by Lisa Tome
When Bob Lucas retired from Cecil County government in 1996, he took a part time job serving as the first ever executive director of the Northern Chesapeake Hospice Foundation.
Eighteen years later, Lucas is retiring again. "I thought it would be a part time job," laughed Lucas.
"I've only ever really had two jobs," said Lucas, who will step down from his post at the end of the year. After earning a degree from Lincoln University, he worked for county government for 25 years. He was a tax collector and deputy treasurer from 1971-1990. He finished his county career working as the financial advisor in the Cecil Sheriff's Office. Lucas had served as a treasurer for Northern Chesapeake Hospice in a volunteer capacity. As the foundation was being created, Lucas was tapped to be the acting director. "I didn't know how to start a foundation. I had a lot of help," said Lucas. Lucas was allowed to hire one person, and he tapped Gabrielle Oldham. Oldham and Lucas have worked together for 18 years. "She's been here since day one," said Lucas. "She's the only person I've worked with for 18 years."
During Lucas' tenure, NCHF shifted from a clinical operation to a fundraising entity. The CareReach Campaign was started. That campaign has NCHF holding an annual drawing for a car. Lucas said that idea was suggested by Jack Scarbath. For 18 years, it has been greatly anticipated.
NCHF has moved a few times. They first occupied a store front on Route 40. Less than a year later, the clinical operation was sold and NCHF moved to downtown Elkton next to Union Hospital. In 2002, they took over the former Elkton UMC Parsonage where the operation remains.
There have been other changes - NCHF has partnered with other hospice providers. The main role of hospice foundation now is to pay for medications, medical equipment, and caregiving sessions. There is also the yearly granting of a wish of a hospice patient through the "Create a Memory" program.
There are current school bereavement programs in place in all the public and one parochial school. Over 100 children have been provided services in each of the last two years. NCHF is also a partner in the Remembrance Tree, provides holiday dinners for people in need, and hosts the annual Lobster Feast Fundraiser along with the car raffle. From March through September of each year, Lucas and Oldham are actively showing the car and selling tickets at community events.
Lucas said he is not prepared to reveal what will happen following his departure. An announcement will come from Northern Chesapeake Hospice Foundation board members after the new year. Oldham was tapped for the executive director's post. She declined the promotion because she wants to continue to focus on the programs - such as the school bereavement programs - that are in place that she created.
"There will be changes. It's something we've worked on for over a year," said Lucas. He said the programs and services currently provided by NCHF will not change.
"I told the board in late 2012 that I would work until I was 65. There will be changes. And we've spent more than two years planning for them," said Lucas. "It was never that part time retiree's job. But I can't think of anything more rewarding. I think of the families and the patients. It's been a privilege to do this." Lucas said hospice also has countless volunteers who help. Lucas' self-proclaimed favorite volunteer is his wife, Ellen.
His retirement will give Lucas more time with Ellen, his daughters, and grandsons. He will remain active with Janes United Methodist Church, the Rising Sun Lions Club, Rising Sun Chamber, and plans to be more active with the town's Historical Preservation Commission. He will stay on with the NCHF CareReach Committee.
"It will be all things Rising Sun," said Lucas, who was co-chair of the 150th town celebration, and one of the town's People of the Year in both 2009 and 2010.
"For a person who is out so much, I am a real homebody. I enjoy being home. I am sad to be leaving but I knew two years ago that it was time," he said. "I am excited to start a new chapter.