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Life and Death Matter: Community Hospice Cares for Friends and Neighbors for 40 years

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January 2019 marks a significant milestone as Community Hospice celebrates 40 years of compassionate care as the oldest and largest local nonprofit hospice provider in the Central Valley. What began as a dream and desire to celebrate and enhance the lives of friends and neighbors facing a life-limiting illness became a reality when two courageous and passionate volunteer nurses, Mary Jean Coeur-Barron and Kathy Oberg Erlenbeck, set out on a mission to help their fellow community members.  

On January 23, 1979, thirty-five health care providers met with a consultant to explore whether the community would support a hospice program. As a result of that meeting, a board of directors was formed with representatives from local hospitals and home health agencies. Two physicians and two nurses from the community completed the 12-member board. 

As Community Hospice grew and financial needs increased, private companies and community leaders generously contributed monetary gifts, making it possible to provide services to more patients. The Friends of Community Hospice, a fundraising auxiliary, was established in 1982 to further the organization’s mission. Today, fundraising continues to be vital to ongoing programs and services. On October 31, 1985, Community Hospice achieved another milestone, becoming the first freestanding hospice in the nation to receive accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation.

With a continued need for services in our surrounding communities, Community Hospice Foundation was established in 2001 and four years later the first Community Hospice Hope Chest Thrift Store opened on McHenry Avenue. As patients often needed more assistance than what could be provided in their home and a desire to stay out of the hospital, Community Hospice knew they had to find a solution. As a result, the first inpatient hospice facility in the state of California, the Alexander Cohen Hospice House, came to fruition in 2005. 

“As we have grown throughout the years, one thing has remained constant. Community Hospice holds true to the same dream and desire our founders had, to celebrate and enhance the lives of our friends and neighbors as they face their journey,” shared C. DeSha McLeod, President/CEO of Community Hospice. “We are truly honored to celebrate the last 40 years and all who have been a part of our story. Our heartfelt gratitude extends to our patients and families who trust us in their time of need, our generous community, healthcare partners, leadership, staff, volunteers and the many more who have supported us and touched our organization throughout the years.”

Today, Community Hospice employs nearly 300 staff members and has over 450 volunteers who provide support services to more than 2,000 community members each year. The multiple counties served include Stanislaus, San Joaquin; Merced; Calaveras; Mariposa; Tuolumne and parts of Contra Costa; Sacramento; Alameda and Santa Clara.  

For additional information about Community Hospice programs and services, visit 

Written by: Kristin Mostowski

Community Hospice Provides Many Services
Throughout the years, Community Hospice has grown to meet the evolving needs of our communities, providing compassionate and quality care, education and support to patients and their families, regardless of ability to pay. Services and programs have expanded from its origin to include:
• Hospice care
• Palliative care (not hospice)
• Pediatric care
• Alexander Cohen Hospice House
• Durable medical equipment
• Grief support for children and adults
• Crisis response
• Camp Erin® of the Central Valley
• Logistics center
• Educational support resources
• Seven Hope Chest Thrift Stores