Carissa Halley is the new executive director of the Langley Hospice Society which is soon to break ground on a new 15-bed facility. (Heather Colpitts/Langley Advance Times)

VIDEO: Meet the new head of Langley’s hospice society

Carissa Halley will lead the organization as it begins building a new 15-bed hospice facility.

What can be accomplished in 18 days?

The Township of Langley Firefighters Charitable Society can sell hundreds of tickets for a September gala in support of the Langley Hospice Society and other local causes.

Of course, they have experience in speedy ticket sales. Last year’s Mayor’s Gala, which benefitted the local hospital, sold out in 26 days. The firefighters society has chosen hospice as this year’s beneficiary and tickets went on sale June 3.

RELATED STORY: Langley mayor’s charity gala sells out in record time

“The support and impact the Langley Hospice Society will receive through the Township of Langley Firefighters Charitable Society will help us close the gap on our fundraising goal of $1,000,000 to help furnish and outfit the new residence and truly make our new house, a home,” said Carissa Halley, with Langley hospice.

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The hospice residence will come to fruition under new leadership at the hospice society.

Halley has taken over the helm of the Langley Hospice Society, an organization with a $560,000 annual budget and 250 volunteers who provided 35,500 volunteer hours last year.

And while it’s her job to oversee the number on behalf of the board, Halley sees her executive director role as so much more than administration.

The Clayton Heights resident who grew up on Ocean Park area of Surrey worked for the Canadian Cancer Society’s Langley office for a decade after starting as a volunteer. There, Halley job shared with Shannon Todd Booth, who went on to be the hospice society’s communications and funds development manager.

It was Todd Booth who pitched the idea of Halley applying for the hospice job. But first, Halley had to see if it fit with her goals in life.

“You want to make a difference at the end of the day,” she said.

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She chuckles as she calls herself a “non-profit employee for life.”

“I believe we have a responsibility to help our communities,” Halley said.

She’s a fan of what hospice can do for people after seeing how another Lower Mainland society helped her grandmother at the end of her life.

The job started formally in early July and Halley is still learning about the organization that is about so much more than helping people at the end of their lives. The society also offers grief and counselling programs for local residents at its headquarters at 20660 48th Ave. It’s a house converted to allow staff to offer programming and is surrounded by a park-like setting maintained by volunteers. There, people experiencing grief can find the rejuvenating impact of quiet green space.

To help raise funds for the society’s work, volunteers run the Second Story Treasures thrift shop in Walnut Grove.

“I got the opportunity to go and spend the day with the volunteers [at the thrift shop],” she said.

While many people know Langley has a hospice organization, Halley would like to work to raise the society’s profile so people see the diverse range of services and programs that are offered. Key to raising awareness is helping people get past the barriers they may have about death.

“There seems to be a cultural avoidance of death and dying,” she said.

In the past, death and dying used to be handled by families and communities so it was more a part of everyday life.

The new hospice residence has 15 beds and will be on the grounds of Langley Memorial Hospital. Fraser Health contracts and funds the society to provide hospice services.

“I’m excited to see that come to fruition and the amazing impact we can make with palliative care,” Halley said. “It touches so much of our community. And we are so privileged to have so many supporters in the community.”

She said a key difference she has found is that Langley retains its sense of community, as evidenced by the strong support the society receives. Recently Driediger Farms hosted the Mad Hatter’s Tea to fundraise for hospice. Other people and businesses also host fundraisers such as the Fraser Valley Potters’ Guild, the West Fine Arts Show, Krause Berry Farms and the Historic Half Marathon.

• Learn more about the Langley Hospice Society and one of its founders.

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