El Reno became home to the first hospice in central Oklahoma 30 years ago when Russell-Murray Hospice was founded.
For the past three decades the nonprofit organization has helped those in the process of dying, as well as the family and friends who love them.
The hospice marked its 30-year anniversary Nov. 28.
“It’s all about helping people,” said hospice founder and executive director Vicki Myers. “Our success is due to the ongoing dedication of many loyal and committed employees who have considered the RMH mission to be their calling.”
While El Reno is the main office, RMH has expanded to include Weatherford, Kingfisher and Oklahoma City. The organization serves the communities of a 75-mile radius around El Reno.
Myers and co-founder Cathie Sales were inspired to form the organization during their career as registered nurses.
“During college, we both realized that we were interested in helping people deal with death and dying,” said Myers. “Later, we both became home health nurses and determined that our community truly needed a hospice program.”
The founders also had personal experience with the loss of loved ones. The name Russell-Murray was inspired by Myers’ father, John Russell, and Sales’ father, Hardee Murray, who both died in their 50’s from terminal illness.
Thanks to their status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Russell-Murray has the ability to help anyone with a terminal illness, regardless of their insurance or financial situation. Any terminally ill person with a life expectancy of six months or less is eligible for services.
The aim of hospice is to provide a better quality of life for the incurably sick. Comprehensive programs allow Russell-Murray to make the final days of patients’ lives comfortable and fulfilling. Staff members work to comfort family members both before and after death.
“Our medical and surgical experience all led us to believe we could make a difference,” said Myers.
“And I believe that we have helped a lot of people, and the organization will continue to do so as long as the communities have a need for it.”
Russell-Murray is made up of 52 employees and 32 volunteers. Myers credited many people with helping the hospice become what it is today, including Rosemary Klepper, who has helped with clinical and operational matters from the very beginning. Dr. Clinton R. Strong is the physician for the El Reno branch, and Dr. Michael Furgeson is the RMH medical director.
And Myers said there are many more.
“Our mission over the last 30 years has remained firm due to the dedicated employees who have been here since the beginning, as well as all the newer ones that have joined us over the years.”
Myers said she plans to retire soon to spend more time with her husband, Mark.
Even after she’s gone, Myers said she is confident the hospice will continue its legacy of comfort and mercy for decades to come.
“Our plan has always been for this to be a long-term program, and it will exist long after we aren’t a part of it anymore. That’s why we made it a nonprofit rather than becoming owners of it. Russell-Murray will always be here as long as there’s a need for it and as long as it’s being supported. I think it could still be operating another 30 years from now.”
Russell-Murray El Reno is located at 2001 Park View Drive. For more information, call 405-262-3088 or visit rmhospice.org.