Jill Valley

(KPAX) The official groundbreaking was marked at the new Partners Hope Foundation hospice center in Missoula on Tuesday.

It has taken six years of hard work, planning and fundraising, and there were a lot of smiles as the ceremonial dirt was tossed in the air.

The end-of-life facility will serve Montanans in six counties and provide 24-hour care in a loving environment for those who are facing their final days. As one person put it during Tuesday’s event, this is not about death but rather about living the best life you can until the end of your life.

The day was special for board member Nancy Pickhardt who was inspired to help create this center after the death of her sister.

"It was the privilege of my life to be able to be with her as she took her last breath. And when I came back to Missoula, I didn't want to go back to work doing nursing hospice care. And I knew after working with so many patients who did not have a home and didn't have people to care for them, that this is what I needed to do," Pickhardt said.

The goal is to have the facility opened and ready for patients in early 2025. The center is funded entirely through philanthropic giving and has so far reached 84% of its $15.4 million goal.

“A lot of people think there is a hospice in western Montana because they might not totally understand the difference between home-based hospice care and hospice care that needs to be given in a facility,” explained Dr. Stan Seagraves, who serves on the Embrace End of Life Steering Committee.

“I think for a lot of people it was a surprise we didn't already have one. The need is clearly there, the support has been fabulous, and this is really going to be a difference-maker in end-of-life care in our state," he added.