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On June 26, the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona and the David and Lura Lovell Foundation awarded a total of $3.6 million to 12 Arizona nonprofits for issues related to the awareness, understanding and end-of-life care, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities. Among these recipients is Tucson-based Interfaith Community Services, which will use its $400,000 grant to further their end-of-life care for people of multiple cultures. 

There’s a lot that goes into end-of-life care, but ICS takes a spiritual approach.

“ICS’s roll is really working closely with faith communities and their support of families and their congregations in advanced care planning and just starting conversations about their wishes,” said Lauryn Valladarez, faith and community outreach manager for ICS.

ICS is part of the End of Life Care Partnership in Arizona, which includes other organizations that focus on hospice care or speaking with medical professionals, all with the goal to “fundamentally change the way we talk about death and dying,” Valladarez said.

She said the ICS’s end-of-life care includes keeping people independent, helping people talk about their wishes while they still can and supporting family members through the process.

“In our case, we’re really working closely with faith leaders to help guide their congregants through these conversations, give them the right tools and resources to do so, so that there’s a lot of pain and suffering that’s no longer part of the equation when they come to end-of-life,” Valladarez said.

The ICS works with 118 different faith communities to provide end-of-life care, as many turn to their faith when facing death or the death of a loved one, according to Valladarez.

“Faith leaders, in their own way, are acting like a compass for families who may not really know what to do amidst grief and amidst illness and with these hard decisions,” she said.

The grant itself will help fund the ICS train staff members and volunteers and to continue to build relationships with faith communities.

Valladarez said they will have more conversations with faith community leaders about how the ICS can meet their needs, as well as making efforts to bring more leaders into the greater national conversation about their roles in end-of-life care and advanced illness.

“That takes a lot of relationship building, that takes a lot of trust building,” she said. “We’re going to be doing more focus groups around this type of work and what this type of work looks like currently within faith communities already and how we can best support those faith communities.”

Valladarez said this type of end-of-life care is particularly important in removing some of the fear around the necessary conversations about death and helping people properly prepare for death.

“There’s a funny statistic that’s passed around in our line of work that says, ‘It’s a 100% guarantee that you’re going to die,’” Valladarez said. “Recognizing that death is a part of our culture and is a part of our cycle of life is really important for us to embrace in all ways so that when the time comes … we feel prepared and armed with the right tools. … As a society, we plan our births, we plan our weddings, we plan all these things that we expect – why not plan for death?”

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