Pictured are Annalise Stenekes, Executive Director of Mariposa House Hospice and Whitney Vowels,Executive Director of Hospice Orillia, both photographed showing their support of the 2021 Hike for Hospice.  For information on the 2022 Hike for Hospice please visit www.hospiceorillia.ca/h4h 

It takes a special kind of person to lead a Hospice Organization

As we wrap up the three-part series focused on Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice, we will bediscussing what it is like to be at the helm of a Hospice Organization.

Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice are in a unique position as they both serve the samecatchment area, while providing different programs at a variety of stages in a client’s journey. It is notuncommon for a client to go from receiving support through Hospice Orillia’s Visiting Volunteer program,move to Mariposa House Hospice to utilize their Residential Hospice services during their final days andthen their loved ones may return to Hospice Orillia for grief support. While they are separate organizations,they often work together to complete the continuum of care for a client and their family members.

We caught up with Annalise Stenekes, Executive Director of Mariposa House Hospice and Whitney Vowels,Executive Director of Hospice Orillia to discuss how the organizations fit in the community.

Why did you choose to work in Hospice Palliative Care?

Annalise (AS) – I originally started out as a volunteer and it was through this experience that I was immediately drawn to working in the field. Having the ability to connect with people who were going through this phase of their life was something that really showed me what I was meant to do. As the years went on, employment opportunities presented themselves, which I accepted and as I did, the various positions helpedme grow and deepen my passion for Hospice Palliative Care.

Whitney (WV) – Many years ago, after losing a loved one, I realized how important it is to haveexceptional care and support after a life-limiting diagnosis, not only for patients, but for their loved ones aswell. I knew Hospice Palliative Care had become important to me and I wanted to be part of an organization that not only provided care and support related to death, dying and bereavement, but one thatwas able to make a difference to those going through those experiences while being able to focus onwhat’s important to them.

How do you feel about the difference your organization makes for its clients?

AS – For Mariposa House Hospice I think the difference is multifaceted; there is a positive impact forresidents as well as the family, friends and caregivers. When a resident arrives, the difference is seenalmost immediately as they settle into the homelike setting where they have access to care 24/7 and cancontinue to welcome visitors. For the caregiver it’s about not having to worry about running a home andadministering care to their loved one. It makes me proud to know we are providing the residents and theirloved ones with an environment where they are able to soak up whatever time they have left with each other.

WV – I am grateful that we are able to be part of their journey and help make a difference in their lives and the lives of their families. At Hospice Orillia we want people to be able to have the best quality of life, right to their final days, and knowing we’ve made a positive impact in their care is so meaningful. It’s a true gift toknow that we’re also able to help people cope with loss through our grief and bereavement programs. When you know you’re helping to improve someone’s difficult journey at a point when it’s most precious is lifechanging.

Annalise, what is something you want people to know about Mariposa House Hospice?

AS – That volunteers make it possible for us to do what we do. We rely on volunteer engagement inside thehouse, on the grounds and with fundraising or administrative tasks. Without them we would really be stuck.Our volunteers do more than just donate their time; by providing support to Mariposa House Hospice, theyare ensuring that we are able to keep our operating costs as low as possible. Having individuals volunteertheir time at the reception desk, in the kitchen or in the gardens, or organizing our events allows us to keepour staffing model lean and to focus our fundraising efforts. Having volunteers helping us in so manydifferent ways also plays a big role in creating a friendly, welcoming culture.

How about you Whitney, what is something you want people to know about Hospice Orillia?

WV – That we offer practical, emotional and spiritual support to those in our community coping with advanced illness, death and bereavement. Not only do we provide on-going support from the time of someone’sdiagnosis, but we also provide bereavement support after a death.

We know that sometimes living with an illness means that your life gets turned upside down: financially,socially, and spiritually. We, along with our dedicated volunteers, want to help you through these challengingchanges so that you can have the best life possible.

What is a common misconception that you would like to clear up?

AS – The main misconception is that we are fully funded. Like other Hospice organizations, we are onlypartially funded and rely on community support. The services we provide include health care, but theyextend beyond health to include social care as well. We provide a wholistic style of care; where we try toaddress a variety of domains, making hospice organizations multifaceted. We need the community tobelieve in what we do and to continue to provide financial support.

WV – Like Mariposa House Hospice, Hospice Orillia is only partially funded. In addition to the financialsupport we receive from the community, we rely on the generosity of our volunteers. By donating their time,volunteers are providing a cost-effective way for us to provide programs within the community. The hoursprovided by our volunteers assist us with more than just their time, they are lending their shoulders and heartsto our clients who are in need of support.

People often think that Hospice Palliative Care is only an option when there’s nothing more that can bedone. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hospice Palliative Care is about living well…making sure thatyour pain and your symptoms are managed, while encouraging you to focus on the things that really matter, whatever that may be for you. At Hospice Orillia it’s about making sure that caregivers are supported, so that they can live well too; it’s about helping people with their grief, so that they can experience life after loss.

When is the proper time for people to connect with your organization for support?

AS – While people use residential hospice care at the end-of-life, which is typically the final weeks or daysof one’s life, we suggest that an individual speak with their Home and Community Care Coordinator assoon as possible to be considered for residential hospice care when the time comes. By filling out the paperwork you will be on a referral list and will be monitored to see if you want/need to come in. It is best tohave this plan in place prior to being at the point of crisis. The challenge for all residential hospices is thatthere is no guarantee that a bed will be available when needed. If you are on the referral list there is a betterchance that we can get the timing right. It’s important for people to know that this would be a back-up plan andit does not mean you absolutely must go into a residential hospice, you can always change your mind.

WV – For Hospice Orillia, it is all dependant on what type of support people need. If someone has beendiagnosed with a life-limiting illness, we offer a plethora of programs and services to not only assist them,but their loved ones as well. We also assist those needing bereavement support that may not be related to losing someone due to a life-limiting illness. Each one of our programs has a different focus, and has beendesigned to help individuals, friends and family members in different ways. The best recommendation ontiming is to reach out as soon as possible and our team will help to create a plan for support that bestsuits your needs.

Finally, the question everyone would like to know about but may feel awkward talking about it, isthere a cost for support?

AS – No, but we are only partially funded by the provincial government and we do gratefully accept memorialdonations, donation of shares, monthly donations as well as contributions to the annual Hike for Hospice (apartnership with Hospice Orillia)

WV – While there is no cost for the community to access the programs provided through Hospice Orillia, thereis a cost to keep the programs running which is why we rely so heavily on the generous donations from thecommunity.

Thank you to Annalise and Whitney for helping to shed some light on what it is like to be at the helm of a Hospice Palliative Care organization. Our community is lucky to have you both on our side during some ofthe most difficult stages in our journeys.

Hospice Palliative Care is something that people only tend to think about once they are in need of end-of-life care. We hope that this series has provided our readers with some insight of how both Hospice Orillia and Mariposa House Hospice serve the community of Orillia and surrounding areas not only at end-of-life but well before as well as after through grief and bereavement support.

While they may provide different services to the community, one thing is for sure, both organizations are integral parts of our community. Remember, as partially funded organizations that rely on communitysupport, there are plenty of ways you can help ensure hospice palliative care and bereavement supportremain available and accessible in our community. For information on how you can help please visit theirrespective websites:




Background information:

Hospice Orillia – Visiting Hospice

Established in 1989, Hospice Orillia offers practical, emotional and spiritual support to those in ourcommunity coping with advanced illness, death and bereavement. Our volunteers and staff serveclients and their loved ones of all ages and backgrounds with compassion and respect, whilehonouring their choices and supporting them through their life journey. Our services are offered to anyone living with a life-limiting illness and/or their friends, family members, and caregivers at the client’s home, wherever “home” is, or at our office location in a private space.


Mariposa House Hospice – Residential Hospice

Established in 2017 and open for residents in 2021, the goal of Mariposa House Hospice is to “honour every momentof life” one person at a time. We provide high quality end- of-life palliative care, while welcoming and supporting familyand friends. Each person receives the care and emotional support they need in a comfortable, safe, homelikeenvironment where a dedicated team of RNs and PSWs is available 24/7. Our residential hospice is supported by a team of volunteers and organizational support staff.