A shining remembrance

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San Joaquin County Hospice lights trees in honor of family and friends

The moon wasn’t the only light in the sky on Nov. 27. Instead, small specks of blues, reds and greens, among other colors, dotted the night sky in front of Delta College as the Hospice of San Joaquin lit it’s annual Tree of Lights.

LOOKING FOR NAMES: Family and friends look for the names of loved ones remembered with a light. PHOTO BY JAMES STRIPLIN

More than 5,600 people donated to hospice in honor of a loved one to have a gleaming spot on one of the various trees found throughout San Joaquin County during the holiday season.

The lighting held in front of Delta College is the largest in the valley.

“It means so much to the people that show up,” said Stephen Guasco, executive director of Hospice of San Joaquin. “You’ll find people right now pointing at lights saying, ‘That red one, that’s for grandpa’ or ‘ That yellow one there, that’s for mom or dad. It’s very much apart of their grieving process for dealing with the dead.”

A wall lists off those being honored, with the color bulb representing them next to their name.

Two new colors were introduced this year, orange and purple.

It cost the Hospice roughly $800 to house one patient every day, which is subsidized by events such as the tree lighting.

“The last couple of years have been tough, we’ve been hit with hard economic times, and we haven’t been able to generate as much as we would like to. That said, the community does what it can do. This year I’ve seen an uptake in donations,” said Guasco.

Even while financially struggling, the Hospice of San Joaquin continues to aid those with terminal illnesses, based on the organization’s founding principles 32 years ago when 12 community members got together and donated a thousand dollars each giving them the ability to get a grant to start the Hospice.

Hospice continues to aid 2,700 patients and 130 transitional patients.

“No patient receiving services from Hospice of San Joaquin will ever get a bill, the only exception being the Hospice House and that’s for room and board only,” said Guasco.

The Tree of Lights will continue to be lit until Jan. 1, and won’t be decorated again by volunteer PG&E workers until Christmas time next year.

“There are three lights up there that belong to three people that are still a part of me,” said David Bennett, a board member of the hospice.  “When I look up there, there are three blue lights that are my mother, my mother in-law and father in-law.”