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AHHC Receives Unexpected $750,000 Gift to Help Expand Services for Terminally Ill Adults and Children with Cancer


"Woman's legacy leaves behind $750,000 to help terminally ill children"


Link to ABC11 Newscast

“A Blessing That Fell From The Sky…” Home care and hospice association receives unexpected $750,000 gift to help expand services for terminally ill adults and children with cancer Tim Rogers, President and CEO, unveils the Oak Lodge Endowment Fund at AHHC’s 2019 Leadership Conference Monday, October 28, 2019 in Wilmington, NC “It is fitting that we unveiled this wonderful news at AHHC’s Leadership Conference last week in Wilmington, as we head into November which is National Hospice, Palliative Care, Home Health and Home Care Month. What better way to begin such an important month?” says Rogers.

It was a gift unlike any other.

An unexpected notice arrived out of the blue in 2016. Tucked inside a nondescript envelope, mixed in with a pile of regular mail, came this news from a Chatham County Clerk: you are a beneficiary of the estate of Mary Ellen Dryden.

The details were sparse, but Tim Rogers was intrigued.

He stared at the letter and wondered who Mary Ellen was. He didn’t know her. And he didn’t have a clue about the nature of the gift.

But as a tireless advocate for expanding home and hospice care in North Carolina, Rogers knew that a gift of any size would be helpful to the mission of the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina (AHHC). Rogers is president and CEO of the association, which represents providers of home health, hospice, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing and companion/sitter services across North Carolina.

The more that Rogers learned about Mary Ellen Dryden, the more fascinated he became.

He discovered that Mary Ellen was a descendant of George Eastman, the famous entrepreneur who founded Eastman Kodak and helped popularize photography. Eastman, it turned out, had ties to North Carolina himself. He had a hunting lodge in Halifax County that, according to his biography, served as a hospice for sick and grieving friends or employees beginning in the 1890s.

And he learned that Mary Ellen herself worked in healthcare, often interacting with cancer patients.

But Rogers still didn’t know much about the nature of her gift. It would be three years later until he learned the true value of the bequest: $750,000 — the largest gift in the association’s history.

Rogers vividly recalls the moment. There were tears and hugs — and hopes and dreams about the patients and families who will ultimately benefit from Mary Ellen’s generous gift.

“It’s a blessing that fell from the sky. We were absolutely stunned and incredibly thankful,” Rogers says. “It is so rewarding when a private citizen recognizes the important work you are doing. And when they say ‘thank you, now go out and help more people,’ that is a true gift.”

Mary Ellen’s brother, Bill Musser, describes her as a kind and caring soul who loved supporting the causes close to her heart. He says that Mary Ellen would be proud to know that her gift will have a lasting and meaningful impact on home care and hospice in North Carolina.
“It would mean a lot to Mary Ellen to know that this gift will help so many people in need,” said William Musser, Mary Ellen’s brother.
With Mary Ellen’s gift, the association is establishing the Oak Lodge Endowment, named after the Halifax County lodge that George Eastman first used as a hospice more than 125 years ago.

Mary Ellen was particularly interested in helping children with cancer and that will be a major focus of the endowment. The association will advocate for providing greater access to hospice services for children suffering from terminal cancer, recognizing that such services are limited in North Carolina.

“People don’t want to talk about children who may die. But North Carolina has a great unmet need and we must find ways to expand access to palliative care for children,” said Dr. Laura Patel, the medical director at Transitions LifeCare, the Triangle’s largest and most experienced non-profit hospice provider.

"We were so excited when we heard about this generous gift because AHHC now has the opportunity to provide education, structure, support and lobbying to expand the pediatric hospice and palliative care model across the state. Every child who needs our help should have access to palliative and hospice care.”

“Individuals of any age who are faced with a life-limiting illness need meaningful support as do their families,” said Trent Cockerham, President and CEO of Hospice of the Piedmont. “A child and their family are no different. Ms. Dryden’s generosity will help ensure continued access to this type of care through specialty pediatric programs like Kids Path. This gift underscores the value and contributions made by AHHC on behalf of North Carolina’s hospice care providers.”

“The decision to support a specialized program to serve children who have life threatening or life limiting illnesses requires the full engagement and commitment of an organization as the needs of this population are unique and complex,” said Peter Brunnick, President and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region. “Due to their commitment to their community’s need, many providers in North Carolina have made an intentional decision, to serve their pediatric populations through hospice and palliative care services.”

“The generous bequest of the Mary Ellen Dryden estate, through the creation of an endowment intending to advocate for hospice patients, will provide much needed resources to advocate and carry the message promoting these great services to the families in our communities who have children in need. Through the Association of Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina’s administration of the endowment, our providers across the state will have a champion to assist us all in carrying our message forward that children have a right to be served and that this specialized care is available for those who need it.”

In addition, the endowment will help promote the use of home health, home care, hospice, and palliative care for children and elderly people with cancer — and advocate for expanding government programs that help cover the cost of these services.

About the Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina
The Association for Home & Hospice Care of North Carolina (AHHC) is a nonprofit trade association that provides resources, education, advocacy and leadership to providers of home health, hospice, palliative care, personal care, private duty nursing and companion/sitter services. Established in 1972, the association currently represents more than 750 provider agencies and business partners, including 98% of all home health and hospice providers in North Carolina. AHHC advocates for its members and the many patients and families they serve. It is recognized by colleagues, regulators, and legislators as one of the most active and effective home care associations in the nation.

Media Contact:
Courtney Hodges, VP of Marketing & Communications, AHHC of NC

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Member News


After Nearly 20 Years in Business, Hearthside Home Care Converts to FirstLight Home Care Franchise

Greensboro, NC – September 11, 2018 -GREENSBORO, N.C., Sept. 11, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- FirstLight Home Care, a leading national provider of non-medical home care, announces that Hearthside Home Care is joining the FirstLight family, becoming the first independent home care provider to convert to a FirstLight franchise.
Owners and business partners Tina Glenn and Roget de Percin Berendes have been operating Hearthside Home Care in the Greensboro, North Carolina area for nearly 20 years, but realized the market is evolving and partnering with FirstLight's national franchise network offers the best opportunity to thrive.
"It's the fastest way to grow," said Tina Glenn, president and CEO. "FirstLight leverages their national network and relationships on our behalf, which will really help us stand out among the competition. They also offer national marketing and operational support for franchise owners that will help us strengthen and expand our programs so we can continue to provide the best care for our clients."
That excellent care and service will continue as they become FirstLight Home Care of Guilford
Read the Full Press Release Here.

Transitions LifeCare receives $125,000 grant from The Duke Endowment

Raleigh, NC – May 30, 2017 - Transitions LifeCare has received a $125,000 grant from The Duke Endowment to establish a pediatric telehealth program. The Duke Endowment grant will be used to implement pediatric telehealth services for Transitions Kids, a home-based hospice and palliative care program of Transitions LifeCare that supports the unique needs of children birth through age 18 who have a life-limiting illness. Through telehealth, Transitions Kids staff will be able to provide “face-to-face” triage of after-hours needs, conduct family meetings that include providers from collaborating organizations or hospitals, and more quickly respond to the needs of children who live a great distance from the Transitions LifeCare campus. Contact for more info.

Hospice of Cabarrus County Hosts Interlude Music Workshop

March 4, 2017 -   8:30am-3:00pm @ McKinnon Hospice Center in Kannapolis, NC 
For more info, contact | 704-403-5226
Explore the use of voice, musical instruments and art to bring comfort to hospice patients and families. Participants will build a repertoire of soothing music for use in the hospice setting and have an opportunity to experience integrative therapies such as therapeautic art and Qigong. Non-musicians will participate through observation and by experiencing the effects of these integrative medicine tools.

Four Seasons Compassion for Life Launches Palliative Care Website

Four Seasons Compassion for Life is pleased to announce the creation of The Palliative Care Resource Center, a new website housing comprehensive resources for patients experiencing life-limiting illness, their families and caregivers, and community members who are simply interested in learning more. Visit for more info.

Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region President/CEO Receives Award

Pete Brunnick, President and CEO of Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region, was among 50 CEOs in the Charlotte region to receive Smart CEO's Corporate Culture Award. The award winners have championed for a positive, productive culture in their organization and have worked with employees to develop successful cultural practices. The final roster of winners were chosen by an independent committee of local business leaders, profiled in SmartCEO magazine and celebrated at a high-energy awards event. Congrats Pete! Visit for more info.