New Regional Hospice Foundation Exec Brings Experience, Dedication To Job

Paul L. Sirois was named executive director of Regional Hospice Foundation, the fundraising arm of Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, as of January 1.

A financial planner for 17 years, most recently vice president and financial advisor for Union Savings Bank, Mr Sirois previously served as chairman of the Regional Hospice board.

“This felt like a very natural transition,” said Mr Sirois. “You would think after 17 years in one career there would be some anxiety [with a career change], but there was not. It feels right,” he said.

Along with his financial expertise, Mr Sirois brings to his new position his seven years of experience of having been on the other side of what it takes to make Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut.

“On the board, you are privy to reports and asked to be part of events. It’s different now, being the one asking others. It’s a different perspective, but I find the board very supportive,” he said. As executive director, Mr Sirois said that he is now able to see the inner workings of the organization, and where adjustments can be made. Taking on the role of executive director has deepened his appreciation of the staff, as well, said Mr Sirois.

“People involved in Hospice are dedicated to the Hospice mission and to the nonprofit. All of our employees encompass that dedication,” he said. Additionally, hundreds of volunteers contribute an average of 500 volunteer hours, every month.

History With Hospice

Mr Sirois’s involvement with Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut began when a financial planning client asked him to serve on the board there.

“It is a very organized and engaged board,” he said, and he was immediately impressed by the professional manner in which the board operated. “Regional Hospice included training with the agency for board members, so you can understand the care being given.

"I sat through clinical meetings with social workers, caregivers, and nurses. One of the most impactful statements I heard, was when a nurse commented, ‘I’m concerned about the middle daughter of the family I’m seeing, because today she didn’t make eye contact with me.’ I understood then, what we do: Living well, while dying. The whole family, not just the patient,” Mr Sirois said.

Mr Sirois is familiar not only with the Hospice nonprofit, but has spent a great part of his life supporting various other nonprofit organizations in the area. A native of Sandy Hook, now living in Danbury, he was just 22 years old when he began serving on the board for the Ives Concert Park.

He has served as a trustee for the C.H. Booth Library in Newtown, and from 2006 until the end of 2013, Mr Sirois served on the Hospital Development Board of Danbury Hospital (now Western Connecticut Health Network).

Those experiences, he said, provided him with on the job training.

“You do learn quite a bit. I’ve been lucky to have a number of mentors along the way,” said Mr Sirois. Among them, June Renzulli, formerly the first head of development at Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut, and Grace Linhard, with whom he worked on the Hospital Development Board, provided him with a foundation he will find useful as executive director of Regional Hospice Foundation. “Grace, who is now the chief development officer with Western Connecticut Health Network, is probably one of the top fundraising executives in this area,” he said.

Work Turned Personal

Shortly after he joined the Regional Hospice board, his involvement became more personal.

“A close friend, Jeffrey White, became ill. I saw first-hand how people I’d grown up with dealt with illness and how they were helped by Hospice care. Jeffrey was only under Hospice care for two days, so at first I was uncertain how much impact it had had on the family,” said Mr Sirois. But two years later, Jeffrey White’s parents, Dolores and Jim White, were the first campaign donors to Regional Hospice Home, the 36,000-square-foot residential facility currently under construction in Danbury.

Fundraising is the primary charge of his new job, said Mr Sirois, as Regional Hospice Home heads into the final stretch of building.

“We broke ground in June, and are now at the structural steel phase of building. The foundation has achieved $6.5 million of the $10 million goal,” he said, and is at month 20 of the 36-month campaign.

As vital as the in-home care and services provided by Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut are in serving the 14 towns in the immediate Danbury area, as well as outlying towns, the new facility will meet the needs of certain terminally ill who desire a homelike atmosphere as their days play out, he said, but for whom a home life end situation is not possible.

Opening New Facility

Not all Hospice patients have a caregiver or family available to supplement Hospice care, he said, and leaving behind final memories in a home is not always desired when the patient is a terminally ill child or parent. Regional Hospice Home will open opportunities to die a dignified death in a setting as much like a residence as is possible, he said.

“This will be the first private-room Hospice residence in Connecticut,” Mr Sirois said of the Milestone Road facility. “Each of the 12 patient suites will have a private bath and living room, with accommodations for family members. It is pet friendly, as well, so that those patients with pets can still be with them,” he described the Home.

Each room opens on to a balcony, with large French doors able to accommodate wheeling a bed out into the fresh air.

Head wall machinery that normally dominates the wall behind a bed in a hospital setting, reminding patients and family of the ongoing medical interventions, will be hidden behind artwork, in Regional Hospice Home settings.

A professional chef on site will create meals, or families can cook in the family kitchen. Living rooms, a pediatric suite, a patient spa, and the Jeffrey B. White Memorial Library will add to the ambience of Regional Hospice Home, he said.

“All of this is overlooking extensive gardens and a playscape,” Mr Sirois said. The facility will be home to the Healing Hearts Center for Grieving Children and Families, as well, and administrative offices will be located within the building, he said.

“So, half of my new job is mechanical: we need good staff and a good system in place for fundraising. The other half of my job is being able to connect with those who can and are willing to support the effort,” Mr Sirois said.

Inviting Community Support

A number of public fundraising events support the new facility, including Hospice Breakfasts hosted in eight towns, including Newtown, in June. Also in June is the annual gala, and networking events throughout the year are hosted by major donors in the communities served by Regional Hospice and Home Care of Western Connecticut.

“We are very proud we have a director of special events now, Felicia Saraceno, so we will be trying to have an event on a monthly basis, some small and some larger ones,” Mr Sirois said.

“My understanding and appreciation for Hospice and its mission just continues to grow,” said Mr Sirois. “I have a tremendous energy behind this new position.”

Support of local events to benefit Regional Hospice Home is always appreciated, he said, and options are available to honor loved ones, as building progresses. Regional Hospice Home Commemorative Pavers, personally engraved, can be purchased, and will be part of the landscaping in the tribute gardens. Naming opportunities are another way honor a loved one and support the effort.

For additional information contact www.regionalhospicect.org or call Mr Sirois at 203-702-7414.

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