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Press Room

HOWC Media Contact:


Darcy Dye, PR Manager
office 919-828-0890
cell 919-749-3088
email ddye@hospiceofwake.org


Celebrating life since 1979, Hospice of Wake County provides physical, emotional and spiritual care to those living with an advanced illness, their caregivers, and those who have lost a loved one – regardless of age, race, religion or financial circumstances.

Our service area includes Wake, Johnston, Franklin, Durham, and Harnett counties, as well as southeast Orange County (Chapel Hill and Carrboro). Guided by community-based boards of directors and supported by a dedicated professional staff, our goal is to provide compassionate hospice care that allows patients to enjoy every moment of their lives to the fullest.

Hospice of Wake County is the oldest, largest and most experienced hospice organization in the area. Since 1979, we have provided compassionate end-of-life care and have earned a reputation for outstanding professional expertise in helping families experience quality of life . . . throughout life.

Today, our professional staff and trained volunteers provide expert medical care and supportive services to more than 1,500 families each year. To help meet the complex needs of families, these services include: counseling support for families, short-term respite care, spiritual care and counseling, volunteer support, bereavement care, transitional home health care, palliative care, and end-of-life education.

Our goal is to ensure that our families...

  • Receive the pain control and symptom management appropriate for their physical, emotional, spiritual, and cultural needs.
  • Attain peace of mind about death and dying. 
  • Acquire coping skills with the help of our caring and professional support. 
  • Plan ahead so wishes are honored.



Hospice of Wake County is a beacon for end of life care in our community. As the largest provider of end of life care in Wake County, we are developing partnerships with healthcare professionals, faith communities and community volunteers to insure access to quality end of life care to all. 

   - John Thoma, CEO 


Every individual deserves the quality of life that he or she wants near life's end. Although we receive reimbursement from Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, no family is ever denied care due to lack of a payor source.

Hospice of Wake County’s staff includes physicians, spiritual care counselors, bereavement counselors, nurses, nursing assistants, clinical counselor and social workers, trained volunteers, nutritionists, physical, occupational and speech therapists.



You can reach us using any of the following information:

Phone: 919-828-0890 or 888-900-3959
Email: Contact Us form
Mail: 250 Hospice Circle
Raleigh, NC 27607
Fax: 919-719-0395



Memberships, accreditations and licenses
  • ACHC (Accreditation Commission for Health Care, Inc.), Medicare- and Medicaid-accredited, licensed and certified
  • member of National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), Association for Home and Hospice Care (AHHC), Carolinas Center for Hospice & End of Life Care, United Way of the Greater Triangle, and local Chambers of Commerce
Hospice of Wake County…
  • Oldest and most experienced hospice provider in Wake County region, providing services for patients and their families since 1979. 
  • Only non-profit hospice provider based in the Wake County region; a United Way of the Greater Triangle Agency of Excellence.
  • Serves Wake, Franklin, Johnston, Durham, and Harnett Counties, as well as southeast Orange County 
  • Strong base of more than 400 specially trained, active volunteers. 
  • Volunteer board of directors that includes leaders from both the medical and business community. 
  • Horizons Grief Center is the bereavement program for adults and children. Staffed by master’s level, experienced counselors with expertise in grief and loss. Services available even if family member did not receive Hospice services. 
  • Funding breakdown for 2010: 79% patient revenue, 21% community support. No one is denied services because of inability to pay. 
  • Patient diagnoses: 56% cancer, 7% neurological (e.g., ALS, dementia), 7% heart disease, 7% lung conditions, 4% failure to thrive, 19% other. 
  • Average daily census = 300. 
Team Approach
  • Highly credentialed and experienced staff includes physicians, registered nurses, licensed clinical social workers, spiritual care counselors, certified bereavement counselors, and volunteers. 
  • Dedicated services available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for patients wherever they live (e.g., private home, assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility). 
  • Patient and families decide their goals for care and select the services and frequencies that can best help them achieve these goals.
Volunteer Opportunities
  • Volunteers are provided with training related to the opportunity they select.
  • Volunteers having direct contact with the patients and their families complete 18 hours of training that focuses on an understanding of hospice care, being part of the care team, communication and listening skills, and self-care.
  • Office volunteers complete a 10 hour orientation to Hospice of Wake County with additional training provided for their particular task.
  • Volunteers also receive ongoing support and education through a mentor program and monthly meetings.
  • A person who wishes to become a volunteer must complete an application, which will be followed by a personal meeting with the Manager of Volunteer Services. All volunteers must supply reference information and authorize a background check.

Admin building opened November 2009 and hospice home opened January 2010:

  • 48,079 square feet comprised of an administrative and community building with 27,467 sq ft., the spiritual sanctuary with 1047 sq. ft., and the hospice home with 19,565 sq ft. on 8 acres of land
  • 14 in-patient beds for those with acute needs
  • 6 residential beds for those for whom home care is not appropriate


  • Storm water conservation system includes a cistern that captures and recycles up to 50,000 gallons of storm water runoff and air conditioner condensation
  • Compact florescent, traditional florescent and LED lights 
  • Maximized sunlight through use of windows and cupolas 
  • Windows that open allowing for natural ventilation
  • Low-E windows
  • Additional building insulation in walls and on exterior surface to increase energy efficiency and reduce environmental impact of ongoing operation
  • Heat pumps with exterior thermostats for improved efficiency and patient comfort



John Thoma, CEO

John Thoma is a graduate of Boston University where he received a B. A. degree in Spanish. He continued studies at Tufts University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Non-Profit Institute and Tufts University School of Continuing Education concentrating in Community Economic Development and Non-Profit Management. John joined Hospice of Wake County in 1991 and has served in the capacity of Finance/MIS Manager and Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed Chief Executive Officer in August 2002. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, John has been a resident of Raleigh since 1990. In addition to his role as Chief Executive Officer, John serves on the Board of Trustees for the Hospice of Wake County Foundation and is very active in promoting quality end-of-life care at the state and national levels. John serves on the Board of the United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) and the NC Association for Home and Hospice Care (AHHC). Nationally, John has served on the National Hospice and Palliative Care (NHPCO) Governance Committee and currently serves on the Quality and Standards Committee. 

Michael Blanchard, MA, Vice President of Development

Mike Blanchard received a B. A. degree with high honors in English and Religious Studies from the University of Virginia and subsequently earned an M. A. degree in English from Indiana University. Later, Mike relocated to North Carolina where he focused on graduate studies in English at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Mike served as Director of Personnel and Support Services for Hamilton Medical Center Hospital in Lafayette (now known as Medical Center of Southwest Louisiana), as Executive Director of the Volunteer Center of Lafayette and he then held dual appointments as Executive Director of the Hospice Foundation of Acadiana and Director of Community Education for the Hospice of Acadia. While in Lafayette, Mike also served as a consultant for Foundations in Leadership in addition to serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Louisiana. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mike moved to Raleigh in July 2007 to join Hospice of Wake County, where he serves as Vice President of Development.

Cooper Linton, MBA, MSHA, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development

Cooper Linton graduated from Birmingham-Southern College with a BS in Business Administration. He subsequently received an Master's degree in Healthcare Administration and a Master's in Business Administration from the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he also completed his Graduate Certificate in Gerontology.  Cooper has served the healthcare industry with a focus on home- and community-based care. He previously served as an Administrator of both home health and hospice companies. His background includes several years of experience in sales planning, sales force management and business strategy design as well as quality improvement initiatives. Born and raised in rural north Alabama, Cooper relocated to the triangle area in 1999. He joined Hospice of Wake County in 2005 as the Director of Operations for the purpose of developing the new inpatient facility.

Toni Messler, Vice President of Finance and Operations

Toni Messler graduated magna cum laude from Meredith College with a degree in business administration. She has served the medical field as an office manager for physician practices and within hospital settings. Toni joined HOWC in 1993 initially serving in the positions of business manager and staff accountant. She was appointed vice president of finance and operations in 2002. Born and raised in New Jersey, Toni has lived in the Triangle area since the 1980s.

Betty Sawyer, RN, BSN, Director of Regulatory Affairs

Betty Sawyer earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She completed studies at Lenoir Community College and Lenoir Memorial Hospital School of Nursing; at all three institutions, Betty earned honors. Betty joined Hospice of Wake County in 1990 as a nurse case manager. Through the years, she has transitioned to nurse supervisor, performance improvement and staff development manager, supervisor of home health, and currently serves as director of regulatory affairs. Betty has created efficiencies for the agency, including the recommendation of on call voicemail reports; initiated the transition of aide scheduling from paper to electronic; set up electronic records for policies, procedures, and regulations; as well as methodology for OASIS data collection using Misys (now Allscripts) software. She has served as liaison for JCAHO accreditation, ACHC accreditation, Medicare, and licensure surveys, and currently facilitates the Hospice Provider Network’s clinical/performance improvement committee, and serves on Carolinas Center compliance workgroup and AHHC's compliance committee.


  • [1977] Dr. Billy Dunlap, a hematologist and oncologist in Raleigh, reads an article on the hospice movement. He realizes the need for services for terminal patients in the Triangle. He attends an organizational meeting of a grassroots movement for hospice care in the Triangle also attended by Kathleen Townsend, a primary-care nurse at Rex Hospital. They become the founding members of the first Board of Directors of Hospice of Wake County, along with Derenda James, a nurse at Wake Med.
  • [1979] Hospice of Wake County is started by Dr. Dunlap, with one staff member and 20 volunteers. The first patient is admitted, a young child with leukemia. Five more patients are served that year.
  • [1980-2000] Hospice of Wake County institutes a popular annual fundraiser, Oktoberfest.
  • [1988] Hospice of Wake County receives Medicare.
  • [1989] Hospice of Wake County has 25 staff members and 227 volunteers, serves 257 patients, and makes 9,600 patient visits.
  • [1990] Hospice of Wake County’s yearly budget exceeds $1 million for the first time.
  • [1992] Horizons Home Health program launched. Hospice of Wake County Board of Directors creates Hospice of Wake County Foundation, Inc.
  • [1993] Hospice of Wake County’s Reflections program, a child-focused grief counseling service, is initiated.
  • [1999] Hospice of Wake County has 60 staff members and 250 volunteers, serves 690 patients, and makes 23,700 patient visits.
  • [2005] Horizons Palliative Care program launched. Marketing begins on Build Hospice capital campaign private phase.
  • [2007] North Carolina’s Council of State awards 8.7 acres of land for the area’s first independent, free-standing hospice facility to be built off Trinity Road, Cary.
  • [2009] Hospice of Wake County celebrates 30 years on February 6 with staff, volunteers, Board members and special guests. In attendance were two of the founders, Dr. Billy Dunlap and Kathleen Townsend.
  • [2010] Hospice of Wake County opens the area's first freestanding hospice facilty.  Hospice of Wake County is inducted into the Raleigh Hall of Fame.
  • [2011] Hospice of Wake County and Hospice of Harnett County merge to enhance access to non-profit hospice care.
  • [2011] On May 24, Hospice of Wake County's campus was dedicated as the Reid S. Towler Campus, thanks to the generosity of Mr. Towler and his $1 million gift in 2010.
  • [2011] Hospice of Harnett County celebrates 25 years on November 6 with staff, volunteers, Board members and special guests. 
  • [2012] HOWC surpasses 300 hospice patients on daily census for the first time.


Click here for a list of press releases distributed by Hospice of Wake County.

Click here for a list of Hospice of Wake County publications.


Copyright © 2013, Hospice of Wake County

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