The Rio Grande Valley is very blessed to have Comfort House (Casa del Consuelo) and its staff and volunteers providing a home-like setting with round-the-clock care to terminally ill persons. When my son, Justin, volunteered there a few years ago, he was so impressed with the loving, caring environment provided to both the residents and their friends and family, it was a very rewarding experience.

Comfort House is proudly marking its 20th year of service this month. This licensed, non-profit Special Care Facility located in McAllen has served over 1,500 persons and their families from the entire Rio Grande Valley and beyond, relying solely on donations from the families, the business community, and small grants from the City of McAllen and the United Way ESG Program.

Comfort Houseís mission is to provide an environment where a person can die in tranquility and with dignity. Fundraising is crucial to continue serving, as Comfort House does not receive any government funding nor does it bill for services.

For those who enjoy music and delicious food, I invite you to come to a fundraiser on Saturday, Oct. 17 from 6:30 p.m. to midnight at the RGV Harley ó Davidson at 1201 S. Bentsen Road in McAllen. It is the 6th Annual RGV Blues Festival. Attendees will enjoy the best of the blues bands, LiLí Ed and the Blues Imperials ó voted the Best Blues Band of 2009. Also playing are the Poco Loco Blues Band and Texas Heat.

A catered meal will be provided by Outback Steakhouse, and there will be more fun with a silent auction and raffles. Tickets are $25 and are available Comfort House or can be purchased at RGV Harley-Davidson before the event or at the door.

Sponsors for this event include Valero Energy Corp., Capital One Bank, Ric Brown Family Funeral Home, and IPH Hospice.

In observance of their 20th anniversary, also planned is an open house at Comfort House on Friday, Oct. 16 from 12 noon to 4 p.m. This Sharing the Caring event will include staff and volunteer sharing their experiences and story telling. Anyone interested in attending any of these events should call 687-7367.

As to the history, it was founded in October 1989 by Sr. Marian Strohmeyer, RSM, under the auspices of the Diocese of Brownsville. It is now a 10-bedroom, open-diagnosis facility for ANY person with a prognosis of 4 or less months of life.

End-of-life (hospice) care is often provided in the patientís home with the support of a local hospice provider, but sometimes the patientís family is unable to cope with the responsibility. Additionally, some hospice patients do not have family or friends to care for them. This is where Comfort House fills the need in the community.

Family members and loved ones are encouraged to participate in their loved oneís care as they are willing and able. Many times, it is the family members who find Comfort House to be the best place to be during this sorrowful time in their lives. They are about to lose someone they love.

Hospice is not curative, but palliative in concept in that it places emphasis on providing a comforting and dignified setting for the patient. The hospice team of professionals and volunteers coordinate pain management, medical, emotional, and spiritual support while respecting the rights of the patient for his or her own participation.

Volunteers remain an integral part at Comfort House. They are trained to provide both the patient and family with companionship, homemaker services, caregiving training and compassionate support.

Administrator, Mary Botello, states that every person who comes through their doors immediately becomes family. Death is probably the least-prepared-for event in a personís life, but Comfort House is a special place that believes that death is an integral part of the life cycle, and that their work is to do their best for the living and not the dying. Indeed, the time that any terminally-ill person is there at Comfort House is considered to be a very special gift for the family and those around them. Please feel free to call 956-687-7367, or come by at 617 Dallas Avenue, McAllen, to learn about this very special work or for volunteering opportunities.

Letís support Comfort Houseís vital role in the Rio Grande Valley. I encourage everyone to attend the open house and fundraiser. You can mail a donation or plan to attend the open house and fundraiser. Your contribution is invaluable!