Alberni hospice society offers free services

May is coming up as Palliative Care Month

With May coming up as Hospice Palliative Care Month, the Alberni Valley Hospice Society wants the public to know about the many free services they offer in the community.

Through the society, people can access one-on-one grief counseling, group support, vigil sitting, walking groups, education on advance care planning and wellness clinics. Services are provided at the society’s office, 3088 Third Ave., other areas in the community or at residents’ homes. Working with a small staff, the society is grateful for the more than 70 volunteers that help run the programs.

Hospice Palliative Care is aimed at relieving and improving the quality of life for people who are living with, or dying from, advanced illness or are bereaved.

The Alberni Valley Hospice provides palliative care in the community at Ty Watson House, in their main office and in clients’ homes.

Since 2008, Ty Watson House has welcomed more than 300 people. The 103-year-old house, located on Second Avenue, overlooks the Alberni Inlet and includes four resident beds for respite and end of life care. In this setting, Island Health medical staff work alongside Alberni Valley Hospice Society to ensure individuals, loved ones and their families are cared for. Ty Watson House is the only free standing hospice house on Vancouver Island and only one of three in B.C.

Chris Mellin, Ty Watson House manager, said there are close to 56 volunteers in the hospice house and even more who work in the community supporting those near the end of their lives.

“Volunteers go and sit with [clients] all night and somebody will be with them until they pass, so they’re not alone,” Mellin said.

Recently, more people in their 20’s have come to the hospice society to volunteer.

“Young people bring a different dimension and a different experience so that’s why it’s so nice,” she said.

Mellin said she often gets asked how it is that she can work in such a unique atmosphere.

“I really don’t know how to explain it. I think a lot of it has to do with your thoughts about death and dying and I find it incredibly rewarding and a privilege to be there at this time in someone’s life, and to help them and the family go through it because it’s going to happen to every one of us,” Mellin said.

“I’m hoping that when I go I have something like the hospice.”

To provide the services that they do, the hospice society depends heavily on donations. Upcoming fundraising events include; the Black Ty Gala on Saturday, May 27. With a “Starry Night” theme, this event is an evening of auctions and dining at Echo Centre. Tickets are $100 (eligible for a $60 tax receipt).

The second annual Butterfly Release will take place on Saturday, June 17 at Canal Beach where Painted Lady butterflies will be released. Butterflies are $25 each or 10 for $200 and are available for purchase at the hospice office or on their website (

The hospice also holds meat draws twice a week: Sundays at the Kingsway Hotel from 3- 5 p.m. and Wednesday at the Westwind Pub from 5-7 p.m.

“We love what we do and we are honoured to be a part of a community that supports us back,” said Gretchen Carlson, Alberni Valley Hospice Society executive director.

For more information visit or call 250-723-4478.