Times Observer reporter earns recognition for hospice articles

Times Observer staff writer Stacey Gross has been recognized by a state hospice and palliative care network for a series of stories published last year on the volunteers that serve with Hospice of Warren County.

The Journalism Award – which recognizes “pieces aimed at increasing community awareness of the hospice and palliative concept of care” – is given by the Pennsylvania Hospice and Palliative Care Network and will be formally presented to Gross next Monday in Harrisburg.

“I nominated Stacey for her tremendous pieces last year that covered all of our volunteer activities,” Lisa To, executive director of Hospice of Warren County, said. “Stacey ‘gets it’ when it comes to what hospice and palliative care are about, and I felt it important to recognize her in a special way for that, and for her work in this regard.

“Stacey is terrific and her free spirit is unique… Her coverage last year of each of the volunteer aspects of Hospice of Warren County was huge – it was her idea to feature each independently and her work ultimately ended up with her taking our volunteer training classes.”

Gross said she was “surprised” when told of the award and added, “honesty, I did not even know that there was an award and I certainly did not expect to be nominated for it, let alone win it.”

“In my experience in attending the conference, most award winners have come from the Harrisburg/Lancaster/Philadelphia areas, so I’m thrilled that little Northwest, Pa. has a winner,” To said.

For Gross, involvement with hospice has personal connections.

“My grandmother received care from HOWC when she died in 2000. I was too young and dealing with too much of my own stuff to realize the extent of their help, but I do remember my family being comforted by their involvement,” she said.

As the volunteer interviews unfolded in 2017, Gross said she was “just struck by the fact that everyone who volunteers there is genuinely passionate about the organization and there was no ego involved. The more people I talked to, the more independently verified the honesty and altruistic motivation of their collective efforts became… One of the things that I heard from the first volunteer I interviewed, and that I continued to hear consistently throughout the series, was that it was an honor to be invited into a patient and a family’s space at such a sacred and existentially delicate time. And it truly is.”

And the genuine blessing that such service can be marginalizes the award for her.

“I mean, it’s great that they have an award to recognize the efforts of staff and volunteers, but honestly, It feels awkward to accept it,” said Gross. “Being able to provide any measure of comfort at that time in a family or a patient’s life, no matter how small, is already a huge reward. And it even feels wrong to be gaining anything from it in that way, let alone be recognized. I just can’t say enough good things about the agency. It’s a pleasure and an honor to be able to be involved.”