said Shauna Anderson, president and CEO of CHPC. “Little did we know how much their involvement would mean to the success of the campaign.”
“Soon after the pieces were in place to build and fundraise, the COVID-19 pandemic took hold,” Anderson continued. “Like everyone else, we were very scared. With Bert and Mary’s help, we were able to regroup, make untold numbers of adjustments to our caregiving and fundraising activities and keep the residence project on track.”
Project cost increases, supply chain disruptions and contractor uncertainties seemed unsurmountable. But community support was unwavering. The original campaign goal of $2.1 million had been surpassed and the amount raised now stands at over $2.6 million. Project costs are still expected to exceed $3 million before the residence opens in late 2021.
Fundraising failure was not an option but the path to success wasn’t very obvious when the lock-down hit. After some soul-searching, the CHPC board reaffirmed its commitment to the hospice residence and reallocated funds to keep the project moving forward.
“Our campaign consultant told us, ‘There is no playbook for fundraising in a pandemic,’” said Andrew Dickson, vice president of community engagement. “So Bert and Mary made up their own. Besides doing the conventional campaign chair job of motivating and guiding committee members, they picked up the phone and started asking for money. They rolled up their sleeves, mailed packets and called donor prospects, then personally thanked them.”
About 30 family, friends and board members attended the surprise event which was staged in the still-unfinished residence next to the CHPC administrative offices in Lakewood.
Following the unveiling of the plaque that will hang outside the bedroom dedicated in their honor, the Rappoles shared their sentiments.
“This is an honor and we really appreciate it, but we’ve had a wonderful time doing this,” Dr. Rappole said. “We’ve always believed in hospice and the hospice movement and everything hospice was doing. And we took on this task and it was an easy sell. It really was because hospice has a wonderful name in itself. The wonderful nurses who work here and provide care. … it was just amazing the support we had in this community.”
An emotional Mary Rappole spoke next. “Well, thank you all. We really are overwhelmed. I personally feel that (we succeeded) because Bert has had such high integrity in our county, as you all know. … People believed us and people knew that we understood the impact that a beautiful place like this will have. So thank you for the privilege to do it.”
The event took place overlooking the construction that is underway for the addition that will house the five patient rooms.
The hospice residence will be named The Star Hospice House in recognition of the legacy gift of Stanley and Elizabeth Star, long-time residents of Chautauqua County. Each year it is expected to provide a peaceful, dignified resting place to over 200 individuals who lack a caregiver, have complex medical conditions or can’t remain at home. It is expected to be operational in late 2021.