Hosts needed for Hospice Savannah Summer Nights fundraiser
The idea for Summer Nights came from Jamey Espina, vice president of service excellence, who learned of an event called Sticks of Fire while working in Tampa, Fla.
“The concept was if everyone brings something together, we can change things and make things happen,” Espina says. “They asked folks to host a dinner party on their behalf.
“That would happen all over town and everyone would meet at a central location for desserts and drinks. Five years ago, I brought this idea to Hospice Savannah.
“It’s a fundraiser and a friend-raiser,” he says. “It’s a low-cost and low-work event. Your friends are going to do the work by hosting the party and they will bring in folks who may not be familiar with hospice services.”
The first year, the Hospice Savannah Foundation mimicked the Tampa concept in its entirety.
“All the parties were on the same night,” Espina says. “There were 26 parties and after, they all met at the Roundhouse downtown for the community party.
“We had some local jazz music, and donations from restaurants and bakeries in town,” he says. “We had an open bar. It was a beautiful night.”
But the party hosts all said the same thing.
“The hardest thing is getting guests to leave to go the community party,” Espina says. “They’re having such a good time they want to stay.”
So the next year, the order was switched, with the group party before the host parties. But then the hosts found they had to leave the community party early to prepare their own party.
“It was too difficult for the hosts,” Espina says. “So the next year, we dropped the idea of a community party.
“We turned it into a thank-you party for hosts and expanded the host parties from just one night to the entire summer. Each host got a beautiful bouquet from florists who donated and it worked out very well.
“But the one thing from the foundation’s point is that it’s hard to get a handle on three months of parties,” he says. “So this year, the current form is finding hosts for the parties, but just for the month of June. This year is Hospice Savannah’s 35th birthday, so we’re asking them to throw a birthday party on behalf of Hospice Savannah.”
Ophelia Rodriguez, annual giving specialist, says an effort will be made to make hosting a party easier for the hosts.
“Invitations and donation cards will be provided for guests and each host will receive a birthday cake courtesy of Joe’s Homemade Café,” she says. “After all the parties have been conducted, we’ll have an appreciation night with wine and appetizers. At the same time, the hosts can voice what worked well and what didn’t work well and we’ll keep those ideas for next year.”
The parties not only raise money, they educate the community, Rodriguez says.
“People learn about us and learn about the services we provide,” she says. “We provide services people don’t pay attention to until they need us. And if they need us, they need us.”
Founded in 1979, Hospice Savannah offers free palliative and hospice care to residents in five counties.
Proceeds from the Summer Nights parties will support the Daily Impact Fund, which provides free bereavement counseling to children, teens and adults; an overnight children’s grief camp; complementary therapies of music, story keeping and massage; a We Honor Veterans initiative; palliative care clinics in both local hospital systems; and Pet Peace of Mind®, which enables patients and their pets to stay together.
“If folks get in hospice earlier, their quality of life is so much better,” Espina says. “We’re reducing the level of fear for people so that when they need us, they don’t have a knee-jerk reaction.”
Hospice care will alleviate the stress of care providers, Rodriguez says.
“Usually it’s an elderly person trying to care for an elderly spouse,” she says. “We can alleviate some of those stresses and pressures.”
Twelve volunteers have already stepped forward give parties and one event is already planned. “Cocktails for a Cause: Hospice Summer Nights Kick-off” will be from 5-7 p.m. June 11 at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. 111 W. Bay St.
“The party can be as small or as big as they want,” Espina says. “Whatever is great for the person.
“We’ve had parties where a church congregation got together a spaghetti dinner, someone held a picnic and there was rum-tasting party I hosted,” he says. “The idea is to be as creative as possible and have as much fun as possible.”
It’s impossible to have too many parties.
“The more parties, the better,” Espina says. “It’s a great way for a lot of people to show how much they love and cherish Hospice Savannah as a service in the community.
“A lot of people want to give back to Hospice Savannah for what it has done. To be a volunteer takes a lot of time.
“This is a great way to have fun and educate others about how hospice has made a difference in their lives,” he says. “It really is an easy, fun way to help Hospice Savannah provide services to the community.”