"Hospice" is a word that means different things to different people.
Mostly it is a word that brings up images of nurses, social workers, chaplains, doctors, and volunteers who work with seriously ill patients in kind and caring ways.
The local agency, Hospice Of The Carolina Foothills has provided a high level of care for its patients for decades.
And for lovers of thrift store shopping, the word "Hospice" brings up the Oak Street, Forest City store and the Thrift Barn near I-26 in Landrum.
"We are so fortunate to have this level of community support," Heidi Owen said of the customer and volunteer base that keeps the two stores humming.
And hum they do.
With clothing, jewelry, nicknacks, books, toys, furniture, household items, movies, music, electronics, a great variety of treasures, the two stores offer a bargain hunter's dream.
Net income from the two stores last year was $863,675, according to Owen, who is the organization's vice president of business development. Those funds go to pay for room and board for the uninsured at the Hospice House on Hudlow Road in Forest City.
About two thirds of the people who use the Hospice House cannot afford the room and board, the costs which are not covered by Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance.
"Not all agencies have this kind of support for people who can't afford to pay," Owen said.
Many Hospice agencies are for-profit; and they depend totally on private pay, insurance, Medicare and Medicaid. By depending on that kind of income, many of these agencies cannot serve people who cannot pay.
Hospice Of The Carolina Foothills can serve these people at a critical time in the life of a family or a patient.
Visitors to the facility on Hudlow Road will find one hallway which is decorated with photos of almost every church house in Rutherford County. That says a lot as the extraordinary work of the organization is supported by many of those churches and by the people who attend them. The scriptures which inspire those church goers contain over 2,000 orders to serve those who lack the ability to pay.
Think about the man found beaten on the Jericho Road who was served by the Good Samaritan. Not only was he whooped pretty bad, but he lacked the ability to pay for the care he needed.
The agency on Hudlow Road serves people who lack the ability to pay for the care they need.
Owen said, "I feel honored to do my job or I wouldn't have stayed here 26 years."
The first Hospice Thrift Store in Forest City opened 20 years ago. It has been in four different locations.
"Hopefully the one on Oak Street will be the last one," she said.
Covid19 forced both stores to close in March, at which point both were thoroughly cleaned. The week before the reopen there was another thorough cleaning; and Owen said, "We are following all protocols: gloves, masks, plexiglass barriers at the cash registers. We also quarantine all donations for two weeks and spray them with alcohol, denatured alcohol. We have spent thousands of dollars to protect our employees, volunteers, and customers; and it's not over."
While Owen is a bit reserved and professional in her enthusiasm for the Hospice work and its community support from the thrift stores, store manager Rodney Lattimore is an evangelist with heartfelt enthusiasm.
"We had a woman in our church who was delighted with her Hospice Care. She was actually joyful; and I just felt this was an opportunity for me to combine my experience in retail with this wonderful ministry and service to the community," Lattimore said. That inspiring relationship took place at Chimney Rock Baptist where he was minister of music. Lattimore has worked in a number of retail settings including big box stores and gun battles at Ghost Town In The Sky.