Providing a Home for Seriously Ill Patients and Families
Families who travel to Chapel Hill for medical treatment are far from their own communities of support, so the SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals becomes more than just an affordable place to stay. Guests find a caring community of volunteers and other guests who share their experience.
“Family House is a place of hope and a place of restoration for those going through a crisis,” said Tony, a retired U.S. Army sergeant from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Tony stayed at Family House with his mother Doris, a retired school system custodian who was diagnosed with small cell lung cancer at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center and then referred to UNC Hospitals. “This place gives a person fight, determination, and the perseverance not to give up,” Tony said. “There is hope here.”
In a 40-bedroom hospitality house located near UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, Family House offers an affordable, safe, nurturing home for seriously ill adult patients and their caregivers who are facing a range of illnesses, including cancer, trauma, burns, and eating disorders. Standard rooms at Family House cost $35 per night and $50 per night for a suite. Families who cannot afford those rates may pay even less.
Support and encouragement
The fully equipped kitchen is the heart of the Family House community’s home. During Tony and Doris’ stay, you could often find him in the kitchen preparing breakfast for other guests. Before he started chopping, stirring and cooking, Tony would first empty out all the dishwashers and make the first pots of coffee. As guests gradually entered the kitchen to begin their day before heading to UNC Hospitals, they were drawn to not only Tony’s kindness, but also to his infectious personality.
“Folks here support and encourage each other,” said Director of House Operations Janice Ross. “There are so many instances of our guests telling us how close they’ve become to other guests. Some of these friendships last for years after they’ve left Family House.”
As part of its health care focus area, the John William Pope Foundation has supported Family House since 2012. Last year’s grant was $30,000. The Foundation remains committed to playing a small role in helping families who face serious illnesses.
Since Family House opened in 2008, it has served more than 2,200 families annually representing all 100 North Carolina counties, 36 other states, and 7 foreign countries. Volunteers donate more than 13,000 hours each year, including providing 300 meals to guests.
Janice Ross’ favorite memory at SECU Family House was the day they first opened their doors. Two families were waiting for them in the parking lot.
“They were mothers whose daughters were each seriously ill — one with a traumatic brain injury and the other with a very serious burn,” Ross said. “They had been sleeping in the waiting room at the hospital or in their cars. They were so grateful to get a bed and a place where they could fix food and just relax.”
Because both families were financially strapped, the House discounted the stay.
“They became family to us,” Ross said.
Written with the help of SECU Family House
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