Geraldine Agnes Hunnewell’s dying wish was that the hospice workers who had cared for her during her last months on earth receive a lot of her belongings after she passed away.

The 89-year-old Bingham resident was dying from merkel cell carcinoma, a rare and aggressive skin cancer, and wanted to do something that would benefit the medical and volunteer hospice organizations that helped her, according to her daughter, Essie Mae Golden.

“My mother passed away March 23 last year,” Golden said. “Her choice was to give clothes and other items to the hospice workers and they said, ‘We can’t accept these as gifts.'”

That’s when Golden, a retired Avon representative, started pounding the pavement, looking for a place that could use or sell her mother’s belongings, with the proceeds going to hospice.

She was delighted to find the Hospice Volunteers of Waterville Area Resale Shop at 304 Main St. in Waterville, which takes donations of used clothing, furniture and other household items, collectibles, holiday items and medical equipment, and uses the proceeds to help keep the organization afloat.

“When I found out there was a store, I said, ‘Now, they all get the benefit,’ which is what Mom wanted,” Golden said. “I sent down one batch of bedding Oct. 7 and I took a carload and then another carload. In the spring, I’m going to head down there with her spring, summer and fall clothing. This is Mum’s project — her wish. My mother praised the hospice workers so much, and I did, too. They were fabulous. You can not beat the hospice workers.”

Golden’s gift was generous and welcome, according to Susan Roy, executive director of the Waterville nonprofit volunteer hospice, which provides free non-medical support to patients and their families at the end of one’s life and helps through the grieving process. Hospice also educates the community about death and grieving and provides bereavement services to those who have suffered losses. MaineGeneral Health and other agencies provide the medical aspect of hospice services.

The resale shop, which opened three years ago, generates needed income for the volunteer hospice, according to Roy.

“Because of the resale shop, it makes it easier for us to keep our doors open,” she said. “We’re always needing to fundraise.”

Her organization covers 27 communities, operates on about $200,000 a year and has about 150 active volunteers.

“We don’t receive any state or federal funding. We do get some municipal money. We end up doing a lot of fundraising, grants. We contract with MaineGeneral Medical Center.”

The resale shop gets lots of items such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, commodes, walkers, canes, shower chairs and other medical equipment that sells for a fraction of the retail price, according to Roy.

Marie LeClair, resale shop volunteer coordinator, plans to retire from the position Dec. 6 when she and her husband, Luxy LeClair, retire from their day jobs. Luxy LeClair is executive manager for Central Maine Motors Auto Group and she is a certified nurse’s aide.

The couple has worked as a team to make the shop successful, Roy said. Central Maine Motors donates use of a company van to pick up items families donate to the resale shop. While Roy targeted $16,000 as a figure for the shop to generate this year, she said, the LeClairs vowed to exceed that amount and bring it up to $20,000.

“It’s incredible,” Roy said. “They have made the volunteers into a family. Marie cares about each and every volunteer. They check in on each other. It’s all volunteer. The shop fills a gap financially, but what I love about it is, it brings the community in. There are so many people in the community who weren’t even sure what hospice was. I love that we’re getting people who would never come in otherwise. They’re telling their friends.”

Marie LeClair said Sunday that the resale store has wonderful volunteers without whom it would not survive. It is the only hospice retail shop in the state, although there are many in Florida. She said the shop gets sewing machines, meat grinders, jewelry, collectible figurines and all sorts of other unique items that people buy up very quickly.

The shop is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday and hosts a sale on Saturdays about twice a month.

The acceptance of the donation not only provided Golden an opportunity for her to fulfill her mother’s wishes — it also allowed her to give thanks for the care her mother received at home.

Hunnewell, she said, had worked in mills before becoming a homemaker and, in her 80s, completed a certified nurse aide course.

“She was so proud of that and I was proud of her, too,” Golden said.

While Hunnewell died in a nursing home (she knew death was imminent and asked to be taken there and died next day, Golden said), she was able to live in her own home for several months prior to that with help from hospice, Golden said.

Golden noted that a person may not qualify for hospice services right away as there are guidelines that must be followed, but it is important to apply for those services and have the paperwork in place for when circumstances change and the person does become eligible.

Hospice workers — both the volunteers and paid medical staff — provide critical support at a very difficult time, she said.

“They vacuum, they do the floors, they do the laundry, they do the dishes. I could not have wished for anything more. What people need to understand is, don’t think that there’s nobody there to help you. Before my mother was diagnosed with a deadly disease, I had been doing everything for two years and you can’t do it. People have got to understand it takes a lot out of you and when hospice came on board it was a blessing for both of us. It’s a two-fold blessing, is what it is.”

Hospice will hold a Lights for Life celebration 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at its office at 304 Main St. It will feature musical entertainment, refreshments and a garden lighting and people may buy a snowflake ornament in memory of a loved one, to be hung in the front window of the building.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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