Hospice fund-raiser becomes casualty of recession

October 01, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

TANEYTOWN -- Michael E. Sell planned the party of the year with elegant decor, elaborate food and popular entertainment.

Only the guests were lacking.

"I only got a tenth of the invitations back," he said. "I am terribly disappointed."

Mr. Sell, general manager of Antrim 1844, a historic home converted to a bed-and-breakfast inn, envisioned a gala to raise money for Carroll and Frederick hospices.

Everything from flowers and music to use of the inn had been donated for Saturday's Great Gatsby Gala. More than $53,000 worth of gifts and services -- all donated -- were set to go on the auction block. Tickets were $100 per person.

Mr. Sell had hoped to attract 600 guests and raise $18,000 for the two hospices to share. When fewer than 100 had responded to more than 1,000 invitations, he had to cancel.

Many people wanted to attend, but couldn't handle the cost, said Julie Flaherty, Carroll Hospice's executive director.

She said the evening would have been a "true gala" and said she, too, was sorry it wouldn't be happening.

"Michael worked so hard and put in so many hours, and we are truly grateful," she said. "He pulled out every stop."

She blames the poor response on the poor economy.

"Everyone and every organization is feeling the pinch, and people just don't have the dollars in this economy; $200 a couple was too steep for many people," said Ms. Flaherty.

The loss comes at an especially difficult time for hospice, she said. The agency, which provides free services for the terminally ill, received Medicare certification Sept. 3. Hospice staff can now bill the federal health insurance program for services to its patients.

But it will be December before the first Medicare payments reach the hospice. Fund-raisers such as the Gatsby Gala would help the agency through the 90-day reimbursement turnaround.

"We have had to go into our line of credit at the bank," said Ms. Flaherty. "We are creating a big deficit."

Mr. Sell said several people had sent donations along with their regrets to his invitations. He will split that money between the two agencies.

The Carroll Hospice will share proceeds from last week's Westminster FallFest with three other charities, but that money will be limited. Rain forced much of four-day event to be canceled.

"We have to go out into the community for donations to get us over this time," said Ms. Flaherty.

The agency will also benefit from a country-western dance Nov. 28 at the Westminster Elks Club. The cost will be $10 per couple.

Information: 857-1838.

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