If you attend the annual Hospice & Community Care Labor Day Auction on Monday, you’ll notice a huge variety of items up for bid, from sports memorabilia to vacation packages.
You’ll see and smell a smorgasbord of breakfast and lunch items and baked goods for sale.
You’ll also notice a large Amish presence among the volunteers at the event.
“You walk into the auction, and it’s a sea of Amish,” says Bonnie Jess Lopane, vice president for development and community relations for Hospice & Community Care.
The Amish use end-of-life hospice services in their homes, Lopane explains, and volunteer in large numbers at the annual fundraiser as a way of giving back to the organization, Lopane says.
“This is one way that they can support hospice and the care it provides,” Lopane says.
“Last year, we took care of just over 100 Amish patients,” she says. “We also have a small number of Amish people who volunteer with us at the in-patient center in Mount Joy.”
For more than 15 of the 35 years that Hospice & Community Care has been running the Labor Day auction to raise money to provide end-of-life care and support for patients and families, hundreds of Amish men and women have filled various volunteer roles at the event.
They make and serve food, volunteer as auctioneers and bid spotters, help display bid items and run the furniture auction.
“Over the two days, we probably have close to 200 (Amish) volunteers, just for the food,” says John Glick, an Amish volunteer who coordinates the food sales for the auction.
Glick, of Gap, who is a hardware and furniture salesman, says the hospice organization has taken care of his family members at the end of their lives.
“We were using (the services) for my grandmom in, I think, maybe 2001 or 2002 ... and then for Grandad, as well, a couple of years after Grandmom,” Glick says.
Hospice staff cared for his grandparents in their own home before they died, Glick says.
“Anymore there’s a lot of Amish using (hospice services),” Glick adds.
Back in the early 2000s, the hospice staff “told us about the auction, and my brother and I were (doing) auctioneering, at benefit auctions and so on, so we asked if we could help them with the auction,” Glick says.
At the time, there were a few vendors, including the Boy Scouts, serving basic food such as hamburgers, fries and hot dogs to feed the hungry bidders at the Labor Day auction.
“And we said, ‘Wow, there’s some potential here,’ ” Glick adds. “We asked hospice if we could do the food — maybe a chicken barbecue. ... The first year, they let us have baked goods. We gave them a couple thousand dollars at the end of the day. The next year we did subs and chicken barbecue, and we were baking pies there.
“From there it just grew,” Glick says. “Now we have a big menu.”
That menu includes milkshakes and fried shrimp; stuffed pretzel breakfast logs and chicken and pork barbecue; fresh, warm doughnuts, sticky buns and fruit, Lopane says.
From the beginning, Lopane says, the Amish “were doing such a fabulous job with the food, and we found that it was not easy for us to do it. And they had it down to a science.
“Over the years,” she adds, “the Amish have become involved in many aspects of the auction.”
They donate parts and assemble a buggy to be auctioned off, she says. And they help display furniture and quilts for the bidders. They were the driving force behind this year’s new tool auction at the event, she says.
“They have helped us in a truly great way,” she adds.
Care in homes
Like any other hospice patient, the Amish who use the nonprofit’s services have been given a medical prognosis of six months or less to live, says Gwen Hostetter, a registered nurse with Hospice & Community Care.
Hostetter has been giving end-of-life care to Amish families in their homes throughout her 12 years working for the organization.
“Our focus of care is providing comfort, palliative care and supportive care,” Hostetter says. The Amish receive the same care as any other patient facing the end of life, she adds.
What may be different in Amish households is that many families in the community take turns as caregivers for a given patient, she says.
“The Amish are wonderful caregivers,” she says. “From little on up, they learn the value of ... taking care of extended family.
“We try very, very hard to be culturally sensitive,” Hostetter says. “It’s very important to us in hospice that we come in and see the different families and how they function as a family and what’s important to them, and make adjustments on that.
“What’s a little more unique for the Amish is that a majority of that community has their own insurance, so they’re mostly self-pay” for hospice services, Hostetter says, rather than relying on Medicare.
The fees for service to the Amish are often offered on a sliding scale, depending on what care is needed, Hostetter says, since they don’t carry traditional insurance.
Because they don’t rely on that kind of insurance, the Amish often must pay for their own medications, supplies for wound care and other items.
Hospice, however, can offer them supplies that have been donated to the organization, she says.
“We have hospital beds we can send out to them, which can be manual or electric, depending on what they have available,” Hostetter says.
In addition, the Amish community leans toward herbal and natural products for their care. she says, “and we try very hard to work with that, with those choices.
“Their faith and their church community is very important, so that’s something we hold very dearly,” Hostetter says. “They want to be able to go to church as much as they can.
“There may be equipment they can’t use (because they don’t have electricity),” she says. They may ask for permission from the bishop of their church community to use electricity, temporarily — to run an air conditioner for a terminal patient when there’s extreme heat, for example.
“For the most part, it’s the hospice part of our services they’re using,” Lopane says. “For example, they’re not as likely, in our experience, to use bereavement services. They’re private people and they prefer to mourn more privately or within their own family and own community.”
“We are so appreciative of the generosity of their community,” Hostetter says, in helping so extensively with the fundraising auction.
“They’re very grateful,” Lopane says, “and they don’t forget that we were there when they needed us.”