Hope Lodge: Helping and Housing Cancer Patients
CINCINNATI—When an adult with cancer lives far away from treatment, the thought of leaving
home and finding a place to stay can be overwhelming. As a relief to people in such situations, the
American Cancer Society has founded 22 Hope Lodges across the United States (www.cancer.org).
Hope Lodge was established in 1970 in Charleston, South Carolina, by Margot Freudenberg, a 99-year-old
survivor of the Holocaust. It provides free, temporary housing on a first-come, first-served basis
to patients and their companions during treatment and is supported entirely through donations.
The story of these facilities is featured in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger and is entitled “Hope
Lodge: Home Away From Home for Cancer Patients.” Author Ann Tassone—with additional reporting
from Assistant Managing Editor Mary Jo Dangel—writes of Hope Lodge, its history and its Catholic
connections. After January 22, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
These houses of healing can be found nationwide. The 32-room Hope Lodge in Indianapolis, Indiana, opened in 1997, and is located
on the former campus of St. Vincent’s Hospital. This facility has received contributions from
the St. Vincent Guild. Volunteers include students who attend Catholic schools.
In 1980, the American Cancer Society in Rochester, New York, purchased the former Holy Angels Convent
and converted the complex into ACS offices and a 12-room Hope Lodge. Some Catholic touches at this
facility include stained-glass windows and confessionals.
The Joe Lee Griffin Hope Lodge in Birmingham, Alabama, which opened in 2000, is named after a longtime
supporter who lost two wives to cancer before losing his own battle with the disease. Each of the
33 guest rooms has a private bath and sleeps two. This lodge provides a temporary home for about
700 families each year.
The Birmingham facility receives help from local Catholic organizations: For example, the Holy Family
Altar Guild from St. Aloysius Church furnished Thanksgiving dinner for lodge guests. Students from
St. Rose Academy brought teddy bears when they visited. Youth groups from Our Lady of Sorrows Parish
made Christmas cookies and gave manicures to female guests. In the summer, students from John Carroll
High School volunteer by registering guests, giving tours and helping with laundry.
And guests of Hope Lodges have felt the love. Shirley Johnson was a patient at a facility in Cincinnati,
Ohio. Doctors in Atlanta, Georgia, had offered her little hope in her battle with recurring liposarcoma
in her chest cavity. After a Cincinnati surgeon removed her tumor, Shirley says her prognosis is
good. “I wouldn’t have been able to afford the lodging even if I had gone to the lowest-priced
place available,” explains the retiree, who is on a fixed income.
Sister Ruth Podesta is one of about 30 volunteers who help at the Cincinnati Hope Lodge. She’s
thrilled that the facility can provide hope to cancer patients. “The meaning of hope is much
clearer to me now that I’ve spent time with people who come here,” explains Sister Ruth. “They
help me much more than I help them.”
Her favorite job is sending guests home, telling them, “Good-bye. I hope I never see you again.”
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