House has been godsend for patients, families and caregivers
On Sunday, the State Employees Credit Union (SECU) Family House celebrated one year of being a home away from home for caregivers and patients.
The House, located off Burke Mill Road on Baldwin Lane, provides shelter and more for out-of-towners who travel to Winston-Salem to take advantage of the services offered at the city’s nationally-ranked hospitals and Hospice & Palliative Care Center. Finding shelter can be an additional hardship for such families. The House, which was opened with the help of a $2 million gift from SECU, has made the lives of many families much easier over the past year.
While families are asked to contribute a $35 per night donation, that cost is small for the amenities they receive. The House has 44 bedrooms – all with queen beds and bathrooms. There’s a common kitchen area with multiple sinks, ovens and microwaves and communal and personal pantries and refrigerators. There is financial assistance available for those who can’t afford the requested donation.
Tickets were sold to Sunday’s event to raise funds for the House. The outdoor celebration included a barbecue meal provided by Pig-N-Out Barbeque in Lewisville and musical performances by acts like Martha Bassett and the Southfork Cloggers. Current and former House residents were among the attendees. Executive SECU Family House Director Kathy Carr said the facility has housed 900 patients and caregivers from 70 counties in the state and 26 other states and the Washington, D.C. over the past year.
“It’s been amazing,” she said. “The gratitude that the families are feeling towards Winston-Salem and the hospitals have been very rewarding. They’re just so glad to have one less thing to worry about.”
The idea for the House originated more than a decade ago. Local couple Beth and Charles “Sandy” Baldwin had stayed at a similar house when their son, Branner, underwent treatment for melanoma in Pittsburg. The couple, now co-chairs of the House’s board, took up the cause of bringing such a facility to Winston-Salem after Branner passed away.
Princeton, W. Va. resident Barbara Mitchem, a current House resident, took part in Sunday’s festivities. She is in town to receive radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center to treat the cancer discovered on the the base of her tongue.
She said she is thankful for the affordable accommodations as she undergoes seven weeks of treatments. The SECU ‘Family House’ truly lives up to its name, she added. Her sisters and a friend have made trips to Winston-Salem and stayed at the House while they provide Mitchem with emotional support.
“It’s really nice. They have a fantastic staff, very courteous, very sweet,” said Mitchem. “They can’t do enough for you, they’re just really nice.”
Former resident Heidi Haas of Salisbury stayed at the Family House at a very difficult time in her life last year when her father, Roger, was in the Forsyth Medical Center Neurological Intensive Care Unit. She stayed in the city for more than a month to be with him. She stayed at a hotel until she met a Family House volunteer.
Haas said the staff, volunteers and other residents at the House gave her love and support at in her darkest hour.
“While I was here at the Family House, so many people encouraged me, and hugged me and said hello, ‘How are you today?’” said Haas, whose father passed away in December. “It was just a very loving environment, very peaceful, very serene. It was like a jewel you find in the desert underneath the sand because I would’ve never had that experience in the hotel where I was staying.”
A small staff and more than 70 regular volunteers keep the House in order. They clean, do laundry and prepare special meals and snacks for the families there. Melissa Rosebrock is a regular weekend volunteer who has done everything at the House from cooking to landscaping. Providing support for residents is a duty she embraces wholeheartedly.
“I’ve been in their shoes,” she said. “I think that’s why most people volunteer here is because at some point in our lives we’ve all been in their shoes, having to tend or care for someone who’s sick out of town or for a loved one in the hospital. We’ve all slept on waiting room chairs.”
For more information about the Family House, including donating and volunteering, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.familyhousews.org” www.familyhousews.org or call Office Manager Lisa Northrop at 793-2822.