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'Tying up' for patients

By Ed DuBois

Patients and their families at the Lakeside Oasis end-of-life care wing in the Lake Ridge Care Center of Buffalo are experiencing a difficult time.  To help let them feel a little more care and a little less alone, members of Immanuel Lutheran Church have made an effort to provide a few comforts, such as welcome bags, blankets, gowns, and snacks.

Projects involving "action teams" have been organized at various times since last fall, and a steady flow of items for Lakeside Oasis have been arriving ever since.  Kim Brehmer, associate director at Lakeside Oasis, said the care shown by the church members has been well received.

"The families have been so appreciative.  They can't believe all they do," she commented.

The gowns, which are more attractive and comfortable than typical hospital gowns, are particularly popular.  Patients negotiate who will receive which gown.

Connecting with families

Jenni Weese, one of the original organizers of the action teams, said she and other church members enjoy the personal connection with the patients and families.  Another original organizer is Megan Peters.  Besides the comforts and snacks being provided, a little joy can be shared at times.  For example, a weekly sheet of jokes called the "Friday Funnies" is enjoyed at Lakeside Oasis.

Weese became involved with Lakeside Oasis after attending a scrapbooking fundraiser at Lake Ridge Care Center.  She met Brehmer and was invited on a little tour at Lakeside Oasis.  Weese said she felt a connection with the patients, and she wanted "to be part of it all."

Patients regularly check the kitchen cabinets because "the snacks keep coming; the cupboards are often full."

Kids involved, too

The welcome bags provided by Immanuel Lutheran (commonly called the Pelican Lake church due to its location a few miles east of Buffalo) include an assortment of handy items.  Water, lotion, notepads, and information about Immanuel Lutheran are just a few of the little gifts the bags contain.

Roughly 25-30 people gathered for one of the action team projects when several fleece blankets were made.  Many church members like to get involved with the community.

"We are always looking for projects, and we like to get the kids involved," Weese said.  "The kids get to see how the projects affect people and families.  They get to see how we are making a difference and are willing to keep it going and pay it forward."

'Staring us in the face'

Brehmer is very impressed with the positive impact of the church members from Immanuel.
"If they can do this much, what could other congregations do?" she commented.

Julie Gutknecht, who is also involved with the church projects, said participating in the projects for Lakeside Oasis was "an opportunity that was staring us in the face."  She wonders how many other opportunities are waiting for the right combination of people to get involved and make it happen.

"Beautiful," Brehmer said.  "In those last few weeks (of life), the gifts from Immanuel make all the difference."

Golf fundraiser in July

She is helping organize another effort to make a difference at Lakeside Oasis, a golf event in July.  The 17th Annual Community Health Foundation Golf Tournament, a four-person scramble, is taking place on July 13 at Wild Marsh Golf Club in Buffalo.  The event is benefiting Lakeside Oasis.  Golfers can register online at  For more information, you can contact Brehmer at 763-684-1477 or email

'Sense of home'

One of the differences made by the Immanuel Lutheran efforts is a "sense of home" at Lakeside Oasis.  The welcome bags, the blankets, the gowns, and the snacks help make the place more comfortable.

One of the church members who lost her husband a while ago commented that she wished she could have brought him to Lakeside Oasis.

Gutknecht recalled one of the action team members commenting, "I am so proud our bunch."

Focus on their loved ones

When a person's condition becomes too difficult or complex to manage, Lakeside Oasis end-of-life care can help.  Staff members help manage pain, nausea, breathing difficulties, anxiety, and other debilitating symptoms, letting families focus on their loved ones and each other.

Meanwhile, the few comforts offered by Immanuel Lutheran Church help Lakeside Oasis look and feel a little more like home, while helping patients and their families feel a little more care and a little less alone.


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