BY KAREN JARVIS
When Donna Khan visited Winston-Salem in 2017, it wasn’t for fun. A breast cancer diagnosis brought her for treatment to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, four hours to and from her home in western North Carolina.
However, amid medical uncertainty, Khan discovered comfort in her medical team and the nearby Family House, which offered touches of home and friendly faces.
“It was beautiful, more Southern hospitality spa than accommodations for sick people,” Kahn wrote. “It was airy and beautiful, with art, a piano, a cozy library I made my own, and a huge, granite-clad kitchen, where volunteer groups served up evening meals for grateful guests. Through it all, there was humor, grace, relaxation, peace.”
In its seventh year, the Family House has served as a “home away from home” for patients traveling to Forsyth County for medical treatment, or those facing dire health issues.
“When a health crisis takes over, a patient’s family often steps in to provide emotional and physical support. However, when they are required to travel hours away from home for life-saving treatments, that support is harder to find,” said Kathy Carr, Executive Director of the Family House. “That’s when the Family House and its many volunteers take over.”
The 45-room Family House is truly “more than just a place to stay.” Patients and their families coming to Winston-Salem for out-of-town medical care have an affordable, comfortable alternative to a hospital waiting room or an expensive hotel on which to lay their heads at night. The House staff provides friendship and support for adult patients and caregivers who have been referred by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center or Hospice and Palliative CareCenter.
Volunteers are truly the heart of the home, keeping the House stocked, cleaned and guests fed. “It has been an honor to serve the community [a meal] every third Thursday of the month with Winston-Salem State University’s Non-Traditional Adult Student Organization [NASO],” declared Patrick Lancaster, NASO President. “We enjoy every minute that we are there to interact and relax with the patients and families. The stories that we experience are amazing!”
Volunteers are always needed at the Family House, and there are a variety of ways to serve: from cooking and cleaning to providing musical talents or using organizational skills, there truly is something for everyone including the younger volunteers.
“You see immediate and tangible results by supporting the families who have no other place to turn to in times of a health crisis,” affirmed Barbara and Bud Goldsmith, House donors. “The relief that comes to these families in having a real bed to sleep in, a place to share and laugh, and, of course, cry with others, is one of those priceless gifts that can affect families forever.”
The Family House has hosted folks from 94 North Carolina counties and 41 states, and had over 27,000 patients since opening. For guests unable to afford the nominal overnight fee, a Family House assistance fund is available, thanks to donations and fundraising events like “Men Who Cook,” scheduled for March 17th. Last year’s event was a huge success, netting more than $130,000.
“Donations or volunteer efforts shine hope through the darkness for families facing difficult treatment or recovery,” maintained Carr. “We are incredibly humbled that so many folks have supported us since opening, and as we increase the number of guests who need an affordable place to stay, we are always in need more incredible volunteers.”
To learn more about the Family House, please visit its website at www.familyhousews.org or call 336-793-2822 for a visit to determine what volunteer option is best for you.