PORT ANGELES — Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County has hired an executive director — after years of not having one — and is now settling into a building in Port Angeles amid unprecedented growth of the organization.
The Volunteer Hospice of Clallam County (VHOCC) board selected JooRi Jun, a naturopathic physician from Port Townsend, to lead the organization and Monday was her first day on the job.
“I feel really aligned with Rose Crumb’s founding vision and mission for the organization: to provide compassionate care for the terminally ill, their families and caregivers,” Jun said.
“I will always stay aligned and close with that mission and I know the organization has been doing that well. I hope to make sure we keep doing that.”
Crumb, who died at the age of 92 in December, founded VHOCC in 1978. Since then the organization has helped terminally ill Clallam County residents at no cost to them, their families or the government.
“I’ve always been drawn to service and that stems from a broader call to healing,” Jun said, adding she has always been interested in the intersection between medicine and spirituality. “With death work, I have always felt that end of life piece was good for exploring that intersection.”
Jun previously worked as a clinical spiritual caregiver at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, where she worked with patients and families facing end of life.
Most recently she worked as a director of programs at the Olympic Community of Health, an organization with the purpose of facilitating health care improvements in Clallam, Jefferson and Kitsap counties.
Jun, who started work Monday, said she is eager to learn more about the organization and to join as the VHOCC moves from its office on Eighth and Albert streets to its new building at 829 E. Eighth St.
“The main message I’d like the community to hear … is how excited I am to be in this position, to continue to provide this service for the community and to thank [the community] for their continuing generous assistance,” Jun said.
Jun is the first executive director VHOCC has had since 2013, when the board decided to part ways with the previous director. Since then, many of the “big picture” responsibilities were handled by board members, said Dr. Ed Hopfner and honorary board member who had previously chaired the board.
But also since that time, the number of patients seen each month has doubled. Hopfner recalled the organization serving 60 to 70 patients each month in 2013, while VHOCC now sees 130 to 140 patients each month. About 188 volunteers who help keep the organization afloat.
“More patients, more nurses, more respite volunteers,” Hopfner said. “We’re expanding very rapidly.
“It’s really become difficult for a board to manage all the activities going on and the idea of an executive director has been brought up over and over and over again.”
Hopfner said it isn’t clear just yet what all of Jun’s responsibilities will be, but she’ll lead the organization as it prepares for the future.
The organization has historically operated on a tight budget — about $400,000 in 2017 — but is preparing a budget of upward of $1 million for the coming year, Hopfner said, primarily due to the increase in staff needed to address the growing needs.
As the budget has grown, VHOCC has relied on donations and private grants, and the residents of Clallam County have been more than willing to help out.
Volunteer Hospice’s endowment fund has grown from about $2 million in 2013 to $11 to $12 million now, Hopfner said, adding the earnings from that fund are helping pay for the new construction. VHOCC also had received a $250,000 estate donation that has offset the costs.
Meanwhile, VHOCC has managed to provide end-of-life care without accepting Medicare reimbursements, which Hopfner said has allowed the organization to keep the budget relatively small and provide a better quality of care.
“Federal funding usually comes attached not with strings, but with ropes,” Hopfner said, adding that not taking those funds allows VHOCC to be flexible. “The community has been extremely generous.”
Offices already have been moved into the new building, but construction is still underway for additional storage space. By moving from the former 1,500-square-foot building, VHOCC is more than doubling its space. The new building is 3,700-square-feet.
Once the construction is complete, VHOCC will be able to expand its lending closet, said Astrid Raffinpeyloz, volunteer services manager.
“Because we do not take Medicare reimbursements, we are able to offer something that perhaps is very small, but is very significant and helpful to the community: our lending closet,” Raffinpeyloz said.
“We lend that equipment to anyone in the community. You don’t have to be in hospice to borrow something from us.”
The current storage area is packed full of medical supplies. The supplies are so closely packed that it’s difficult to get to what may actually be needed.
“Our move is geared to help take more donations and serve more people,” she said.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].