HopeWest founder leaves enduring legacy

To sustainably and successfully grow, especially in the health care business, you need an inspiring leader who’s willing to take thoughtful risks, solve complicated problems and cast an infinite vision people follow. We believe HopeWest’s founding president and chief executive officer, Christy Whitney, has done just that. 

As she announces her retirement after almost 30 years of service to the organization she started, we want to celebrate what she’s accomplished with the support of so many and to warmly usher in her successor, Cassie Mitchell.

Christy’s passion to provide access to hospice and palliative care in support of the ideal of dying with dignity is noble. We know it hasn’t been an easy feat to destigmatize hospice. Death is still a concept people have a hard time talking about and dealing with. Yet, we believe HopeWest has successfully done just that under her leadership. In fact, we’ve witnessed people embrace hospice, palliative care and grief counseling because they’ve seen it transform serious illness and death into a beautiful, honoring and sacred journey for each family HopeWest serves.

As a testament to Christy’s leadership and HopeWest’s role in changing the way people think about hospice care, consider the first experience our community has with HopeWest. In what other community would you find people willingly scheduling lunch dates at an operating hospice? Every single day, Spoons Bistro & Bakery is packed with locals who’ve made the choice to support the organization by dining there among the gorgeous flowers and peaceful fountains. The Artful Cup bustles to make gourmet coffees for its regulars each morning. And Heirlooms for Hospice hums with community members who love a “new” treasure as much as they’re committed to financially backing HopeWest. 

Not even Christy could have dreamed of the scope of HopeWest almost 30 years after its inception. When HopeWest was founded in 1993, it operated out of a home donated by Veterans Affairs. It cared
for five patients and their families. No one could have imagined how HopeWest would grow to become such an ingrained — maybe integral — nonprofit within our community. 

Today, HopeWest has served more than 29,000 patients in hospice care alone; operates 19 lines of business; and has offices in Grand Junction as well as Delta, Meeker, Montrose and Plateau Valley in serving an area of more than 10,000 square miles in Western Colorado. 

Christy cast a vision, held it to an infinite ideal and inspired people around HopeWest’s noble cause. Its growth is because of grassroots support from the communities it cares for every day.
In fact, the philanthropy that so generously began each community office has kept each one going — signs of an organization truly embedded in the areas it serves. Christy has always considered HopeWest to be community owned. In the age of expanding for profit hospices, it’s a unique gem in providing compassionate care in Western Colorado.

As Christy retires after 30 years of dedicated service to hospice, palliative care and our community, we’re also incredibly thankful she was able to actively work with us to select her successor. 

Cassie Mitchell is as brilliant, community-minded, people-focused and mission-driven as Christy. Even her tenacity matches Christy’s. Cassie hails from Kentucky. Of her 27 years in health care, she’s spent 20 of them serving thousands of patients and their families through hospice care. Before joining HopeWest, she served as chief operating officer at Bluegrass Care Navigators, which serves a third of Kentucky and delivers care to more than 20,000 patients annually. Cassie is dedicated to continuing the mission of HopeWest, setting us up for success as we establish our newly launched PACE Program and working closely with each community HopeWest serves.

We’re excited for the next chapter at HopeWest. As members of its board of directors, we’re humbled to be part of a necessary and wonderful organization that truly serves Mesa County and the Western Slope beyond. 

Thank you, Christy Whitney, for your fearless vision, your compassionate leadership and the legacy of hope you created in HopeWest. 

HopeWest Board of Directors. Donald Nicolay, chairman; Peter Jouflas, immediate past chairman; Mark Francis, vice chairman; Noni Bacon, secretary; Carter Bair; Joseph Breman; Penny Brown; Carolyn Payne; Jim Pedersen; Tom Y. Sawyer; Barbara Seelye; Monique Serra; Michelle Shiao; Chris Thomas; Ashley Thurow; Monika Tuell; Laurel Walters; and S. Todd Young.