Kathleen and Ivy Thompson

Kathleen and Ivy Thompson

Special Needs Fund is integral to hospice program patients and families

Help for patients as they juggle bills. Making moments that become memories. A hand to hold after a loss.

These are among the many ways that Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Hospice Special Needs Fund benefits hospice patients and their families. The fund is made possible by the generosity of donors.

Spartanburg Regional Hospice provides a team approach for expert medical care, pain management, emotional and spiritual support tailored to the patient’s wishes. The Hospice Special Needs Fund provides an additional layer of support.

“Donors to the fund make a difference for patients and families each day,” said Kim Ross, director of Spartanburg Regional Hospice and Palliative Care. “There are countless stories about the ways our team is able to use the fund.”

Here are three stories that illustrate how the Hospice Special Needs Fund makes a difference:

Staying “where God put me”

Denise Ferguson Yelensky loved her home in rural Cherokee County. She built a comfortable life for herself there after moving from Minnesota 15 years ago.

Ferguson opened Sadie Mae’s Café about a mile from her home in the Wilkinsville area. The small restaurant was known for fresh, home-style cooking. The pork ribs were the most popular item on the menu.

But chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, slowed Yelensky down and she had to close the restaurant. Because of the progression of her condition, Yelensky became eligible for hospice. Her health prohibited her from working to earn additional money, and disability was not enough to cover her household expenses.

Through the Hospice Special Needs Fund, Yelensky received assistance with some of her utility bills and was provided grocery store gift cards when times were tight. Yelensky said she had never received unemployment or food stamps, and accepting help made her feel uneasy at first.

“But that’s false pride,” she said. “The support was a godsend.”

Financial stress coupled with illness and grief can be devastating to families.

“Through the special needs fund, the team is able to make sure that the basics – like electricity – are taken care of so that family caregivers can focus on being present for the hospice patient,” Ross said.
“And for the patient, it’s hard to have a good end-of-life experience when the house is without heat or the refrigerator is empty.”

Yelensky, who died in May, was grateful.

“Without the support, I wouldn’t enjoying this beautiful place where God put me,” Yelensky said in April.

“Reminded how much he loved me”

Kathleen and Ivy Thompson’s grandfather, Michael, was a big part of their lives. They saw him after school, when he and their grandmother would take them to the library to read books together.

In 2015, he entered the hospice program. The family knew that it would be different for the girls after their grandfather died.

“We recognized that this would be a major change and tried to prepare the girls as much as possible,” said their mother, Leigh Ann Thompson.

Children with a loved one in hospice are given a book called “The Invisible String,” a story to help them cope with separation from a loved one.

“It helps kids reflect on how we can love something that we can’t see and how it’s always part of us,” said Leigh Ann, who works on the case management team with Spartanburg Regional Hospice.

Kathleen and Ivy’s books were inscribed with a special handwritten message from their grandfather.

“I'm grateful that I have this book, because it's something that I can look back at when I get older that my grandpa gave me,” Kathleen said.

Valentine’s dinner for grieving loved ones

The work of Spartanburg Regional Hospice does not end when a patient dies. The bereavement program includes support group sessions, one-on-one counseling and services of remembrance to provide comfort for those grieving the loss of a loved one.

For Michael Scruggs, it meant taking part in a special Valentine’s Day dinner for someone who lost a spouse in the past year. His wife, Dana, died in 2018. They had been together since they were teenagers, and the transition was not easy for Michael.

“I'm just now realizing how much I miss her,” he said. “I miss her tremendously.”

The dinner took place at a local Italian restaurant and was a way for participants to honor the memory of their loved ones while enjoying a feeling of support and togetherness.

“There were a lot of hurting people there who had just recently lost a loved one,” Scruggs said. “I think the dinner came at the right time for everyone, and I enjoyed it.”

To donate to Spartanburg Regional Foundation’s Hospice Special Needs Fund, visit or contact Gina De La Cruz Turcotte at 864-560-6725 or