News and Updates

Below are the latest news and updates from Cornerstone Hospice. Be sure to check out our events section for a calendar of our upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

New Cornerstone Hospice Call Center provides round-the-clock care

Tavares, Fla. (February 26, 2014) – For a caregiver whose loved one is dealing with a life-limiting illness, nights and weekends can seem especially long. If the patient is very uncomfortable or symptoms seem out of the ordinary, the ability to speak to a “live person,” instead of an answering service, can bring tremendous comfort to the family member and patient.

 Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care now operates an afterhours Call Center, staffed by registered nurses who specialize in triage. The experienced hospice nurses field calls from Cornerstone patients and families across the organization’s seven-county region.

 “The Triage nurses provide support for families and are able to reassure the callers,” said Desiree Kalarovich, RN, Cornerstone Hospice Call Center and on call Supervisor. “We had many surprised patients and caregivers when they find out nurses are answering the phones and they don’t need to leave a message for someone to call back. We could hear the smiles over the phone lines.”

 The Triage nurses can provide symptom management to patients and families and are in contact with the Cornerstone physicians on call if needed, sometimes avoiding a trip to the emergency room.

 The call center team can dispatch medical personnel as well as other members of the Cornerstone Hospice interdisciplinary team, such as social workers and chaplains, if necessary to meet the family’s needs.

 “At the end of each shift, the Triage team sends a report to each of the Hospice teams to apprise them of the calls and visits that occurred after hours ensuring seamless care 24/7,” said Kalarovich.

 The new call center is located at Cornerstone Hospice’s Southridge office in Tavares, off of County Road 561.

Posted on Thu, 6 Mar 2014

Cornerstone Hospice Announces Organizational Changes

Operations, compliance and marketing roles reflect organization’s mission to meet the growing need for hospice services.

Tavares, Fla. (March 5, 2014) – Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care has announced the following leadership changes within the organization.

/public/images/Rhonda White2012.web.jpg Rhonda White, CHC, MPH, BSW, Chief Operations Officer: Previously Cornerstone Hospice’s Vice President and Compliance Officer, White assumed the COO role on March 1 with the impending retirement of Mary Manrique.  White, who resides in Lakeland, has worked for Cornerstone Hospice for six of her 15-year professional career.

 At Cornerstone Hospice she oversaw the compliance office ensuring all departments follow state and federal regulations. Her previous responsibilities fully prepared her for understanding the needs of the overall operations of the organization. White received her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work and Masters in Public Health from the University of South Florida. Her first hospice job at age 19 as a social worker intern prompted her to pursue her career within a hospice organization. She notes that her family has personally benefitted from hospice services.

 Mary Manrique will remain at Cornerstone Hospice until June 30 as a consultant until her retirement takes effect.

 /public/images/Donna Loyko1.jpgDonna Loyko, RN, MSN, HCRM, CHC, VP and Compliance Officer: Loyko, previously Risk Manager at Cornerstone Hospice, became VP and Compliance Officer on March 1. She brings more than 30 years of nursing experience as well as Risk Management and leadership in home care, hospice and corrections health care. Loyko, who lives in Clermont, will monitor Cornerstone Hospice departments to ensure compliance as well as quality measurements. Loyko will be responsible for helping to identify and implement best practices across the organization so that Cornerstone Hospice can provide the best patient care possible. Loyko received a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Florida Southern College and a Master’s degree from the University of Phoenix. Her Risk Management license was received from the University of Central Florida.


/public/images/TanyaHolcomb.mmi.jpgTanya Holcomb, MBA, Controller – Holcomb joins Cornerstone Hospice with 17 years of experience guiding teams in financial analysis, reporting, forecasting, auditing, budgeting and cash management for service and healthcare industries. In addition to overseeing finance departments, Holcomb and her husband have had the opportunity of owning their own business.

 Holcomb, who resides in Yalaha, comes to Cornerstone Hospice from The Villages Health System. Filling a role left vacant several months ago, Holcomb’s main responsibility will be to ensure integrity and accountability in the finance area so that the finance team can take care of employees who are fulfilling the mission of providing loving care to Cornerstone Hospice patients and their families.

 /public/images/Ursula Cutler.1.jpgUrsula Cutler, RN, Vice President of Sales and Marketing: Cutler, who has had a long and varied career in health care and healthcare marketing, admits she never thought she’d end up working in hospice care. Yet, she says she was drawn to work for hospice after witnessing patients on their end-of-life journey who had both good and bad experiences. She has worked at hospice agencies in clinical and marketing roles. At Cornerstone Hospice, Cutler will oversee staff dedicated to clinical and community outreach. Additionally, she will manage all advertising and marketing outreach as well as educational collateral creative. Cutler, who lives in Winter Springs, is filling a position left vacant two years ago.

 “As any organization grows and seeks to find new ways of doing things, having the right people in place is critical to the organization’s success,” said Chuck Lee, CEO of Cornerstone Hospice. “I am excited about the enthusiasm and dedication these leaders bring to Cornerstone Hospice which will have a positive impact on our ability to provide exceptional patient care.”



Posted on Tue, 4 Mar 2014

Cornerstone Hospice enlists Wendy Henderson to lead regional development efforts

/public/images/Henderson.Reg.Dev.Dir..jpgWinter Haven, Fla. (February 19, 2014) – To say Wendy Henderson is a multi-tasker is an understatement. The recently transplanted Lakeland resident’s resume lists a wide variety of roles including  property appraiser, marketing director, fundraiser, and event planner--all accomplished concurrently for different organizations. 

Henderson, who moved to Polk County in May 2013, served as a board member for the local Boys & Girls Club in California and ultimately became their first Director of Development. 

She received her certification in Fundraising and Institutional Advancement from California State University, Northridge. During this time, she also served as Executive Director of the Central California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. When the real estate boom hit in Caliafornia, she became a residential real estate appraiser, following in her father’s footsteps and working with her husband in their appraisal firm.   

An avid University of Southern California booster, Henderson got involved with the fundraising committee which led to leadership roles coordinating large scale events, including one fundraiser for a local non-profit hospice organization. 

Now the Regional Development Director for Cornerstone Hospice Foundation, Henderson is looking forward to applying her various marketing skills and talent for building relationships to benefit the local non-profit.

“I don’t want anyone to say ‘who is Cornerstone Hospice,’” said Henderson, who manages Cornerstone Hospice Foundation efforts in Polk, Hardee and Highlands County as well as community outreach. “Our people are so amazing and caring and I want the community to know the extensive array of services and programs available in this community.”

“Wendy has proven results in running large, successful fundraising events,” said Deborah Harley, Executive Director. “She will be a tremendous asset in identifying new opportunities to raise awareness about Cornerstone Hospice and the important role we play in our community’s health care system.”

Wendy and her husband Jim have been married 27 years. They have two sons, Blake, a Petty Officer, third class in the U.S. Navy and Joshua, a Senior Airman in the U.S. Air Force.

Posted on Wed, 19 Feb 2014

Nurse Practitioner Gayle Bartoe brings decades of medical experience to Cornerstone Hospice

Winter Haven, Fla. (February 13, 2014) – Patients under the loving, specialized care of Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care now have another/public/images/Gayle Bartoe ARNP.website1.jpg experienced advocate helping to ensure comfort and peace during their end-of-life journey

Gayle Bartoe, ARNP, has joined the Cornerstone Hospice clinical team that serves Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties. A Sebring resident, Bartoe began her medical career as a registered nurse and became a nurse practitioner 15 years ago, specializing in primary care and geriatrics. 

While working in area nursing homes and assisted living facilities, Bartoe says she became interested in hospice care.

“I think everyone deserves to have someone with them, caring for them when they die,” said Bartoe.  “If I can help make a person’s end-of-life journey better, it is better for the patient and for humanity.”

Bartoe will visit with patients who need expert symptom management or when hospice nurses request her attention. She will also help oversee admissions of new patients into Cornerstone’s care.

“Gayle and her extensive background in geriatric care helps elevate the level of service Cornerstone Hospice provides to the growing number of patients under our care,” said Dr. Lucy Ertenberg, MD, Vice President and Cornerstone Hospice’s Chief Medical Officer.

In addition to her medical career, Bartoe is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and has been a member for 53 years. She is currently overseeing this year’s Girl Scout cookie sales operations in Hardee and Highlands counties.

Posted on Thu, 13 Feb 2014

Cornerstone Hospice SALUTES! retired military service dog

Please watch the video stories about this Cornerstone SALUTES! which aired on Lake Sumter TV and on LakeFront TV.

Tavares, Fla., January 31, 2014 – Idol Vom Haus Huro’s life is dedicated to service. The three and a half year-old German shepherd was specially trained to help his veteran owner anticipate and deal with the symptoms associated with traumatic brain injury seizures and post-traumatic stress disorder.

 “Idol” achieved the rank of Sergeant First Class in the U.S. Army and served with his owner at Fort Drum in New York as part of the 4th Battalion 31st Infantry Regiment. When Army Staff Sergeant Basil Reid, was unable to keep the dog any longer, Idol received official completion of duties from the military including all awards and honors due any other soldier for his service.

 Now living in Lake County with his new owner, Idol’s life of service continues but with a focus on serving veterans who are on their end-of-lifejourney./public/images/Idol Salutes.website1.jpg

 Today, Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care honored Idol with a Cornerstone SALUTES! ceremony where the canine was recognized for his service and received a special commemorative pin. Idol, along with his new owner, Missy Ziler who is a trained hospice volunteer, will visit veteran patients in Cornerstone Hospice care and their families providing comfort and enjoyment.

 SSG Reid was also honored in absence.

 “Already Idol has won the hearts of veterans in the community who have met him,” said Ziler, who received Idol in May 2013. “His calming and affectionate disposition will be a wonderful comfort to the veterans we visit who are in hospice care.” 

 Established in 2010, the Cornerstone SALUTES!  program, honors local veterans with a ceremony, led by a specially-trained U.S. veteran volunteer, tailor-made for the veteran patient and family. During the ceremony, the veteran patient is presented with a special pin and Certificate of Appreciation. Approximately 25-30 ceremonial pinnings are held each month throughout Cornerstone Hospice’s seven-county region and that number is expected to increase.

 The Cornerstone SALUTES! program is accredited through the We Honor Veterans program, a national initiative in collaboration with the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“With one out of every four dying Americans being a U.S. veteran, Cornerstone Hospice has made a concerted effort to ensure these heroes receive the honor, dignity and medical care they deserve,” said Chuck Lee, Cornerstone Hospice CEO. “We are proud to now have Idol on the Cornerstone Hospice team of dedicated staff and volunteers – who are also veterans – that provide specialized recognition to local men and women who have served our country.”

In addition to volunteering with Cornerstone Hospice, Ziler founded Companions for Courage, a non-profit organization made up of volunteers and their therapy dogs that provide courage and companionship to children who must give difficult testimony in the courtroom. Idol has also been approved to help give courage to children in need.

Posted on Fri, 31 Jan 2014