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'A ray of sunlight’

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Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Jana Kolsbun, a volunteer at Celia's House, plays the piano in the east Medford hospice house that once belonged to Harry & David co-founder Harry Holmes. Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice paid off its mortgage thanks to a $342,000 donation.
Celia’s House in Holmes Park [Submitted photo]
Celia’s House in Holmes Park [Submitted photo]
Celia’s House celebrates a $342,000 donation, and a place on the National Register of Historic Places

It’s been a very good summer for a Southern Oregon nonprofit that’s helped hundreds of people find peace in their final days.

Thanks to a $342,000 donation last month, the nonprofit that operates Celia’s House of Holmes Park — the region’s only dedicated residential hospice care facility — has paid off its mortgage for the east Medford property that was once the personal home of Harry Holmes, one of Harry & David’s founders.

According to Fred Bockstahler, board president of Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice, the donation from Jed and Celia Meese of Medford marked an end to “a very difficult 18 months” due to rising costs and challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was a ray of sunlight,” Bockstahler said on a courtyard patio in the facility’s two-acre garden area. “The timing couldn’t have been better from a morale standpoint.”

Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice purchased the property in April 2016 for $1,282,710, according to Jackson County property records.

In addition to paying off its mortgage this summer, the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in August.

The application highlighted the home’s design by famed California architect Paul Revere Williams, whose portfolio included The Beverly Hills Hotel in the 1940s and the Space Age Theme Building at Los Angeles International Airport in the 1950s.

The house was commissioned in the 1930s by Harry and Eleanor Holmes.

Southern Oregon architects Frank C. Clark and Robert J. Keeney collaborated with Williams on the house, according to The PRW Project, an online archive of Williams’ work.

Donors covered application costs, and local historian George Kramer provided research that went into the application, according to Julie Raefield, Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice development director.

Through Kramer’s research, Raefield said, the nonprofit was able to get in touch with Williams’ granddaughter and sent her the historic building’s blueprints and plans, which will be archived at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

After renovations that expanded the number of hospice beds to 12, the hospice facility opened in April 2018.

Since opening, the facility, which includes a library, a sunroom and a two-acre garden, has helped 319 people and their families find peace in their final days, Raefield said.

Of those people, 62% were subsidized in some form, according to Bockstahler. Some hospice patients are covered through Medicaid or through contracts with Asante and Providence, which help cover patients who otherwise would not be able to afford to "pay the full fare.“

“You would think this is only for high-income individuals,” Bockstahler said. “It couldn’t be further from the truth.”

The nonprofit also inked a contract with the Department of Veterans Affairs this summer, according to Bockstahler.

The donation from the Meeses was made to honor the life of Jerry Taylor, a local philanthropist who helped Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice begin its capital campaign and was named an honorary board member prior to his death in April 2020.

The donation relieves the nonprofit of a $6,330 monthly payment. Bockstahler and Raefield said it wouldn’t entirely eliminate their need for fundraising, but would give them a cushion for the next five years.

“It was a godsend, but it’s not the end [of fundraising] for us,” Bockstahler said. “This takes care of a portion of that for the next five years.”

About 20% of its operating costs are covered through an annual mail fundraising drive, another 20% is covered through its Hospice Unique Boutique in Ashland and the remainder comes from residents or contracts.

There are about 27 full-time equivalent employees at the hospice, who are helped by 230 volunteers every year.

“They do it with love and compassion,” Bockstahler said.

Reach web editor Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.