History of HoNCO

In 1981, a group of concerned citizens and volunteers gathered to discuss a possible “workshop” for the community in dealing with death and dying, and from that group emerged the idea for starting a “hospice” for Ponca City. Rev. Bruce & Ila Zellmer, ministers at the Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Ponca City, along with Claudia Barnes, RN, BSN, CHPN began to host meetings and went to Bartlesville, OK for training from the first hospice created in Oklahoma, Jane Phillips Hospice. A committee was organized, a “working” Board was elected, a “Training Program” was set up, and Hospice of Ponca City, Inc. became an entity in April, 1982. The first and second patients were admitted at the end of 1982 and died in early 1983. The hospice organization was certified as a state of Oklahoma hospice organization with the Oklahoma State Department of Health in 1982.

In 1993, Hospice of Ponca City became Medicare certified, and the hospice was able to offer more to patients and families, including medications to cover the primary illness, disposable items, and nutritional supplements, along with a “full-time” nurse and executive director.

In September, 2003, Hospice of Ponca City, Inc. amended its name and became Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. to better delineate the area of Oklahoma that the hospice serves, which is an approximate radius of fifty miles.

In 2009, Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. created the “Higher Ground Center for Loss & Education” to funnel all bereavement services through. The vision to grow the impact of support to the community bereaved is vast and the Higher Ground Center for Loss & Education will permit a platform and place of offering for these services. The Higher Ground Center is not a separate entity but rather part of the hospice organization.

In 2010, Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. employs 46 full and part-time employees, with over one hundred active volunteers to compliment the organization. Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. has worked with and impacted more than 3000 families in the last 28 years with love, compassion, caring and quality care from their professional and volunteer staff without any charges to patients or families. As a community-owned, not-for-profit organization, Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. receives support through Medicare per diem, other insurances that support hospice services per diem, donations, memorial-giving, estate-giving, and fundraising activities within north central Oklahoma.

The Higher Ground Center for Loss & Education reaches out to hospice families and anyone in the community who is experiencing grief, even if they did not have a loved one with hospice care. With the Higher Ground Center for Loss & Education, the bereavement program follows families after the death of their loved one up to fifteen months, and sometimes longer with personal contacts, monthly newsletters, and support groups, projects for the bereaved, workshops, seminars and memorial services. Approximately 200 families are being followed at any one time. Most of the funds raised through our fundraising activities are used to support the programs used in the bereavement program.

Hospice of North Central Oklahoma, Inc. and the Higher Ground Center for Loss & Education has been profoundly impacted by hundreds of lives since its inception, from board member service, volunteer & ambassador service, staff members, the patients, their families and the donors who have made the organization what it is today and where it is going tomorrow.