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Giving Tree added to annual Toast to Hope

By Staff | Nov 7, 2019

A new element was added to the Toast to Hope fundraiser this year, a Giving Tree, to be located at the Hope Care Center off Diplomat Parkway.

Area residents can now purchase a memorial, with all money raised to benefit Hope Hospice.

“We wanted it to be something permanent at the Hospice House, so it is an ongoing gift,” Toast to Hope Chair Gloria Raso Tate said.

There is a tribute garden outside the Hope Care Center, which is what the annual Toast to Hope benefits.

Tate said they wanted to provide something beautiful on the interior wall of the house. The Giving Tree will be located outside of the chapel inside the center at 2430 Diplomat Parkway E.

Individuals can purchase a copper leaf for $250 each, a silver butterfly for $500 each, a gold dove for $1,000 each and foundation stones for $2,500 each. Those who purchase an item have the opportunity to compose an inscription up to three lines with no more than 30 characters per line. Those who have questions about the Giving Tree are asked to contact Darlene Grossman at (239) 985-7758.

Tate said all the money raised from the Giving Tree will go to the house, as well as the tribute garden.

The original fundraiser came to be several years ago.

Tate said she was sitting at a venue at Tarpon Point with a colleague who shared they wanted to do an event for Hope Hospice. A woman who worked at Hospice was also there, which furthered the conversation.

Twenty-two people sit on the Toast to Hope committee, all of whom are committed to helping people understand the need for the Cape Coral Hospice House.

From there, Toast to Hope evolved at a penthouse at Marina Village with Porter Goss being the first speaker.

“That kind of set the tone for all the other parties. We decided we would do house parties, extra-special venues,” Tate said, adding that people want to come and see the venue as much as they want to take part in the event.

So far, Toast to Hope has been held at nine different homes with different people opening their residences for the party.

The last three years Connie and Gary Hogrefe have held Toast to Hope at their home on the river in North Fort Myers.

“It does border Cape Coral and the Cape Coral Hospice House is used by all of this area,” Tate said.

Before the annual party is held, all of the furniture is moved out of the house to create space for the home party.

“We want to keep it intimate and this way people feel more at home,” Tate said. “It’s really turned into a beautiful event with 110 to 135 people (attending).”

The by-invitation event is free to attend; people donate to the fundraiser.

Tate said they have been blessed every year with the Gunterberg Charitable Foundation being their sponsor.

At this year’s event, held in October, Lobster Lady Seafood owner MaryBeth Keslinger spearheaded the food effort, as well as organizing the beer and wine distributors.

“She is a force in our committee. Somehow she manages to take care of all of it. People don’t pay for a meal,” Tate said.

The food sponsors included Lobster Lady Seafood Market and Bistro, Neverminds, Big 10, Cafe You, Papa Joe’s and Paradise Pizza.

In addition to dinner, wine and beer, there was a champagne toast, a wine cork pull and silent and live auctions. There also was music — 2 Frets Down donated its time, as did harpist Alexandria Renee and soloist Stephanie Lorenz.

Hope Hospice President and CEO Samira Beckwith said Toast to Hope has become an annual celebration that recognizes the wonderful work that Hope provides for the community, all while raising funds for the special tribute garden at the Hope Care Center.

“It really is wonderful because there are so many organizations that do so much,” she said, adding that Hope Hospice recognizes all ages, illnesses, races and socioeconomic class. “We are the safety net for the community for loss and grief, illness and death. The fact that they take it on is especially special.”

The tribute garden at the Hope Cape Center has a labyrinth, which Beckwith said is a very special walk, a circle that goes into the center. The tribute garden, a beautiful meditative state, surrounds and encompasses the labyrinth.

“It’s a special path that people can walk to and meditate and think about whatever is troubling them,” she said. “We put it there for the difficult time that people are in, our patients, or family members.”

The garden was introduced at the center in the late 1990s because they knew when individuals are experiencing stress they need a spot where they can sit, relax and decompress from the stress and difficult situation.

“It’s a very special kind of location where people can find peace and comfort,” Beckwith said.

The tribute portion of the garden provides a special spot where an individual can recognize and honor a loved one that is no longer with them with tribute stones located in the garden.

In Southwest Florida, almost 60 percent of individuals choose to be cremated, Beckwith said.

“For a lot of people there is nowhere special they can go to remember someone,” she said, adding that the stone and the tribute garden provides that space. “We have a lot of family members that come to that stone at holidays, or anniversary time, or maybe a birthday of that love one. They come and sit and reflect and think of the positive memories of that person.”

Hope Hospice relies on the generosity of individuals, companies and organizations to be able to provide the special kind of care for people in their community.

“It is very important to us to have this kind of support. Without it we couldn’t do a lot of what we do for people,” she said. “We care for all people, all ages. We are here when people need us in the most critical time.”

Tate said when she began Toast to Hope her mother had just entered Hospice.

“I’ve experienced it first hand, as well as so many of my friends and family members,” she said of Hope Hospice. “Every year we do a testimonial and we have someone speak of what they have experienced. I enjoy being able to meet those people and just hear those stories.”

Tate said it’s incredible how people give.

“From the time I moved here, you see a need, this town fills the need. As people saw a need, OK, let’s fund raise this and do this,” she said, adding that the nightlife entertainment in Cape Coral is done with a purpose and a cause. “That’s what I love about this town. Everybody gives. Whatever it is. People always find a way to give. That’s what makes our personality. It’s a very giving community.”