Gerke finds satisfaction, fulfillment volunteering with CHHC

Patty Gerke has been volunteering with Caring Hearts and Hands since the beginning. She’s a core volunteer who has always helped with training and orienting people. Let’s take a moment to get to know Patty!

How did you get involved with CHHC?

I worked at Boone hospital in the late 80s and early 90s. And I guess somehow my path crossed with Doreen and Jackie. And then a couple years ago, Doreen reached out to me on Facebook, and then she wanted to meet for lunch. So we met for lunch. She told me about the organization, and I was very excited about it. It sounds like something I’d want to be involved with. She wanted me to be on a committee or a board, and I’m like, no, I don’t really want to do that. So when it came closer to time for them to open, she reconnected and I agreed to be a caregiver, took the caregiver training, and it’s been a big part of my life ever since.

It came at a good time in my life. I’m a seven-year breast cancer survivor and had a lot of complications after treatment, so I had to put my profession as a registered nurse on hold. When I was starting to feel like myself again, I needed to be able to give back. I’ve never worked that much with palliative care. I did work when I first got out of nursing school in the mid 90s at a small hospital in Booneville, and we had some hospice patients there, and both of my parents died of cancer and, for the most part, had a pretty peaceful death. So I’ve always been passionate that it’s the gift that we can give others to let them die in peace and dignity. And that’s the model that I tried to to do there when I’m a caregiver, and, of course, to help the families, too, so the families can understand the dying process and how they can help their loved one. So I’m usually there twice a week. That’s kind of how I got started.

What experiences outside of CHHC help your work there?

Not really just, you know, my nursing background and having two parents that passed away from cancer. I also took care of a friend the last three weeks of her life. She was 50 when she passed away from kidney cancer. I feel like it’s a gift. I feel like I definitely get more than what I give.

It’s really neat to get to know the guests and their family members. That’s not always possible, but I always talk to them like they know what’s going on, like they’re alert. I’m not afraid of touching. I’m a big believer in, when you’re talking to somebody, to sit there and hold their hands and be patient and be willing to have them open up to you. I get a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment getting to talk to them and knowing how we’re going to help them pass peacefully, and knowing that they won’t be alone, that we’ll keep them as comfortable as possible and keep their family involved.

What would you say is the most rewarding part of volunteering here?

Getting to know the guests, and, like I said, letting them die with peace and dignity. And of course, working with the other volunteers. I feel like we were hand picked, especially the first four volunteers. It just seems like if there’s a need, the community has been so supportive. Or past family members, have you said, What do you need? So seeing the families being so grateful for our services, and seeing the relief as the caregiving and the stress is taken away from them.

What draws you to CHHC’s mission?

The minute families walk in to tour, it’s like they automatically feel relaxed. The environment of the house is so peaceful and calming. And you know, to see them come in and feel like the weight of the world has been taken off of them, and they know that their family is going to be okay here. And then the guests too. I mean, we’ve had several guests that, as soon as they got in their room, their disposition totally changed, especially when they most people do know why they’re coming, which, when you think about it, that’s a big deal. You know you walk in, come in the door, and you know that this is going to be your last stop. So being able to provide that comfortable, peaceful, as painless as possible an environment.

What about you? What do you like to do for fun?

I have four daughters, one in Wichita, one in Texas, and then I have two daughters in Boonville and three grandkids. So spending time with my grandkids. I walk a lot. I enjoy yoga. My happy place is the beach. So I’ve been traveling a lot. So, traveling, spending time with family, being outdoors.

Thank you, Patty, for all that you do!

We’d love to share the word!

Can we speak at your organization?

Many are unaware of what we do — but once they learn, they often understand the power of what Caring Hearts and Hands does for those in their final days. Just as important, guest families often express their gratitude for our volunteers who make certain they are cared for alongside their loved one.

Caring Hearts and Hands volunteers would love to share what we’re doing here with our community. Are you part of a community group or organization that would be interested in hearing more? We visit churches, organizations and businesses to help educate the community about end-of-life care.

To inquire, contact us today at director@caringheartandhands.org to make arrangements.

Celebrating one year

Thank you to all who came out and celebrated our first anniversary with us in April. Together, we raised over $7,000 for Caring Hearts and Hands! HUGE thank-you to all of the people and businesses that made this possible, especially to our event chairs and to Waves Cider Co. for hosting.

During the event, we had a silent auction, and several relatives of our guests shared their testimonies. Family like John, who said, “We believe in miracles, and Caring Hearts and Hands was our miracle.” Family like Diane, who attested that the workers and volunteers at CHHC are “an extension of family.”

Here’s to a second year of supporting our guests and their families!

Spring Flower Fundraiser

Your spring purchases can do more than beautiful your home. You’ll also make our house a home for those who need end-of-life care.

Snag some beautiful flowers and gorgeous vegetables for your 2024 garden in either April or May at Strawberry Hill Farms. Mention Caring Hearts and Hands at checkout or present this flier, and they’ll donate 10% of your purchase to our social model home. We hope to exceed our fundraiser goal of over $1,000!



Strawberry Hill Farm’s Address: 3770 E. Hwy 163 Columbia, MO 65203

“Columbia needs more care like this.”

Daughter of guest shares experience with CHHC

Burdell Foreman passed away on January 7, 2024 at the age of 98. He and his family stayed with him at Caring Hearts and Hands for four days. After being in and out of the hospital for quite some time, being in a home setting gave a good, quiet change of pace.

“Dad was stubborn no matter what,” said Diane Inman, one of his daughters. “He overcame COVID in 2020 when it was bad, and he was in and out of the hospital after that. My sister and I took turns caring for him for six plus weeks, and it was definitely nice to have care in those last days.” 

“This gave us a chance to be family again instead of caregivers.”

-Diane Inman

Diane spoke about the quality care that CHHC offered, saying the entire family was well pleased and would love to see the organization grow. After their experience, the family wanted to give back. For example, Diane’s husband has been helping with electrical things around the house.

“Caring Hearts and Hands helped make a difficult situation a little bit better,” she said. “Everybody was so fantastic. Word needs to get out so more people know, because Columbia needs more care like this. It’s great that people can give back by volunteering.”

Come celebrate with us!

Caring Hearts and Hands is turning one! You’re invited to celebrate with us on April 28 from 2-5 p.m. at Waves Cider Company (604 Nebraska Avenue). Join us for finger foods, live music by Zamboni Funk, and a silent auction. Purchase your tickets today!

  • One ticket, including two drink tickets: $30
  • Two tickets, including four drink tickets: $50

Visit here for more details!

A letter from the CHHC Board Chair

I am thrilled to announce that I have been elected as the Chairman of the Board at Caring Hearts and Hands of Columbia, an organization affiliated with the esteemed Omega Network. It is with great honor and enthusiasm that I take on this new role, and I am excited to share with you the incredible work that we do at Caring Hearts and Hands.

We are an approved 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that operates as an end-of-life personal care home to provide a comfortable environment where people at the end-of-life can receive 24-hour care by qualified caregivers, be surrounded by the comfort of family, and be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background.

Our model is called a “social model” for hospice and is distinct from the medical model provided by licensed hospice agencies. We work in coordination with these agencies for our guests to ensure their comfort and care are provided at the highest quality.

Care is provided at no cost to our guests or their families, as financial concerns should be the last thing anyone thinks about during this fragile time.

Our goal is to effectively serve residents of Boone County and surrounding counties in mid-Missouri by offering an alternative to “institutionalized” hospice care and one that meets the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those at the end of life and their families.

We work with the Omega Home Network, which is a national membership organization that promotes the development and expansion of nonprofit 501(c)3 community-based homes for dying people.

At Caring Hearts and Hands, our team of dedicated staff, volunteers, and community partners work tirelessly to provide a wide range of services. We strive to address the diverse needs of our community members. Our goal is to empower individuals and families to overcome obstacles and support their end-of-life needs.

I am incredibly proud of the impact that Caring Hearts and Hands has made in our community. Through our various initiatives, we have been able to provide essential services to underserved populations, offer support to individuals battling end of life, and create opportunities for personal growth and development. None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of our dedicated volunteers and generous donors.

As the newly elected Chairman of the Board, I am committed to building upon the strong foundation that has been laid by my predecessors. I will work closely with our board members, staff, and community partners to ensure that Caring Hearts and Hands continues to make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve. Together, we will strive to expand our reach, enhance our programs, and advocate for the healthcare needs of our community.

I invite you to visit our website at caringheartandhands.org to learn more about our organization and the services we provide. Whether you are interested in volunteering, donating, or simply want to stay informed about our upcoming events and initiatives, our website is a valuable resource.

Thank you for your continued support of Caring Hearts and Hands of Columbia. Together, we can make a difference and bring hope and healing to those in need.

Sincerely,
Kat Lassiter, RN
Chairman of the Board

Meet the Operations Director

I am thrilled to be working with such compassionate and dedicated supporters who share in the mission to help others at the end of life.

I was a Hickman High Kewpie and then attended the University of Missouri, graduating with a degree in Business Administration. I have worked in multiple areas of the healthcare industry – nurse’s aide, pharmacy technician, and district sales manager for a hospital vendor. My most recent position as Family Services Coordinator allowed me to help families navigate the organ donation process.  Working with these families was very fulfilling for me because it allowed me to provide comfort to grieving families and hope to organ recipients.

I have two daughters. Kenzie is a 15-year-old going on 30, and Julia is 11.  They always keep me on my toes.  Both girls share my passion for helping others and are already begging to volunteer at Caring Hearts and Hands by baking cookies or helping with yard work. In my time away from work, I enjoy being involved in my daughter’s activities, walking on the MKT trail, and taking our puppy to the dog park. 

In my short time with Caring Hearts and Hands, I have witnessed the compassion and dedication shown by those in our community who generously offer gifts of their time, talents, and finances.  Each of you willingly and consistently shares these gifts of caring with our guests and their loved ones.  If you want to know about the impact of CHHC, here’s what a beautiful family we served recently told us:

“CHHC allowed us to be family and not caregivers and to feel like we were being taken care of too. You all were great, and the house was fantastic.” 

Thanks for all you do.

Courtney Keilholz Clemens

Director of Operations