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Phoebe Reopens Renovated Community Trail At Willson Hospice House

Albany, GA | February 28, 2022 – Phoebe is encouraging the community to utilize the renovated Lopez Trail at Willson Hospice House.  The 1.3 mile loop and several offshoots meander through beautiful woods and wetlands on the hospice property in west Albany adjacent to Albany State University’s West Campus.

“The trails have been an extremely calming and therapeutic place for family members who have loved ones at Willson Hospice House.  It gives them an opportunity to get outside and be in nature, surrounded by calmness, to meditate and pray,” said Jennifer Stephens, Phoebe Hospice Executive Director.

The trail opened along with Willson Hospice House in 2010 and is named in honor of Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez, who supported Phoebe Hospice by hosting an annual fundraising golf tournament for many years.

“Willson Hospice House is one of the most beautiful hospice facilities in the country, and it truly belongs to our community.  It only exists because of the generosity of people of this community, and we want them to enjoy this amazing wilderness oasis that is in the middle of the city,” said Scott Steiner, Phoebe Putney Health System President & Chief Executive Officer.  “We invite people to improve their physical and emotional wellness by walking, running or biking on these trails and taking in the serenity and beauty of the surroundings,” Steiner added.

The trail includes several overlooks and seven Audubon Wildlife Points of Interest, as well as a 188 foot-long boardwalk.  Over the years, storms knocked down trees in the area and the amenities suffered weather damage and wear and tear.  Over the last few months, Phoebe crews cleared the trails and pressure washed the wooden facilities, and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) volunteers rebuilt seven crosswalks and the large boardwalk.

“When you’re out there, you feel like you’re out in the middle of nowhere, even though the college is just a few hundred yards away.  It’s just a neat place to be,” said Jim Hill RSVP Ramp Builders Team Leader.

The RSVP ramp project is a partnership between Phoebe and the SOWEGA Council on Aging.  The volunteers typically build wheelchair ramps at the homes of people in need, but they were excited to have the opportunity to help with the hospice trail project.  “We really enjoyed the project.  I had some family members who passed away at the hospice house and several of the other guys know people who have used the services, so it just meant a lot to participate in something there,” Hill said.  “Everybody I’ve ever talked to who has used the trail while they had family at hospice said it did them a lot of good.”

The ramp builders volunteered more than 700 manhours on the trail project.  “They really jumped into it, and they were happy to do it,” Hill said.

At a rededication and ribbon cutting ceremony Monday morning, Phoebe presented the ramp builders with an appreciation plaque that will be permanently displayed in Willson Hospice House in recognition of their service.  “Those guys are some of the most dedicated community servants I have ever known.  They love what they do, and Phoebe is proud to support them.  I hope people in the Albany area realize how lucky we are to have them and how much good they do for others,” Steiner said.

Willson Hospice House is a beneficiary of the annual Albany Snickers Marathon.  Because of a temporary change in the race route this year, the course will take runners through the hospice property for the first time during this Saturday’s race.  “That is so cool. We’re so proud to show off our facility,” Stephens said.  “We’re going to have a water station out here, and our team has signed up to volunteer, so we can thank the runners and show our appreciation for how the race helps us.”

Stephens hopes, with the improvements to the trail and the added attention from the marathon, more people will start using the trail.  “Just the other night I saw a man with his two dogs, and I stopped and asked him how he liked the trails.  He said, ‘they’re wonderful.’  He’s been coming ever since a couple of his family members were patients here, and he was so excited to see the improvements.  I hope lots of other people will be impressed, too,” Stephens said.

Phoebe Hospice employs around 30 people and provides home care, respite care and inpatient care to approximately 600 patients each year.  Volunteers are needed to provide companionship for patients, assist with administrative tasks and help with special activities.  Anyone wanting to help can call Phoebe Volunteer Services at 229-312-4331, and anyone wanting to donate to support services at Phoebe Hospice can do so through the Phoebe Foundation.