New director on board at Loving Care Hospice

Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
In a changing of the guard, K. Joe Gossett (left) takes over where Wendy Starr leaves off as executive director of Loving Care, a non-profit that provides hospice, home health, and daily living services to individuals in Madison and Union counties.

K. Joe Gossett, the new executive director of Loving Care Hospice, knows firsthand the value of hospice and home health services.

His wife died at age 34. Thanks to hospice care, she was able to attend a weekly bible study until the time of her death and spend her last days at home. Gossett’s parents are in their 80s and benefit from home health visits.

"It’s the kind of resource you don’t think about until you need it—whether it’s basic help around the home or end-of-life issues," said Gossett, whose mission is to make the community very aware of Loving Care’s services.

The Hillsboro, Ohio, native has spent the last 20 years working for non-profit organizations across the country. He most recently worked in California for Home-Aid, a non-profit that provides housing for families and individuals who are tempo-rarily homeless. His experience also en-compasses health-related initiatives, in-cluding a group that sets up sight-restor-ing clinics manned by volunteer doctors in other countries.

In his recent job search, Gossett received offers to preside as president at a small Christian college and to head up a literacy project in Appalachia, among others. All offered him ways to positively impact the quality of people’s lives—but not as directly as he can with Loving Care and not with services he deems to be the most important ones he personally has received.

"I was very attracted to this particular organization because of two key aspects it has that are important to the service they do," he said. "First, the professional technical care Loving Care provides is of high quality. The second thing is that the staff is very compassion-oriented. Loving Care has been able to historically attract those special people to get involved."

Gossett earned a bachelor’s degree from The Ohio State University’s School of Social Work and Community Organiza-tion. He studied social program planning through a joint graduate program put on by Rutgers and Princeton universities, after which he studied health planning at the University of Manchester in England. He went on to Harvard’s Graduate School of Business for studies in non-profit executive management.

He is in the process of finding a permanent new home in Madison County. Easing the transition is the fact that he has family in Ohio and grew up on a farm.

Loving Care serves Madison and Union counties with offices in London and Marysville. For more information, call 740-852-7755.

Wendy Starr will retire

Gossett replaces Wendy Starr, who has served as Loving Care’s executive director since 2000. She will retire from the organization on May 14, 2009, her 60th birthday, to pursue her family law practice full-time.

Between now and then, Starr will prepare Loving Care for hospice policy changes that go into effect on Dec. 2. She also will work on accreditation for the agency.

"I’m proudest of the privilege I’ve had of developing the staff and of the services here, but especially the staff… They are the reason Loving Care is the organization it is," she said.

Starr has been a part of Loving Care since its beginnings in 1993. She joined the board in 1994 and served as interim executive director for a year in the late ’90s. In 2000, she was asked to hold the job again temporarily when laws changed about Medicare reimbursement.

"I thought it was going to be six months. When it got to be eight months, I knew that I was here for good," said Starr of the job, which started as part-time and, as the organization grew, became full-time. When she started, Loving Care employed nine people. Now, there are 42 employees and 50 volunteers.

Starr said she feels good about the time she has spent in hospice work. It dates back to 1974 when she, serving as director of social services at Madison County Hospital, Jo Hollander, the hospital’s home health director, and Episcopal priest Tom Timmons started the first hospice in Madison County and only the fourth in Ohio at that time. She later served as director of the program from 1982 to 1992 before joining the Loving Care Hospice board a couple of years later.

"Working with hospice helps you to keep your priorities clarified," Starr said. "Over and over, I’ve realized that I’m exchanging my life for what I choose to do with my time."

For the last 24 years, that has been hospice. Now, she will spend that time putting her law degree from Capital Univer-sity to work by helping other non-profits get incorporated, mediating domestic issues among families, and serving as guardian for adults who need help.

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