Our Beginnings

The history of Hospice of Waterloo Region.

By Lucille Mitchell – Founder

While attending a convention in Florida with my husband, I opted to forgo the guest speaker’s talk. It was April, and after our cold winter, all I wanted to do was to be in the sun. As I was making good my escape, I heard someone say – “Aren’t you coming to hear Rosita Perez?” It was the man in charge of the speakers and I know how hard it is to please 400 people, so I reluctantly agreed to attend.

My plan was to sneak out of the last row with a coughing fit – no speaker likes that distraction! Having 15 minutes to wait, I sat on the couch outside the salon where Rosita was to speak. Looking down a long Persian-rugged marbled hall, I spot a lady. She had on a chiffoney dress, flowers in her hair and a guitar slung across her back. She came right up to me, hand extended, with a “Hi, I’m Rosie, are you coming to hear me speak?” “Yes” I said. Inside I was saying “Oh brother!” For sure I was sneaking out, but fate had another plan.

My husband wanted to sit close to the stage so he could hear better. Not five minutes into her talk I was covered in goose pimples and I KNEW she was speaking to me. My eyes filled with tears – an overwhelming feeling. Rosita said two things that changed my life. “When the horse is dead, get off.” Get rid of things in your life you cannot change and put your energies elsewhere. She continued by asking the audience to complete the following sentence – “One day I’m going to…” The responses she received were “learn piano”, “learn a second language”, “volunteer”. She said “If not you, who, if not now, when?” Having some knowledge of Windsor Hospice, I launched a campaign to establish hospice services in the Waterloo Region. For one year, I worked every day and canvassed the medical profession. They loved the idea, but everyone was already short staffed and had no time to help. So, I thought, “the horse is dead – get off!” I packed away my dream.

The following year, while cleaning out a drawer, Rosita’s pamphlet came flying out. The cover said “If not you, who, if not now, when?

The rest is history. Two wonderful women came forward – Sandra Close ran the office, and Patricia Kelly trained our volunteers. With donated space, $10,000 from Johnson & Johnson and Lyle Hallman, a steering committee and an eager Board of Directors, we graduated our first group of volunteers.

And now, after 20 years of service to the community there are over 250 volunteers supporting friends and neighbours in their final journey.