NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — The Craven County Health Department Foundation is working to help families with expenses not covered by Medicare during hospice care.

Their annual spring breakfast fundraiser kicked off Wednesday morning at the New Bern Riverfront Convention Center. Hospice care can be a very difficult and costly process for loved ones at the end of their life. That’s why members of the Craven County Health Department Foundation want to make that process a positive, less stressful experience.

“Folks that are struggling, trying to keep their loved one at home are just totally exhausted,” said Clayton Gaskins, Craven County’s hospice director.

That’s where these donations come into play. The donations from the fundraiser go towards many programs under the hospice department. One of the ways the Craven County Hospice makes life easier for families is the Respite Care program.

As of Tuesday, May 16, over $15,000 has been raised, according to Rachel Hines with Craven County Hospice.

“It involves having a CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) come to the house and bi-weekly they give six hours to the caregiver,” said Sharon Warren, the fundraiser sponsor and chairman of Craven County Health Department Foundation. “That way the caregiver can go run errands, get groceries, take a walk and do many other things.”

Caring for a loved one during hospice care hits home for some who were there at the fundraiser. Mary “Web” Slaughter said her sister was in hospice care for two years.

“If you can make a positive experience out of someone that you love, slowly dying before you, it was as positive as it can get,” Slaughter said.

For 20 years, the fundraiser has grown from having 10 tables full of sponsors to now over 30. Sponsors at each table will tip the servers. Those tips are tax-deductible donations to the hospice.

“Even today, going around thanking the different tables afterwards, I’ve already had two folks come up to me to say they’ve been interested in sponsoring a table next year, so some good was done here today,” Warren said.

Last year, the foundation raised over $30,000 in donations.