Hospice of Laramie has named Jessica Stalder its new executive director.
Stalder, formerly a nurse at Edgewood Spring Wind, started at the position in August. She replaces former director Terri Longhurst, who died unexpectedly Feb. 20.
Stalder is a Laramie native and current member of the Laramie City Council. She has more than 10 years of experience as a registered nurse and earned a degree in business administration from the University of Wyoming in 2017.
Board chair Mario Rampulla said Stalder brings medical experience and connections among Laramie’s medical community to the position.
“We hope that she comes to the board with a lot of new ideas for Hospice’s business model and trying to increase the portfolio of services that Hospice provides in the community,” he said.
Stalder said she’s wanted to be a nurse since she was a kid, and she especially enjoys spending time with patients and working with the elderly population.
“I didn’t know that geriatrics was going to be such a good fit for me when I started, but I’ve learned so much,” she said.
Hospice of Laramie provides end-of-life care, either at a patient’s home or at the Hospice House, which opened in 2018 but has been closed since this spring. The organization also offers bereavement care for families.
“It’s a pretty special time, and we can make it a good time — positive, meaningful, comfortable,” Stalder said.
Stalder is in the midst of her first term on the city council, as she was elected in 2018. She said her time there increased her understanding of Laramie’s nonprofit community long before she ever considered joining Hospice.
“I’ve been a lot more aware of all the different nonprofits in the community through city council,” she said. “What all these agencies do is so important.”
Stalder said Hospice is planning to begin offering a palliative care program, which is care for a patient living with a serious illness. Care focuses on comfort and symptom relief, with the goal of improving the quality of life.
She’s also hoping to find other ways to establish deeper relationships with patients and the community.
“I’ve got some ideas about how we can expand Hospice’s services, because I think they’re so good,” she said.
The Hospice House, located at 1754 Centennial Dr., was a hallmark achievement of Longhurst’s tenure. The house provides round-the-clock care for up to six patients at a time. It has a common area, library, children’s room and kitchen. Each private suite has a family area and separate patient room.
A non-denominational sanctuary is overseen by Chaplain Lou Farley, who leads a weekly prayer session at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays. The house also has an ambulance bay and top-of-the-line nurse station. The goal is to allow families to remain together during their stay.
Longhurst ushered the project from inception to completion, including securing a $1 million grant from the Wyoming Business Council and then meeting grant requirements early so the property could be transferred from Albany County to Hospice in late 2019.
Rampulla said Hospice has had a difficult six months, but the hope is to re-open the house soon.
“The organization has still been providing outpatient care services while continuing to scrutinize the business model to determine the best path forward in opening up the facility,” he said.
Stalder said she’s hoping proceeds from the upcoming Virtual Wine Gala fundraiser could be a springboard to opening the house. A private donor is matching all donations up to $100,000.
“It’s a wonderful facility, and it’s not doing anybody any good with the doors closed,” she said.
The Wine Gala is scheduled for 7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 via Facebook Live. Tickets are $60, and a silent auction will open the week before.