Still Here, Still Working, Still Benefiting Others
“Officially,” Iowa City Hospice served its first patient in 1983, which made 2008 our 25th anniversary. The tireless work of our founders, however, began several years prior to 1983. Motivated by their experiences with loved ones at the end of life, in 1979, founders Martha Lubaroff and Mary Child began to discuss whether the relatively new field of hospice care could be supported in Johnson County.
They recruited a task force of numerous community members. Their charge—to find a way to provide practical, compassionate support to enhance quality of life for people who were at the end of their lives. “Looking back, it’s unbelievable how everything fell into place,” Martha Lubaroff says, though, she laughs, “it didn’t feel that way at the time.”
Martha admits there were many things that worried her and the task force during those early years. “Having enough money to hire staff and serve patients, educating the community, getting the medical profession behind us; at first there was a lot of skepticism.” But, she adds, task force members were willing to roll up their sleeves and jump in. “Where we were able to do something, we put our heads together and we did it.”
Initial funding came from grants and community donations. In 1982, widespread community support allowed the first board of directors to appoint a medical director, Charles E. Driscoll, M.D., who offered his services free of charge. That fall, the first class of volunteers was trained. These Iowa City Hospice supporters and volunteers, along with their newly hired patient care coordinator, Laurie Neunaber, provided care to their first patient in March of 1983.
Martha is thrilled that Iowa City Hospice continues to provide exceptional hospice care and grief support services and that, over the years, the organization was able to expand to six more counties. She admits to being a little surprised, though, about Iowa City Hospice’s remarkable growth, and its acceptance in the community. “I’m happy that it’s still here, it’s working, and people are benefiting.”
Although she is honored to share the mantle of “founder” with Mary Child, Martha enthusiastically credits the many people whose commitment made Iowa City Hospice what it is today. “What we did in the early years—the commitment of the original ‘band’—was so important,” Martha explains. “Our mission never deviated, and we all believed in it so strongly. People came forward to help without being coaxed a lot.”
Thirty-one years after she and Mary first contemplated the idea of a community-based hospice, Martha continues to be involved, sharing her story with others to encourage continued support of Iowa City Hospice, especially of the Iowa City Hospice Endowment Fund.
Martha sees many things for Iowa City Hospice’s future. “I see us continuing to grow, serving more patients and families. And because of the arrival of for-profit hospice providers to our community, we have to continue making it clear why Iowa City Hospice is the best choice,” she says.
“You love it, believe in it, and want it to keep going,” Martha explains. And, she says, “I’d like it to be there for me.”