Hospice leadership changing

Community Hospice Care of Tiffin is to begin 2014 with a new executive director. After 23 years with Community Hospice Care, Rebecca Shank is about to retire as director. Taking over for her is Mikki King, whose first official day is Jan. 11.

More than a week ago, the two women sat down together to review the history of the agency and discuss its future. Founded by Anita Gaydos, Community Hospice Care had its first office at Mercy Hospital of Tiffin. After that, it was at St. Francis Home.

Shank recalled the agency did not have its own copier there.

“Every day, for however many pieces we copied, they would send us a bill every six months. Well, it wasn’t very long, and I said, ‘We’ve got to get a copier,'” Shank said.

That was one of many changes for the agency under Shank’s leadership. When hospice outgrew its 1,200 square feet of space at St. Francis, Shank said she spent about two years searching the area for larger quarters to rent, lease or buy. She looked at property all along SR 224, but nothing seemed to be the right parcel.

“We were getting ready to build, actually. We bought three acres on SR 100 from Dan Ewald,” Shank said.

On a weekend, she and her husband were driving down Perry Street and noticed a sign that said “Auction Wednesday.” After driving around the block a few times, they pulled into the parking area and got out to walk around for a closer look. Monday morning, Shank called the Realtor. By 10 a.m., she was meeting the agent and touring the 8,000-square-foot building. It appeared to be just what the organization needed.

Although the price was on the high side, Shank arranged for the vice president of the hospice board to look at it. The two of them called the rest of the board to tour 181 E. Perry St. at 6:30 p.m. that night.

All who attended agreed the building suited the agency’s needs. The property, owned by M.J. Brown, had been vacant about two years. Tuesday, Shank brought in an electrician, plumber and roofer to examine the structure. It checked out well.

“We had an emergency board meeting that Tuesday evening. I think almost everybody showed up, and the 1 percent that didn’t come responded by phone. We came up with an offer,” Shank said.

About 30 minutes after Shank offered $300,000 for the building, Brown accepted the offer and the auction was canceled. Shank said she was amazed at the board’s quick action to approve the purchase. The building needed a few improvements to meet fire standards, but it was handicapped-accessible and in good condition. Hospice moved in 2002.

“It was just meant to be,” she said.

The interior of the building was freshened with paint, some new carpeting and a few pieces of furniture. Everything else was brought over from St. Francis. Seneca County Jail inmates helped with the move, which Shank called “a huge chore.”

The staff and volunteers managed to maintain care for their clients during the process. Shank said a big advantage to the new quarters was private offices that offered confidentiality for everyone. Hospice was able to sell its land back to the original owner.

Shank said she and her husband, who retired a year ago, intend to do some traveling to visit relatives and to do more volunteering at their church, at St. Francis and at Community Hospice. Their two children and four grandchildren (soon to be five) all live in the Tiffin area, so the Shanks do not plan to move away.

“I’ve had two job offers already,” Shank said. “We don’t want to just sit at home and do nothing. We want to help our kids out a lot by babysitting.”

King said she is pleased Shank will be available, if needed, for advice and consultation. A graduate of Heidelberg University, King earned her master’s degree at Walden University. King said her late grandmother had benefited from hospice care in another city, so she understands the value of hospice to the family of the patient.

For 10 years, King served as director of communication and community development at another non-profit, the Tiffin YMCA. While there, she worked with Melissa Bowers of Community Hospice on the Family Fest committee and volunteered with hospice in 2009.

“I did a lot of the fundraising and the at-home projects,” King said.

She was hired at Community Hospice in September 2012, not knowing Shank would be retiring. Now, one of King’s first tasks will be to hire a person to take over her job of performance improvement and marketing coordinator.

“I’m still learning a lot every day. It’s very fortunate that I’ve been here 15 months, so I have an idea how it works and what’s involved. I’m very excited about the things I’m learning,” King said.

Shank said King’s responsibilities included evaluating the services hospice provides and finding ways to do them better. Those experiences were good preparation for taking on the duties of executive director, Shank added.

Although Shank is willing to give advice, she said she has encouraged King to pursue her own management style and ideas.

“I’m a firm believer that there’s always a lot of ways to improve and grow and change. That is a stressful part of the job,” Shank said.

Doris Millar, president of the hospice board, has been involved with the agency since 1984.

“I was the first nurse for CHC when it first started with Anita Gaydos, and I’ve been on the board twice,” she said. “We’ve only had two executive directors.”

Under Shank, Millar has served as a volunteer board member. She said she is pleased to have King coming in as director with a marketing background and experience with non-profit organizations.

Still, Millar said Shank definitely will be missed.

“This has been her passion and she’s devoted everything she has, including her family, which is heavily involved,” Millar said. “But we’re very confident in Mikki’s ability to take over for her. We did a lot of interviewing, and she clearly came out as the candidate who was the best-suited to our organization.”