For our first Thanksgiving, volunteer Melissa and her husband Mike filled the Family House kitchen with a wonderful meal. Read on to learn what the Family House means to her!
How she found out about the Family House:
I actually first heard about the family house from Kevin Mack who works for the SECU. He was giving a presentation at work and spoke about it a few years ago. I thought, wow, a business that wants to financially support something so wonderful!
I was already a member of the SECU and am so grateful to know that the $1 I am “charged” each month goes towards helping others!
The final decision to become a volunteer came as a result of my full-time job which requires that I travel to 15 counties in the NW part of NC. In the course of doing my work I have met, literally, hundreds of people who have either traveled to Winston-Salem for daily treatments or had to bring their spouse or parent here.
I saw first-hand how tired they were since they had to drive back-and-forth each day because they could not afford to stay in a hotel for several days or weeks.
Additionally, many of the people that I see in my work are farmers. They told me of having to drive up to 2 ½ hours each way, every day, because they wanted to be here but also needed to be at home to feed or milk cattle, and to tend to crop plantings and harvests. It’s great that the caregivers now have the opportunity to leave their sibling, parent, or spouse, to stay in a safe, caring environment at the SECU House (as the patient travels to the hospital to receive daily cancer treatments), and still be able to take care of things back home.
Favorite volunteer activity:
Oh, I love to cook! I like to work a morning or afternoon shift where I have the opportunity to fill the kitchen with non-hospital smells Some of the guests have said “this is the only real meal I had today–thank you.” What affirmation! I always like to leave a little something for them to snack on in the afternoon or evening when they return from the hospital. It’s my way of saying “welcome home.”
Why Melissa and Mike jumped on the chance to make the Thanksgiving meal:
I heard several of the family members mention that they wanted to have a “normal” Thanksgiving day—even if only for a few hours. In my observation it was pretty normal! We had the ‘early snackers’ that kept coming buy to nibble; we had a group in the Family House living room watching football; and we had some wonderful guests who helped prepare meal items and stir pots. When I came out of the kitchen to call everyone to the table and to welcome them, I watched as, one-by-one, everyone came together and spontaneously started holding hands in a circle. I expected that my husband and I would be the only ones who knew the words to the Moravian Blessing (we are in Winston-Salem you know!) so I have to say, I fought back tears as several people said the Blessing along with us. One guest said she had had once been a student at Salem College and loved hearing the words to the traditional blessing again. She was proud that she still remembered the words!
On “being there” for families:
I’m humbled by the intimacy with which many of the guests share their lives. They will often share heartfelt details about their lives back home and offer me updates on the recovery of themselves or their loved one. I am truly honored that they share their lives with me.
I hoped and expected that the Family House staff and volunteers would be a blessing to those needing lodging during a medical crisis, but I have just been blown away by the support I see the guests provide to one another!
Here are these families, from various locations, cultures, and economic backgrounds—all dealing with major medical issues—who find the energy, patience, and kindness to encourage a fellow guest!
I’ve witnessed hugs between total strangers; heard guests asking one another how a surgery went; and watched as guests with transportation, offer a ride to the hospital for others who don’t have their cars here in Winston-Salem (many ride here with the ambulance).
I used to referee basketball! Growing up in Indiana, you could not help but learn the game. I find it ironic that I ended up in another state that loves its basketball. Luckily I married someone (Mike Mickey) who loves sports as much as I do, too. Our friends and relatives know not to call us during a Carolina game because we won’t answer the phone!