I like calling Cumberland County home. One reason is all the hidden jewels that you discover only after making the effort to really10-27-10-diane-wheatley.gif get to know the community. One of these jewels is the Stanton Hospitality House on Roxie Avenue. At the Stanton Hospitality House, those from outside the area with a family member in the hospital can fi nd a little bit of home away from home.

The Hospitality House, as it was originally known, was founded by Carolyn Gaskins. With the support of Cumberland County Medical Society Alliance, she established the house and its “home away from home” concept in 1990. The house was governed by an advisory board, fulltime director and part-time volunteer coordinator.

In 1996, the house’s name was changed to the Stanton Hospitality House in honor of Margaret and the late Hawkins Stanton. Margaret has been and continues to be a staunch supporter of the house, its concept and its needs.

In 1996, Cape Fear Valley Medical Center donated the necessary funds for the purchase of the house by the Cape Fear Valley Health System. Once the house was part of the health system, the former advisory board of the Stanton Hospitality House became the advisory committee and joined the medical center’s foundation, the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation. The SHH Advisory Committee continues to advise and support the Stanton Hospitality House.

Our community provides this service for a small fee or through funds available through Cape Fear Valley Hospital. It is an act of kindness that speaks volumes about us as a community.

For those who have never been far from family and friends with a loved one in the hospital, it can be a period of fear, tension and loneliness that must be experienced to be fully understood. As a mother who was once thrown into a far away place, knowing no one and dealing with the reality that my 4-year-old was dying, I know what a comfort even the most simple act of kindness can be.

Our youngest son had been operated on twice in his four short years of life for a congenital heart defect. Unfortunately, both the surgeries had failed. We held on to every minute trying to have a normal life with him and our other two children. We also had to work, but 30 days after the second operation, David was in heart failure.

The doctors told us there was nothing else they could do and recommended a pediatric hospital in Massachusetts. We suddenly found ourselves in a strange place away from friends and family, with no idea what to do or where we would stay.

Boston Children’s Hospital was an upbeat place, though. The staff was experienced and full of confi dence. We were not the even worst case in the building and hope was alive everywhere. That attitude was one of those simple acts of kindness.

After seeing our son safely into the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit, we at last began to consider what to do next. An admissions person asked where we would be staying and we told her we had no idea. She gave us a number to the old nurses’ dorm where they had a few rooms for $7 a night. She said there weren’t many restaurants in the area, but we could eat in the cafeteria. Her taking time to care about the problems of two strangers was another act of kindness.

So, the basics had been taken care of. There was one room left. It had only a single bed, so we took turns sleeping in the chair outside the intensive care. The heat in our little room was an old steam register. It was either on or it was off. There was no adjusting it. That said, I can’t tell you how grateful we were to be staying close to our son at a cost that meant we could stay as long as we needed to.

While we were in Boston, many people took time to encourage and care for us. That gave us the strength to deal with what we were going through.

My son is 27 now and doing great, but at the time we had no idea what would happen. These events in my family’s life and the kindness shown to us by so many strangers, got us through a very diffi cult time. Without them, I don’t know what we would have done or how things might have turned out.

That brings me back to the Stanton Hospitality House. It is natural to be compassionate to friends and family, but the story of the good Samaritan teaches us that we should do more. I have always believed that a key test of a community is its heart and compassion. It is to our credit that Cumberland County has such a place as The Stanton House. It speaks volumes about who we are as a community.

Thank you to the foundation and to those of you who support our efforts to provide comfort to those who need a place to feel a little bit of home away from home.

Editor’s Note:For more information, visit www.capefearvalley.com/cancer/stantonhouse.html

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