A Brief History of Brave Heart Volunteers

Brave Heart Volunteers began in 2001 (as Sitka's Faith In Action) in response to the need in our community for assistance with end-of-life (hospice-like) care in the home setting. It was also recognized that volunteer home visiting and compassionate care to frail elderly, homebound, and disabled persons as well as those recovering from hospitalization were also needed. These needs were initially identified at a grass roots level by two local nurses and a small group of committed volunteers who saw this large gap in community health care. Community meetings then brought together representatives of civic and service related organizations, health care providers, faith groups, and interested individuals. Ideas put forth at these meetings include:

  • “There is a large aging population here in Sitka. As the numbers of this group grow, the health care needs grow, and the potential for unmet health care needs also grows.”
  • “There are many people who seem to ‘fall through the cracks’ either because of lack of finances or they don’t qualify for services.”
  • “We are geographically isolated from other communities and services – this joint effort would strengthen our immediate community.”
  • “People who need care and are isolated at home want to feel connected to others and the world at large, and to feel that they are still worthwhile. Caregivers need this too.”
  • “Every person deserves to have the choice to die peacefully at home if that is their wish.  Sometimes the main obstacle to staying at home is a lack of volunteer help and respite.  We need this service to provide what could be considered a basic human right.”

Shortly after these meetings, an advisory board and then a Board of Directors were established and incorporated as a tax exempt, non-profit community organization. Then in 2002, the working group collectively wrote a proposal to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) for funding.  The proposal was accepted, and RWJF provided a 30-month, $35,000 grant for start-up and development of a “Faith in Action” program in Sitka, one of 1000 such volunteer groups throughout the United States. 

Since that time, there have been several key events in our development:

  • In 2003, Volunteer Visiting began
  • In 2004, We received our Tlingit name, Yee Gu.aa Yáx X'Wán, which means "Be of brave heart"
  • In 2005, the first "Hope Through Healing" Bereavement Support Group was held
  • In 2007, We officially changed our name to Brave Heart Volunteers

If you are interested in learning more about Brave Heart Volunteers and our history, please feel free to stop by and visit. We also keep several Remembrance Books on hand in the office, with news clippings and other history.

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