During her orientation in 1997, three volunteers — Sammie Greisbach, Sister Leona Luechtefeld, and Betty Buckley — told Rebecca Wisdom, Hospice of Southern Illinois CEO for the last 19 years, “never lose sight of what we are, what is expected… and the tradition, care and heart.”
Hospice of Southern Illinois started 35 years ago from a community need. It is a community, not-for-profit hospice program serving 27 counties in southern Illinois. The commitment at Hospice of Southern Illinois is to be with patients and their loved ones through the changing needs of the end-of-life process and the grief experience.
While Wisdom has been in the lead for for nearly two decades, she said it has been the diligent volunteers who have ensured what the organization is and will continue to be. They have been the wind beneath wings, lifting her up and supporting her.
“I can leave this experience for my next journey, because of the people who are here. I can exhale, because it’s not about me the CEO leaving, it’s about the mission, tradition and heart of those who are here: the leaders, employees, volunteers and community,” said Wisdom, who lives in Shiloh.
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Wisdom began her professional career as a social worker upon graduating from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. She has worked in home health and hospice all of her career. She became a director for another hospice in southern Illinois. That position then led her to the “meant-to-be” CEO post at Hospice of Southern Illinois.
In reflecting on her time at Hospice of Southern Illinois, Wisdom said she is most proud of never losing sight of the mission.
“If it were not for our mission, the care we provide, and the dedication of our employees and volunteers, I would not feel as confident that this is the right time for me to say goodbye to something I am so passionate about,” she said.
Wisdom said many of the organizations referrals come from those who experience the mission, the care and the people.
“While health care is always evolving, the trust of families is constant and the honor of caring for their loved ones will never be forgotten,” she said.
Although retiring, which she will do at the end of the year, is one of the hardest things she has ever had to do, Wisdom has faith that she will “be planted where she needs to grow.”
Wisdom said she is looking forward to re-establishing relationships, taking time to breathe and maybe dabble in some gardening, crocheting, and traveling, but only to put the people she loves first as they have been supporting her all this time.
“Life happens, and you have to do what’s right for your family,” she said.