By Mary Anne Lystad
The article in The Buffalo News Nov. 25 regarding the closing of the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge has left a number of individuals upset and sickened.
The closing of Hope Lodge will leave a huge hole in the Buffalo community. I am a cancer survivor and a caregiver and have been volunteering at Hope Lodge for over five years. I have volunteered by making dinner for the residents and their caregivers every month for the last five plus years.
In this time period, we have served dinner to a minimum of 10 to 12 people each month and leave plates of food for those who are still at the hospital for treatment. In most cases, we have a full house, 18 to 20 people, which means most of the rooms are full. We, the volunteers, add comfort and support to the survivors and their caregivers. We also give them hope. They have a home away from home and can share their stories and spend time with other patients if they choose. Where are these individuals going to go? A hotel – where they spend their time in one room with no one to talk to? Have to go out and pay for meals?
The survivors and caregivers need space and the comfort of family, support of other cancer patients and a place to make a meal. In the time I have been volunteering, we have had people from Greece, New Mexico and other areas of the country and world. Some of the individuals we have met have limited funds. They either have money for gas to go home or food. We give them food to take home so they have a meal.
When we prepared our Thanksgiving meal in November, we spoke with a number of people who were very angry, and others who were in tears at the closing, because they did not know where they would go for the balance of their treatment. Some individuals need to be here for 100 days or more, and close to the hospital.
We prepared Christmas dinner for a full house. We served over 15 individuals and left meals for those who were still at the hospital receiving treatment.
Volunteers have been told that the closing is due to the age of the building and some work that is needed, and also due to occupancy being down 30 percent. At full capacity, Hope Lodge would not be able to take in individuals who need treatment. In most situations like this, you want occupancy at 70 percent so you have room for those who need it.
I have recently heard that the American Cancer Society has made an agreement with a hotel chain in the Amherst area for cancer patients to stay, but they will have to contribute to the cost. And the distance is greater.
It is sad and a shame that the Buffalo community, with its many general contractors and mechanical contractors, cannot come together to try to save this beautiful home for such a worthy cause, because most of us have a family member, friend or someone we know who has been touched by cancer.
As a personal observation, it appears that the American Cancer Society’s only concern is the bottom line – dollars, that is – in regard to keeping this property open.
Mary Anne Lystad, of Hamburg, volunteers at Hope Lodge.