Call us 24/7 for care


The beginnings of Snowline Hospice go back to the Fall of 1979 when Dr. Douglas Tustin and other community leaders formed a steering committee to examine the possibility of creating a Hospice program in Placerville, CA.

By 1980, those dedicated volunteers created the organizational structure of Snowline Hospice.  The following year, Snowline served its first patient.  A total of 26 patients had been cared for by the end of that year.

A team of five volunteer members served our first patients.  Those volunteers traveled to Hospice of Marin for basic training on the Hospice philosophy, a relatively new movement in the United States.

The philosophy today remains much the same:

Hospice exists not to postpone death but to help the patient and the family to live as fully as possible.  Hospice believes that every person is entitled to participate fully in this part of life to prepare for death in a personally satisfactory way.

Snowline’s first Executive Director, Alicia Santos-Coy, recognized that the community needed continuing education about the work of hospice.  The agency also needed to learn the art of fundraising to sustain its demanding work.

In 1985, Snowline had a $40k budget. Abigail Gessler was the Executive Director



Friends of Hospice

The Friends of Hospice was a group of women and men who created the funding base that supported Snowline during the early years – before either the Thrift Stores or Medicare contributed financially.  The very first event that was put on was a fashion show organized by Peg Stiles in May 1982 at the Greenstone Estates Mobile Home Park.  Fashion Crossroads provided the fashions, and the tickets were only $3.50.

Orphie Tirapelle was the chairperson of the Friends’ Ways and Means Committee and had been the driving force behind their energetic fundraising events.

Over the past 44 years, the major fundraisers have been Bingo, Bus Trips to Tahoe, Fall Bazaars, Phantom Bake Sales, and Fashion Shows.  The Friends of Hospice would do whatever it took – baking fruitcakes, making sandwiches, knitting afghans, being a Thrift Store cashier, running Bingo, and even helping at all the other Hospice fundraisers.  There was the original Boxed Lunch, an Annual Crab Feed, the Apple Hill Run.  These events were supported by a group of women in El Dorado County called the “Tea Group.”  This group consisted of Katy Peek, Robby Colvin, Sandy Matthews, Diane Penn, Judy Tapson, Madeleine Tammi, and Barbara Stoddard

By 1984, the funds donated from these splendid volunteers created 15% of the annual budget. The funds from the Friends of Hospice enable Hospice to do many extra and special projects for our families before and following the death of a loved one.



During the early days of Snowline, patient care fell into two categories: “Before Medicare Licensure” and “After Medicare Licensure.”

Before Medicare Licensure (1981-90), the main services provided were nursing, respite visits, limited chaplain and physician visits, and bereavement counseling for the family. In the early years, all staff members volunteered their time – even the on­call nurses, who were available to patients 24 hours a day.

In the winter of 1984-85, Barbara Finney and Mabel Wais worked every day and night, volunteering their time to care for patients. With­out these dedicated volunteers, Snowline would have had to turn patients away.

In 1984, Snowline hired Gail Bruton Smith for the much-needed part-time position of Patient Care Coordinator to direct programs for our patients. Gail had been a part of Hospice since the first steering committee meeting in 1979 and later served as a volunteer nurse. She became a member of Snowline Hospice’s Board of Directors.

The transition from a small, volunteer Hospice with limited staff to a “full-service” Medicare-certified Hospice would not have been possible without the dedication of three nurses – Joan Kling, Christie Harris, and Helen Robert. Joan became the Patient Care Coordinator in 1985. She spent an extraordinary number of hours meeting the needs of patients – and then put in even more hours to create the many manuals to make it possible for Snowline Hospice to become licensed in May of 1990. Through those nurses’ dedication and concern for the welfare of the agency and patients, Snowline became the vital organization it is today.

After becoming licensed as a Hospice Medicare provider in 1990, the range of services was greatly enhanced. In addition to the Nurses, Physician, Chaplain, and Respite Volunteers, we added Medical Social Workers, Home Health Aides, and contract Therapists to the new Hospice team. Soon, Snowline began serving patients in skilled nursing facilities. As a certified Medicare provider (and able to bill Medi-Cal and other insurance carriers), Snowline provided patients with all their medications, durable medical equipment, and supplies.

Throughout the years, Snowline has been able to expand bereavement services both for Hospice families and for the community at large. In addition to regular workshops for children, individuals, parents, and families, our staff have visited schools and other institutional sites to help others work through the grief process.”


Thrift Stores

Funding has always been a serious concern of the Board of Directors. Funding makes it possible to serve patients and their families without ever charging the families for our services.

Two decisions have forever changed the funding base for Snowline Hospice. The first was to apply for Medicare Licensure, which meant partial reimbursement for our services from the federal Medicare Program. The second was to open our very first Thrift Store in Placerville – to turn donated goods into cash to pay for services that are not reimbursed by Medicare or other forms of medical insurance. Turning donations into dollars is the miracle of the Thrift Stores – and allows Snowline to meet the community’s needs.

Planning for the first thrift store began in the Fall of 1988. A building was rented on A & A Road (across from Raleys in Placerville) and borrowed $10,000.00. Contractor Dwight Stoddard and painter Kevin Hansen provided many of the building improvements.

The Grand Opening of the first Thrift Store was on February 14, 1989. Business was booming, and before long, a larger building was needed. Snowline opened in a new space (across the street) on September 30, 1989.  Since the beginning, volunteers have been the powerful force needed to run the store.

Next came the Cameron Park store, which opened in 1992, then the Camino store in 1994, and this year, we opened a bigger and better Furniture Store in Placerville.

The purpose of the Thrift Stores was to establish a solid funding base for Snowline Hospice; however, as years have gone by three more goals have been realized. First, the stores provide a friendly, clean, and reasonably priced place to shop. Second, the whole community enjoys having a place to recycle the many items they no longer use. The third – and un­foreseeable – benefit was the formation of friendships created while volunteers sorted, priced, and helped with the many, many jobs that needed to be accomplished each day.



The history of fundraising events here at Snowline is rich in diversity and success. The first major fund-raiser was the 1985 Crab Feed, an event that continues to attract sell-out crowds yearly.

In 1986, we added the Christmas “Light-A-Light” Holiday event, which has grown to include beautiful Christmas trees at three locations in the county. In the beginning, the late, Verda Irving donated these trees.

We began a Box Lunch event in 1987 – assembling and delivering as many as 1,000 beautifully boxed lunches to area businesses in a single day.

Snowline Hospice earned the prestigious Street of Dreams Charity Award in 1988 for work at this annual event Snowline was also chosen to be the sponsoring charity for the Apple Hill Harvest Run from 1988 to 1995, during which time we drew over 2,000 runners each year – some coming from as far away as Hawaii and Arizona to participate. There have been countless other events and third-party fund-raisers contributing to the stability of our organization.

The “Tea Group,” assisted in all the major fund-raisers starting in 1986. They served elegant dinners at wineries, hung from cranes to make the Christmas trees shine, sang Christmas carols, engaged their spouses to crack crab for hours on end, handed out T-shirts and solved problems at the Run, delivered hundreds of Box Lunches and wore kilts when called!


Donors & Volunteers

In addition to fundraising events and Friends of Hospice gifts, donations come to Hospice all year round in all forms.

  • Cash gifts as memorials, honorarium, and membership pledges
  • Through our annual Patient Care Drive and United Way campaigns in the workplace
  • Gifts from estates
  • In-kind gifts, such as office equipment or books and videos for our Patient Library
  • Thrift Store donations, which are put on our store shelves and sold

Money is necessary to make Hospice work. But just as important are our volunteers, without whom we could not begin to provide care for our patients. Nor could we run profitable thrift stores. Volunteers are a part of every Snowline program. All these human and financial resources allowed the staff to perform the work they were trained and called to do. As a result, our community is well served through difficult times, thanks to the generosity of our donors and volunteers.



Our community has indeed been blessed by the presence of the volunteers, staff and donors who have dedicated themselves to the service of the terminally ill in our community. Thanks to everyone. However, we hope that this brief history will illustrate the kinds of people, time, and talent that have gone into the making of this agency. The quality of all our lives is enhanced because of their presence and participation.

Translate »