HOUGHTON - Walking down the halls of Omega House in Houghton, Ray Weglarz and Carol Johnson Pfefferkorn quietly chatted.
The atmosphere was calm and sunlight cast rays of light on the nearby fish tank.
"Wouldn't this painting look great in the Meditation Room?" Weglarz asked Pfefferkorn of a brightly colored piece by Mary Ann Beckwith hanging on a nearby wall.
Stacey Kukkonen/Daily Mining Gazette
Ray Weglarz, left, and Carol Johnson Pfefferkorn, right, pose with Mike Abbott, center, president of the Omega House board at the Omega House in Houghton. Weglarz and Pfefferkorn have both taken on new roles at Omega House.
The duo will be making a lot of decisions together - they are now splitting a job left by Sandra Lewin, who has taken a new post with the Pine Mountain Music Festival.
Pfefferkorn is the new outreach and events coordinator at Omega House while Weglarz will be taking over the role of director of community relations.
"I've been in this position for one week," Pfefferkorn said, taking a seat in the Meditation Room with Weglarz.
This is Weglarz's third week, and already, they've been working on familiarizing themselves with the new jobs, planning fundraising events and getting to know volunteers.
"I'll be putting together events and doing marketing for events," Pfefferkorn said.
Her first job is working with a veterans' program at Finlandia University, which will be held at the Finnish American Heritage Center and will feature two guest speakers who are physicians and veterans.
"They will be offering presentations to vets," she said. "They will make them aware of Medicare and benefits they may be eligible for."
She will also work on the Omega House golf tournament, summer concerts and various fundraising events that engage the community.
Weglarz will be working with public speaking on behalf of Omega House, and also looking for any community group which wants a presentation about Omega House and hospice care.
"I will come to their community group, which could be a church group, veterans' service organization or health care organization," he said.
Weglarz will also work with the annual report, newsletters and donor relations, as well.
The board decided the job held by Lewin needed to be split in order to maximize efforts. The idea is to create more flexibility and a team synergistic effect. Weglarz said this will keep them from running thin.
Pfefferkorn is semi-retired and lived in Madison, Wis., where she worked in health care as an education director. She also worked with for Gov. Jim Doyle developing training for the Office of Justice Assistance. Once she retired, she moved to the Copper Country and is taking on the new position part-time.
"My husband went through hospice, so I have personal experience with it," she said. "I understand the need and the importance."
Weglarz worked for 15 years as a registered nurse and spent 17 years in hospice and end-of-life care. He worked for Keweenaw Home Nursing and Hospice as a program manager and helped start the first Medicare-certified hospice in the Copper Country in 1993.
"That really was my passion for many years," he said. When the opportunity arose to move into the position, Weglarz and Pfefferkorn were eager to take on the responsibility. "I really believe in the value of hospice and end-of-life care," Weglarz said.
Omega House offers a place for people who are at the end of life to find peace and comfort in their last days.
While the operational costs are still there, Weglarz stressed the importance of family being with loved ones during those last few days, and fundraising helps alleviate some costs.
"A day of care at Omega House costs just over $200," he said. "The room and board paid by residents and their families for care amounts to approximately 50 percent of what it costs to operate the house."
To keep operation costs as low as possible, the Omega House relies heavily on volunteers, averaging three volunteers per day.
"There is a lot of interest," Pfefferkorn said.
Using a number of diverse programs, such as events, concerts and annual campaigns, the staff at Omega House work to raise money year-round.
They also welcome unsolicited gifts from the community from the generosity of their hearts, he said.
"There are so many ways people can give to support Omega House," Weglarz said.
Some families opt to leave the Omega House money in their wills or contribute through their estates.
At the end of the day, the important thing is always making sure the individual who seeks care at Omega House is comfortable and happy. Weglarz said there is a lot of living an individual does during the last few days of their life where they can share quality, intimate time with their loved ones without their loved ones having to act as a caregiver.
"If that time is spent with severe pain, nausea and shortness of breath, it's very hard to enjoy that time," he said. "It's important that Omega House staff follow a care plan developed by the patient's doctor and hospice program."
During their time with Omega House, Pfefferkorn said she would like to see the fundraising grow and perhaps one day see the physical building expand as the baby boomer generation is getting older.
"I think there's a vital need for the Omega House in the community," she said. "The need for this kind of service is going to expand."
Weglarz said he hopes to be able to broaden the base of support within the community to expand to more organizations.
He said it would be nice to someday have an endowment large enough to support the operations of the house so no one who comes has to pay.
"I think broadening our base of support will position us to consider an endowment campaign in the future," he said.
He credits their predecessors, for thrusting fundraising into the spotlight and making it a priority.
"They really tied it all together," Pfefferkorn said.