Province Celebrates Opening of Hope Lodge for Cancer Patients

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — Holy Name Province is among the many organizations celebrating the opening of Hope Lodge New York City, the American Cancer Society’s guest house for persons undergoing cancer treatment. Hope Lodge, at 132 West 32nd Street, behind St. Francis of Assisi Church, began welcoming guests last fall. In March, it hosted a grand opening of the only facility of its kind in the New York Metropolitan area.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Jerome Massimino, OFM, and Alan Thomas, OFM, attended a March 4 reception, whose guests included Queen Noor of  Jordan, who lost her husband to cancer, and Mathilda Cuomo, wife of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo. 

“I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Queen Noor,” Jerome said. “Her talk was beautiful, touching, personal, and from the heart about her relationship with her husband, his illness, his death, and their blessings through it all.”

“I also had a nice chance to chat with Matilda Cuomo, who I knew when I was in Albany at Siena and she was First Lady,” Jerome said. “We chatted about Hugh Hines, OFM, who was president at that time, the honorary degree she received from Siena, how much she loved the school, and what the college stands for. She had been actively involved with the ACS for more than 40 years and often, especially when she was first lady, helped to find lodging for people who needed treatment here in NYC.”

Hope Lodge provides free housing and support in the heart of Manhattan — in a city with many specialized hospitals — for patients seeking cancer treatment away from home. Conveniently located, it is just one block from Pennsylvania Station, a major transportation hub for trains coming in from all over the country, and very near the Provincial Office. The facility, formally called the Hope Lodge New York City Jerome L. Greene Family Center, in recognition of its $10 million lead gift, is the largest Hope Lodge in the country. It is named for the Jerome L. Greene Foundation.

ACS occupies the lower 11 floors of the tower section of the building owned by Holy Name Province and its two partners. Like Holy Name’s section of the building, Hope Lodge is an environmentally-friendly, resource-efficient structure. It is constructed of building materials that minimize risks to the environment and to human health.

Collaborating with Friars 

Jerome, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church and guardian of the friary, said the Province was delighted when the ACS decided several years go to purchase floors in the new building.

“Both Hope Lodge and St. Francis Church work with the same philosophy,” he said.  “The friars at 31st Street are anxious to form a collaborative ministry with another organization with similar goals, treating all people with proper dignity.”

He said that he is discussing with Hope Lodge Director of Operations Katherine Crappse ways that both friars and parishioners can help at Hope Lodge. Many parishioners are eager to know about volunteer opportunities with the American Cancer Society, according to Jerome. 

“Katherine gave me a wonderful tour and we discussed how we can work together,” said Jerome. “Our next step is for her to give a similar tour to the friars and our parish staff. Once they have a full understanding of the scope of Hope Lodge, we will ask friars to be available 24/7 for emergency,” said Jerome. For now, he is acting as the emergency contact. 

Jerome also added that Hope Lodge guests might like to volunteer on the parish’s breadline and with its other community outreach programs and ministries. “There is a lot that we can do for each other and together,” he said.

Guests of Hope Lodge appreciate the proximity of the friars, according to Karen Radwin, senior managing director of Hope Lodge NYC.  “They have commented that it is comforting to them to have the church so close,” Radwin said. “Many guests go to church before their chemotherapy treatments.”

Diverse Services for Patients and Caregivers

This is the ACS’s 23rd Hope Lodge in the United States. It offers 60 suites to accommodate 120 patients and their caregivers. In addition to lodging, Hope Lodge provides a library, a community kitchen, and workshops for residents. It also offers activities such as yoga, massage, meditation, support groups, nutrition seminars and social activities.

The ACS staff relocated from its previous location at West 56th Street last June, right about the time that the West 31st Street friars and Provincial Office staff moved into the new friary and office space.   The American Cancer Society’s patient services center, offering support programs to people who lives in the area, includes a team of multilingual, culturally competent specialists providing guidance to newly-diagnosed patients, Radwin said.

The first guests stayed at the new Hope Lodge in November. Since then, it has provided care for more than 350 guests – including patients and caregivers.

“Most of the residents are from the United States,” Radwin said, “though about 5 percent are from outside the country.  I’ve met people from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Mexico and even  Malta and Greece.”

The guests are referred to Hope Lodge by   Manhattan area hospitals, including  New York University Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York Presbyterian/Columbia and Weill Cornell Medical Center, and St. Vincent’s Hospital. 

Many guests were on hand to share their stories at an event called Celebrate Unlocking the Doors to Hope, held by the ACS before Hope Lodge’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony March 5.

Margaret Acevedo moved to Puerto Rico last summer to be with her mother, and was diagnosed with breast cancer when she returned to New York to tie up some loose ends.   Acevedo said  that  Hope Lodge helped her gain the hope and courage she desperately needed.

Sharon Storrier of Syracuse, N.Y., whose husband, Robert, was treated for esophageal cancer, described what Hope Lodge offers with the acronym for “hope.” To her, Hope Lodge stands for   “Hope,” “Optimism,” “Pals,” and “Envy the Altruism.”

“Our Manhattan-based and visiting staff have shown such a caring spirit toward our Hope Lodge residents, assisting them with such a range of tasks, including carrying luggage and even entertaining them with music,” said Radwin. “Volunteers are an integral part of our organization.” 

“Our Hope Lodge team of volunteers and staff understands the cancer experience,” said Don Distasio, chief executive officer of the ACS in New York and New Jersey. 

As of January, more than 100 volunteers had donated time and talent to Hope Lodge, providing services such as greeting guests at the welcome center, washing pots and pans, hosting activities, and creating flyers and guestbook content, Radwin added.

Supporting Hope and Services

ACS is developing 15 more Hope Lodges. 

“We are  quickly reaching 100 percent capacity,”  Radwin said. “The gratitude of the residents is heart-warming and we feel their appreciation of the supportive environment Hope Lodge provides.”

Many of Holy Name Province’s friars and partners-in-ministry actively support the American Cancer Society’s services.

This month, Siena College students will participate in the Relay for Life, an annual ACS fundraising event. It takes place on the Loudonville, N.Y., campus, where students, faculty and friends come together to support cancer survivors and patients. During the April 19 to 20 event, participants walk around a track or path from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. to signify the dark struggle cancer victims experience in the beginning that eventually turns into the hopeful light of survivorship. 

In Western New York, St. Bonaventure University holds a Relay for Life on its Allegany campus each autumn.

in photo are Alan, left, and Jerome.

— Jocelyn Thomas is Director of Communications for Holy Name Province.