S. HUNTINGTON—The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge at 125 S. Huntington Ave. wants to connect with the community while serving its mission to provide free housing for out-of-town cancer patients.
By offering free community meeting space, encouraging volunteerism and hosting twice-yearly art openings for local and regional artists—many from Jamaica Plain—the Hope Lodge staff is hoping to make the Lodge known to the rest of the community as a point of reference and community.
“We’re giving people the chance to connect with each other,” JP resident Bryan Harter, senior director at the Hope Lodge, told the Gazette.
The Gazette received a private tour of the Hope Lodge last month, one of 31 such centers nation-wide. The free long-term accommodations for cancer patients and caretakers are comfortable and welcoming with only one major rule: no eating in the guest rooms.
By making guests eat in the dining areas, the Hope Lodge is encouraging them to interact with others in similar situations, creating support networks and preventing anyone from feeling too isolated, Harter said.
The guests-only area of the facility includes a library, an activity room complete with a foosball table and Wii video gaming system, a family room filled with toys and a courtyard garden.
While children are not usually allowed to stay in the Hope Lodge, they are welcome to visit, and creating a welcoming space for that is important, Harter added.
The library has an unexpected treat: a hundred-year-old glazed brick fireplace, original to the building that used to stand on the premises. When the Hope Lodge was evaluating the old building, Christopher Thomas, the Hope Lodge senior vice-president for leadership giving said, it found that the fireplace was the only thing of value—so it was saved. The whole room was decorated to accentuate the vibrant colors on the bricks.
The courtyard garden was also designed with the comfort of patients in mind: since many have compromised immune systems and are unable to cope with prolonged exposure to plants, the garden is outdoors, though easily visible from every window on that side of the building.
Guests who want and are able to garden, however, are welcome to do so. A large planter houses kitchen herbs, which guests are welcome to use when preparing their meals.
In the public area of the building, community members are welcome to use the large conference room for meetings, talk to staff for information, visit the Quality of Life Resource Center for cancer information and enjoy the rotational art collection.
“The art [on display] is such a special and unique way to engage the JP community,” Harter said.
“There is so much good art in the area, it is difficult to choose” what to show, Hope Lodge spokesperson Barbara Davis told the Gazette. “We narrow it down by making sure that the subject matter is in concert with the mission of the Lodge… We’re really concerned with the emotional content of the art. We choose very positive, colorful art.”
The Hope Lodge started its rotational art program in 2010 after opening its doors in 2008. It now has a professional art consultant, Pamela Foster, who scouts out potential artists for exhibition.
All the art in rotation is for sale, a percentage of which artists agree to donate to the Hope Lodge and its mission of providing a free place to stay for cancer patients from out of town.
“We change the art every six months and welcome people to come in, view the art and learn about this facility first-hand,” Davis said.
The Hope Lodge staff would also like “folks to come to Hope Lodge and experience the Quality of Life Resource Center, an excellent resource for answering questions, learning and understanding the implications of cancer,” Davis said. “If we draw them in here, it takes the mystique out of cancer.”
The Hope Lodge wants its presence known to the community so that when community members need cancer resources, they’ll know where to go.
“It’s all background noise until you have cancer…Prevention and early detection save lives. You can’t do that online,” Thomas said. “We want people to know that this information and resources are right in their neighborhood.”