It was a warm, humid day in early September, but the frail woman slowly making her way into Hunter Hospitality House was dressed in a heavy fleece sweat suit. “Jane” introduced herself to me with a tired smile and shivered a bit under the kitchen ceiling fan, her pail face peeking out from beneath a swath of freshly colored dark hair. I guessed her to be about the age of my mom, but as she filled out the registration papers, wiping her forehead in frustration and telling me about her second fight with cancer, I realized she was much younger. The disease has taken its toll on her appearance, her energy, and her finances; soon, I know, even that beautiful hair will be gone.
During the 6 weeks she undergoes chemotherapy, Jane will be staying at Hunter Hospitality House (HHH). Our charity, in two locations across from both hospitals in Port Huron, provides free lodging and amenities like food, laundry supplies, and emergency clothing for adults who have a hospitalized loved one or are undergoing their own outpatient treatments. It’s a home-away-from home, providing rest and relaxation, and since Jane lives about 40 minutes from the hospital where she’ll be receiving chemo and doesn’t have transportation or family in the area, a place like HHH is ideal for her.
My husband and I founded Hunter Hospitality House in 2011 in memory of our second son, Hunter. Born 7 weeks premature in 1991, Hunter spent his short life of 16 days in and out of the hospital. Although we lived close, having a place nearby would have meant I didn’t have to drive back and forth to feed the baby at all hours of the night, when I was exhausted, emotional, and a hazard on the road. Losing Hunter was the greatest sadness of my life, but opening the first location of Hunter Hospitality House on what would have been his 20th birthday has rivaled all of the most joyous occasions. Two years later, on the same day, the second location opened, and now there’s free, clean, safe, and beautiful bed & breakfast style homes near both hospitals in Port Huron at HHH, through the mercy of God in His goodness.
As a 501c3 organization, we depend on the thoughtful donations of our community in time, money and items. My days are spent in prayerful pursuit of those resources. I won’t lie; it’s hard work. Not everyone understands the importance of our mission, and there are many worthy charities in the area. Each week, though, my prayers are answered, and it seems there’s at least one new person helping us provide these services for the nearly 700 guests we’ve accommodated since 2011. Volunteers do housework, collecting pop cans for a small contribution, pulling weeds or simply sharing our Facebook page so others can use HHH in their own time of need. Contributors give sponsorships, furniture, and even those little soaps and shampoos from hotels–it’s absolutely heartwarming.
In order to serve as many people as possible, HHH is not a faith-based organization, but as believers ourselves, we’ve seen the Lord work in mighty, surprising ways in the homes to comfort the broken hearted and sick. I’m not sure what He has in store for “Jane.” Perhaps in the peaceful atmosphere she’ll be able to talk to Him about her circumstances in a way she’s never experienced. Maybe there will be a healing—what a joy that will be! Whatever the case, it is my prayer that Hunter Hospitality House will be for her what it’s been for me– a refuge of hope, through God’s merciful care.
Guest bloggist, Tracy Willard, lives in Port Huron, MI, where she is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Hunter Hospitality House, Inc., providing free lodging for those in need of restoration while their loved ones are hospitalized, or during their own outpatient treatment. Emails to Tracy can be sent to [email protected], and you can find out more about Hunter Hospitality House by searching for them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and on their website, HunterHospitalityHouse.com.