By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – With laughter and tears, the Sanctuary Hospice family sent its leader into a new life.
Nearly 300 supporters gathered at the BancorpSouth Center on Thursday night to salute retiring executive director Linda Gholston.
“She has touched so many in her time with us,” said Lisa Hawkins, current Sanctuary board president.
Gholston was Sanctuary Hospice’s first executive director, coming on board in January 2005 before the doors were even open to provide care to the dying and their families. George Hands will take over this fall.
“We built Sanctuary, but Linda gave it life,” said longtime hospice house supporter Joyce Riley during a video tribute.
In their remarks Thursday, Sanctuary supporters remembered Gholston, a native of Pratts community, as a mentor during her time as a nursing leader at North Mississippi Medical Center. It was a gift, they said, that Gholston was willing to leave leadership positions at University of Mississippi Medical Center to guide the creation of the free-standing hospice house.
“You’ve seen mountains move … you want to make sure it’s in the right hands,” said Nancy Collins, who was part of the original group of hospice leaders. “I will forever be grateful.”
When Sabrina Gannaway’s dying daughter-in-law needed more than they could provide for her at home, Gholston and her staff truly provided a sanctuary for the whole family.
“I could lay my head down because of the standards Linda Gholston had set, I didn’t have to worry about my daughter-in-law,” Gannaway said.
During her tenure, Gholston shepherded Sanctuary through a five-year federal demonstration project, a $1.2 million eight-room expansion and the creation of a home hospice service to meet Medicare requirements.
Former board president V.M. Cleveland saluted Gholston and her knack for getting people to say yes when they normally would say no.
“It’s because God’s angel is in charge of it,” he said.