Meet Edina's Hometown Heroes

Edina is made up of people who pride themselves with making the city a great place for living, learning, raising families and doing business.

Bob Solheim

July 2015 – Tucked away in an inviting bungalow off West 70th Street, N.C. Little Memorial Hospice is hard to pick out from the family homes that surround it on all sides. That is very much by design, according to Director Bob Solheim. Staff at this residential hospice facility – the longest-running care center of its kind in Minnesota – do everything in their power to ensure that the environment is as homelike and comfortable as possible for the families that pass through their doors.

Solheim co-founded Little Memorial Hospice in 1996, in memory of a friend who passed away in 1992 after a five-year battle with cancer. “Newt [Little] spent the last two of those years in a nursing home,” he recalled. “After his death, I learned about hospice and the philosophy behind residential hospice – how a high level of care can be delivered in a homelike setting, if you properly staff that facility with interdisciplinary personnel.” Solheim made it his personal mission to assemble such a team and to open up a hospice alternative in Edina.

“We currently have 25 registered nurses on staff whose special calling is to care for the dying,” Solheim said. While this is fairly typical for end-of-life facilities, the center’s impressive roster of support staff helps set it apart. “Among others, the Little Memorial Hospice employs bereavement and grief support personnel … chaplains, a cook, and a volunteer coordinator. There are about 15 in all.”

That last role is a pivotal one. At present, nearly 100 volunteer from all walks of life donate their time and services to support Little Memorial Hospice’s mission. On any given day, they can be found prepping meals, doing laundry and handling housekeeping duties in the bungalow’s eight patient and guest bedrooms. “Volunteers are our heartbeat,” Solheim explained.

Solheim is touched by their efforts, because he knows that “a great many of these volunteers have had loved ones as hospice patients in the past. They got support when they needed it, and now they want to be part of a support system for others.”

To date, Little Memorial Hospice has cared for more than 3,700 terminally ill patients and their families. Solheim attributes their success to a broad-based community support that few medical facilities enjoy. Volunteers are just one facet of this.

Generous monetary support is another. When he founded the organization, Solheim incorporated it as a nonprofit. “It made sense,” he said, “because we are not about building a business that benefits shareholders. When making financial decisions, rather than thinking in terms of profits and loss like a corporation, we are only concerned with costs versus benefits as this affects our patients.”

At Little Memorial Hospice, tax-deductible donations offset each patient’s daily expenses and help fund valued amenities – everything from a curated library stocked with timely end-of-life materials, to a fully stocked ice cream freezer for visiting families.

With so many community members contributing in so many ways to its mission and ongoing efforts, Little Memorial Hospice sits well positioned for the future. However – as any number of patient relatives touched by the center’s work over the last two decades can attest – none of it would be possible without the vision and drive of a Hometown Hero like Bob Solheim.

1 of 64  Heroes

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