Donna King is the Director at Hanson House, a “home away from home” for the families and loved ones of critically ill or injured patients in Palm Springs area hospitals. She also works in the Trauma Emergency Center of Desert Regional Medical Center as a Patient Family Liaison.
Donna retired from a 30-year career in Human Resources with AT&T. After retiring, she enrolled at UCLA and became a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor. Donna moved to Palm Springs five years ago to run an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment facility that was establishing a new location in the desert. The facility determined it was more cost effective for them to have all their patients in one location in Orange County so they closed the facility here, however Donna decided she’d found paradise here in the desert and opted to remain in Palm Springs. Along with working at Desert Regional Medical Center and Hanson House, Donna also maintains a counseling practice focusing on addiction, trauma and grief.
Donna, we first met at a Palm Springs Hospitality Association luncheon where I was so pleased to learn more about Hanson House. I admire the work you and your colleagues are doing, and the valuable service Hanson House provides to the community. How long have you been with Hanson House and what led you to take on the role of Director?
I joined the team of incredible volunteers at the Hanson House in May of 2011. I also work in the Emergency room at Desert Regional Medical Center as a Patient Family Liaison; I work with Trauma patients and their families. My position in the ER is very broad: I provide emotional first aid during a very difficult medical situation. I assist patients and their loved ones with everything from a warm blanket to preparing them to have a conversation with the Coroner. I referred many a family of a critically ill patient to the Hanson House.
Dr. Frank Ercoli is the head of Trauma Services at Desert Regional Medical Center; he’s also the founder of the Hanson House. Without Dr. Ercoli’s vision and dedication to making it happen, we would not have the Hanson House. Dr. Ercoli and I often conversed in the ER due to my involvement with the Trauma patients and their families. Dr Ercoli offered me my position and I accepted without hesitation. It is a natural fit for me–I know first hand what the families at the Hanson House are dealing with. For many of the families dealing with critical illness and injury this is the most difficult experience they have ever had to face. I am honored to assist them either in the Emergency Room or at the Hanson House. They are families in need and we are there to provide safety, comfort, support and a hug if they want one.
How would you describe your job as Director at Hanson House? What would a typical day look like for you?
My job at the Hanson House is really not a job–it’s my passion. I meet incredible people every day, and do everything I can to help our guests. I am truly inspired by the strength and courage these amazing people display while they are dealing with an incredibly difficult medical situation for their hospitalized loved one. Every morning I look at our beautiful mountains and know that I’m blessed with health, happiness, and a position I truly love. Our guests never know what awaits them inside the doors of the ICU. My job is to help them have the strength to take the journey and to comfort them when the road gets to be more then they think can handle.
It’s a typical management position with the following exceptions: Our employees are all dedicated volunteers who give their time to the Hanson House because they believe in what we do. Once a guest arrives in our lobby it’s our job make sure that our guests know we are going to care for them while the hospital cares for their loved one. Our facility is not a building, it’s a sanctuary, and it’s treated with respect because our guests want to make sure that the tranquility, peacefulness, cleanliness, safety and beauty are there for all who need it. Of course, I oversee the property and make sure all is in order but I have a lot of help from both our guests and our volunteers.
I work for the dedicated Board of Directors for the Hanson House. I manage a budget and control costs, do fundraising, make local appearances to discuss the role of the Hanson House in the Coachella Valley and write grants until my fingers bleed.
The most important thing I do is to make sure I’m available to both the volunteers and the guests for whatever help they need. I’m on the property every day that I’m not working in the ER, and I’m available by phone at all times. I also confer daily with the medical and social services staff at the Hospital, Cancer Center, Hospice and 29 Palms Military Base.
Please tell us a little about the accommodations at Hanson House–I understand there are 16 private casitas?
We have 13 Casitas that each have two queen beds and a private bath, and three Casitas that each have one queen bed and a private bath. We have two family kitchens, an open pantry, a family room, a fully equipped laundry room, a beautiful chapel and meditative grounds.
And you provide these accommodations at low to no-cost to the families and loved ones of critically ill or injured patients. How do you receive the majority of your funding for day-to-day operations?
We are a 501 (c)3 non profit. All of our funding comes from grants and donations. You can learn more about the Hanson House here and you can make a donation on the site while you are viewing our beautiful sanctuary. You can also contact me at email@example.com or you can call me at 760-238-0040.
I understand you have a rather significant fundraiser for the Hanson House Foundation coming up on Saturday, May 18th at the Indian Canyons Golf Resort in Palm Springs. Please tell us more about “Festival in the Canyons” and how people can get involved with this exciting event.
Our annual fundraiser is May 18, 2013 at Indian Canyons Golf Resort. We start the day with a golf tournament at 7:30AM on the South Course. Our evening event is at 6:30PM also on the South Course. At our evening event you’ll enjoy a fabulous outside cocktail and dinner experience to be followed by the entertainment of Don Felder, formerly of the Eagles. Don is bringing his show “Hotel California” to our event. We know this is going to be a fabulous evening in the canyons. This will be our 18th Festival as well as our celebration of the Hanson House’s 10th anniversary. Tickets for our Festival in the Canyons here or by calling 760-323-6673
You partner with the Rotary Club of Palm Springs to stock the pantries at Hanson House–are there any other area organizations that assist with Hanson House?
Many organizations have supported us over they years, and they’re all listed on the Festival in the Canyons website. The Rotary Club and especially Dr. Dennis Spurgen D.C. have take on the responsibility of our pantry for years. Our pantry is stocked with non-perishable food items our guests can enjoy while staying at the Hanson House.
Please describe for us a favorite day spent in Palm Springs.
Every day in Palm Springs is a favorite day for me. I have found the place I love most in the world and the people I most enjoy being with. Plus, I’m only two hours away from my son and his fiancee.
One of my favorite things to do here is sit with friends on the patio of one of our many wonderful restaurants on Palm Canyon Drive and enjoy a fine dining experience.
Donna, what is it that you love most about the community of Palm Springs?
I find our community to be open, friendly, generous, interesting, culturally fulfilling, diverse and safe. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I meet someone I know everywhere I go and I always make new friends along the way. I can go to the theatre, see live opera, enjoy fine dining, get great medical care, avoid the freeway, shop till I drop, swim in March in my backyard and walk along Palm Canyon Drive at midnight without worry. Shhhhhhh though–everyone’s going to want to move here!
Donna, thanks for sharing the incredible work you and your dedicated volunteers do at Palm Springs’ own Hanson House. It was a pleasure chatting with you!