Home Cedar Valley Hospice celebrates 40 years of serving our community

Cedar Valley Hospice celebrates 40 years of serving our community

What began through a grassroots effort has evolved into a comprehensive, professional health care agency serving 15 counties. In four decades, the organization has served approximately 22,000 hospice patients and tens of thousands through grief support services.

We have several exciting things planned to celebrate this big anniversary. We will be highlighting the organization’s history in our advertising, videos and events. Those who have made an impact will be featured along with our current employees, who are on the front lines making a difference every day.


In 1978, a group of individuals from the Cedar Valley, who recognized the importance of quality care for the terminally ill, began forming Cedar Valley Hospice only four years after the first American hospice opened.

Money was scarce because at that time there was no reimbursement system and insurance companies were not covering hospice care. Cedar Valley Hospice pioneers continued to pursue their goals and in 1980, they served their first patient/family. 

“Our philosophy of care when we started this was, “How can I help?” says founding member Karol Rae Hoth. “It wasn’t just a concept, we made it a reality… and this same philosophy still exists today within the organization. We aim to serve.”

In order to have a comprehensive program of care, they felt inpatient care was needed. So in 1982, they opened the first inpatient hospice unit in the state of Iowa. It was a six-bed unit, in what was then Schoitz Medical Center in Waterloo, and provided a home-like environment with hospital staff trained by Cedar Valley Hospice with their mission-driven philosophy.


As Cedar Valley Hospice continued to grow, so did its services. Grief services had always been a part of hospice care, but over the years they expanded their grief support to anyone in the community. Other services include a children’s grief program as well as a palliative care program to serve those with life-limiting illnesses who may not be ready for hospice. Music therapy also became a key component to our Circle of Care and can also make all the difference in a patient’s quality of life. Today, an interdisciplinary team of experts are there to surround your family with support throughout the journey. A key role in this team is locally trained volunteers.

Another unique service Cedar Valley Hospice offers is medical case management and support for those living with HIV or AIDS and their families. In March 1988, in the height of a growing AIDS epidemic, they recognized an extra need to help those affected - so the Cedar AIDS Support System was born. Dubbed CASS, the program has fulfilled a need that is unmet by anyone else in the area and has been praised by the state year after year. The program marked its 30-year anniversary this year.


Throughout the 90s, three other hospices decided to join Cedar Valley Hospice.  In 1992, Hospice of Buchanan County and Grundy County Hospice successfully merged with Cedar Valley Hospice. In Waverly, there was a hospice presence since the mid-1980s, beginning with Waverly-Shell Rock Hospice, which became Bremer-Butler Hospice in the 1995. But when census became low and it became more apparent they needed to expand their services, a partnership was formed with Cedar Valley Hospice. On Nov. 1 1998, that merger became a reality.


Most often, patients are served in the comfort of their own homes. But as the Cedar Valley Hospice service area grew, so did the need for a component of care which provided patients an alternative to hospitalization with all the comforts of home. In 1999, renovations began at the former clinic of Dr. Donald Bickley Sr. at 2001 Kimball Ave. in Waterloo to establish a Cedar Valley Hospice Home.

When it officially opened for patients on Feb. 1, 2000, the home immediately fulfilled a need. Since the Hospice Home opened its doors, thousands of patients and their families and friends have graced its halls, rooms and gardens. In November of 2015, the Hospice Home marked its 15th anniversary.


In four decades, Cedar Valley Hospice has continued its growth. In 2016, the organization hired its third executive director in its history, Michaela Vandersee, who served as the chief financial officer for nearly 16 years. Since then, she has diligently worked to uphold our philosophy of care and evolved organizational practices that have set the standard in the industry.

“We are very proud that our philosophy has remained unchanged over the years,” said Vandersee. “As we continually evaluate our organization, we are in the midst of developing clear, impressive and sustainable organizational standards and will be focused on becoming a teaching organization.”

In 2019, grants have enabled Cedar Valley Hospice to enhance their training program, rejuvenate its spaces and create a simulation lab for its clinical staff.

“Just as the evolution of our logo in 2018 demonstrated that Cedar Valley Hospice is flourishing in our communities, we must continue to evolve in order to provide the highest quality service possible,” added Vandersee.

What started as a vision has now developed into a staff of nearly 120 professionals and over 400 volunteers who work hard together every day for patients and families ... Making Each Moment Matter.

Pictured at Top: In its 40-year history, Cedar Valley Hospice has had three executive directors dedicated to its mission of Making Each Moment Matter. From left: Cheryl Hoerner, Marvin Fagerlind and Michaela Vandersee. 

Historical Timeline

1978: Cedar Valley Hospice is formed by a group of community members.
1980: First patient is admitted to Cedar Valley Hospice; non-profit status 501(c)(3) granted.
1981: Friends of Cedar Valley Hospice was formed to help the organization with fundraising.
1985: Cedar Valley Hospice becomes one of the first 12 hospices in the nation to gain Medicare certification.
1988: Cedar Valley Hospice begins managing the newly renamed Cedar AIDS Support System (CASS), which provides medical case management and support to clients with HIV or AIDS and their families.
1992: Hospice of Buchannan County (Independence) and Grundy County Hospice merge with Cedar Valley Hospice.
1994: Eucalyptus Tree program begins, helping and counseling children through the grieving process.
1998: Bremer-Butler Hospice (Waverly) merges with Cedar Valley Hospice.
1999: Renovations begin to establish the Cedar Valley Hospice Home in Waterloo.
2000: First patient is admitted to the Hospice Home.
2004: Cedar Valley Hospice celebrates its 25th anniversary.
2005: LINK Palliative Care Program begins to help those with life-limiting illnesses that aren’t eligible or ready for hospice.
2006: Cedar Valley Hospice is one of 200 hospices (out of 3300 hospices) identified as a Quality Partner by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Music therapy becomes a part of the hospice care program.
2009: Selected by NHPCO as one of 32 hospices in the country for a pilot program – Caring Connections  – which aims to address employer/employee needs regarding care giving, end-of-life care and grief.
2011: Cedar Valley Hospice joins the We Honor Veterans program.
2013: John Fox is selected to be among 100 Great Iowa Nurses.
2014: Capital campaign begins to renovate the Hospice Home. Cedar Valley Hospice marks its 35th anniversary. Stacy Weinke is selected to be one of 100 Great Iowa Nurses and is elected president of the board of the Hospice and Palliative Care Association of Iowa.
2015: A complete update of the Hospice Home marks the home’s 15th anniversary.
2018: Logo is refreshed and modernized and new branding standards are adopted. CASS program marks 30 years of helping those with HIV or AIDS.
2018: Cedar Valley Hospice is chosen to take part in new Medicare Care Choices Model.
2019: A new mission statement is revealed to mark 40th anniversary.