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Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association

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Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association

Home Care & Hospice Hero Honorees

Each year at our Annual Conference, the Kansas Home Care & Hospice Association likes to recognize some of the special people in the home care and hospice industry.  Our Home Care & Hospice Hero Award is reserved for a friend of home care and hospice – someone not directly employed in the field, someone outside the home care and hospice agency arena and not an active board member.   

2023 Honoree

Richard Haig
Westside 66 and Car Wash, Lawrence, KS

His nomination reads:  “Richard is a Home Care and Hospice Hero because he consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty especially for Douglas County Visiting Nurses staff. Those who know and take advantage of his kindness refer to him as “VNA’s rescue mechanic.”   In multiple extreme cold temperature periods, VNA staff and/or their manager have called upon Richard to help with vehicles not starting. Richard has always made us aware he would get staff vehicles running and, on the road, to care for patients if they’d call the station. In every single instance, he was true to his word on the same day, usually within an hour or so. Richard always works with staff to fix their problem timely and frequently does not charge for the service. He’s rescued multiple stranded employees and when asked how much he’s owed, he graciously replies, “I’ll catch you next time!”… Richard goes the extra mile to support our mobile workforce.” 

2022 Honoree

Dixie Westervelt

Hospice Volunteer

Northeast Kansas Multi County Home Health & Hospice, Hiawatha, KS

Her nomination reads:   “We have known Ms. Westervelt for over 20 years. First as our high school English teacher and now as part of our hospice volunteer team.  I once had a fellow student tell me she would not have graduated high school after having a baby her senior year if it had not been for Ms. Westervelt bringing her schoolwork and tutoring her.  In October 2012 she became a hospice volunteer.  As a hospice volunteer she sends out sympathy cards, prepares relief meals, participates in fundraisers, and visits with hospice patients and their families. She will even go beyond her duties as a volunteer and take grieving widows under her wing and making sure they are doing well, even taking them to appointments to make sure they are taking care of themselves after their spouse has passed away.  She helps the vulnerable in the general public; she has been known to take people she hardly knows to chemo/radiation appointments over an hour away.  She does it without expecting anything in return, not even a tank of gas if they can afford it.  Her kind heart extends beyond helping humans.  Dixie's home is a makeshift shelter for pets that are often abandoned, ill, or elderly that would otherwise be euthanized.  In a world where we are often quick to pass judgment and be negative, her kind heart and loving spirit inspires us to be the same beacons of light and love that she so easily spreads."


2021 Honoree

    Florine O'Rourke


    Douglas County VNA, Lawrence, KS

    Douglas County VNA created this beautiful video in honor of Ms. O'Rourke and her receipt of this award.

    2020 Honorees

    During the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, KHCHA chose to recognize all Kansas home care and hospice agencies and their staff as true Heroes!

    2019 Honoree

    Jean Holeczy    


    Olathe Health Hospice Care, Olathe, KS

    Her nomination reads:   “Jean is extremely selfless and goes the extra mile to care for our patients, families and staff. Jean is generous of her time and talents and will sacrifice so that others feel supported.

    "Jean joined Olathe Health Hospice Care in May of 1996. In her 23-year tenure, she has held many volunteer roles. She was first an in-home companion, visiting with patients to relieve their isolation and providing respite to caregivers. If a patient enjoyed cooking, she would help them prepare meals. If they were an artist, she would buy supplies so that they could create masterpieces together. At one home, friends of the patient were soon stopping by during Jean's shifts, so that they could create art, too. The atmosphere was like a party.

    "Being artistic herself, Jean enjoys making beautiful quilts for our patients. Since our Hospice House opened in 2014, she has been there, keeping our kitchen and common areas running smoothly. She also enjoys making bereavement calls to families, when she can provide a supportive presence and a listening ear. Her compassionate and friendly nature is a magnet to those around her. She is always asking “How can I help?” and staying late to finish tasks, to fully support those in need.

    "In her 23 years of service, Jean has truly exemplified what it means to be a hero, and we feel blessed to have her as part of our team."

    2018 Honoree 
    Larry Mallett 

    Volunteer Preacher/Volunteer

    Horizon Hospice, Chanute, KS

    His nomination reads:  “Larry Mallett is a Home Care and Hospice Hero because he is a genuine, selfless individual. Larry dedicates his life to the service of others by volunteering for multiple organizations. In Chanute, he is a chaplain for Horizon Hospice and Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center. In addition, he volunteers at Neosho Memorial's Home Health Agency and Cherry Street Youth Center (a local youth center). Larry is also active in the Honor Guard of the American Legion where he serves as their chaplain and can be seen on flag detail at local sporting events. For several years, Larry was also a hospital volunteer greeter and patient escort until recently when his wife requested he “cut-back” a bit.

    "Larry devotes his time to God, his family, and the community he loves. In the late hours of the night, Larry is often called by the staff of Horizon Hospice. He will wake up and immediately go to lend family support. He is known respectfully for his willingness to drop anything he is doing to aid someone in need or to respond when a patient's health is declining rapidly.

    "Larry is every patient's favorite volunteer. He is recognized by his upbeat attitude and willingness to do anything to help the people he serves. Larry is known to sing hymns to patients during his visits and is excellent at reading and interpreting scripture. He also does Bible studies at the local assisted living facility.

    "Larry Mallett is our Home Care and Hospice Hero. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, 'The best way to
    find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.' Larry is the person we all strive to be and I am proud to nominate Larry Mallet, Chanute, Kansas for this award."

    2017 Honoree
      Chuck Elias

      Hospice Volunteer

      Atchison Hospital Home Health and Hospice, Atchison, KS

      His nomination reads: “Mr. Charles Elias has volunteered for our agency the past two years. His volunteer gifts have included visiting, sitting with Hospice patients to give caregivers, family or a spouse a several hour break, taking down beds so hospital beds can be set up, helping build ramps to enable patients to get in and out of their homes, deliveries of holiday packages and more. His caring time has often extended to our Home Health patients when their was no one else to turn to. There was a time that Chuck and another volunteer were "dubbed" Two Men, a Truck and Bed Set up Service after several requests in a short time. Chuck is best remembered for staying with a nurse who attending a death that went from evening well into the night. It was a very difficult estranged family situation and the nurse was trying to keep angry people separated but also allowing them each time with the deceased. He didn't leave for hours until the nurse did, knowing that she was safe. Afterwards he assisted the wife of this patient plan a wonderful funeral service involving the entire family. He has a calming presence and is able to find ways to divert the patients thoughts from the present stressors of their condition. Chuck has been heard often telling the nurses that they are his hero, he is our "Hero" every time he says yes to one of our many requests. The Hospice and Home Health staff always know their patients are getting the best with him."

      2016 Honoree
      Virginia L. Downing

      Harper County Advisory Board Member

      Harper County Health Department/Harper County Home Health Agency, Anthony, KS

      Her nomination reads: “Virginia Downing has dedicated over 40 years to the improvement of home health and public health services in the State of Kansas. Over the years, Virginia has worked as a professional nurse in the following environments: hospital, Home Health/Public Health Administrator, State Surveyor for KDHE, and following “retirement” opened an independent consulting firm for home health agencies, nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.

      "Virginia serves as a strong advocate and leader for home health and public health services at the local, regional and state levels. When she attends the advisory board meetings she is a friendly sounding board for all aspects of home health and public health services and often provides common sense and professional input on problem resolution and improvement processes. Virginia has been a wonderful resource and mentor to many in the home health and public health fields, but she does this in such a positive, unassuming and friendly manner, I am not sure people recognize the impact she makes as she moves from one project to the next with an abundance of positive energy and humor.

      "She continues to be curious and enthusiastic about human nature, health care services and trends, and continues to seek ideas and information on how to improve the quality of health care for consumers. Virginia also is willing to share her knowledge, ideas and experiences to assist other health care providers, in finding solutions to improve the health of communities in Kansas. I nominate Virginia Downing as the 2016 Home Care and Hospice Hero Honoree."

      2015 Honoree

      Kristen Ada

      Program Manager

      Kansas Home Care Association

      2014 Honoree

        Marty McSorley 


        Visiting Nurses, Lawrence, KS

        A portion of his nomination reads: "Marty is a person who gladly steps forward and expresses a willingness to undertake a service, and does so without need or want for recognition.  Knowing that every penny saved is one more penny to help a patient in need, he helps with everything, big and small, always with a gentle nature and a big smile.  The list goes on and on of the tasks Marty has helped with, and our agency could not be more grateful for all of his help, both for our patients and our agency. His generosity and willingness to always lend a helping hand makes him truly worthy of the Home Care & Hospice Hero nomination." 

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