HCN News & Notes

Cancer House of Hope Seeks Volunteers

WEST SPRINGFIELD — Cindy Sheridan-Murphy remembers walking into the Cancer House of Hope three years ago like it was yesterday.

“I was just diagnosed with breast cancer, and I was petrified,” she recalls, “and I was greeted with such warmth and compassion. One of the volunteers scheduled me for a Reiki appointment and pointed me towards one of the many support groups. Throughout the next several months, I visited weekly and was always greeted with a smile by someone who’d listen. The volunteers would put aside hats and scarves they thought I would like. It was the unselfishness of these volunteers that made me want to join them someday.”

And join them she did: Cindy now volunteers at Cancer House of Hope. “The feeling I get when someone walks in the same door with panic on their face, just like I did, and knowing that giving them a few minutes of my time gives them hope, that’s priceless. That is what motivates me to make a difference in the life of a cancer survivor.”

Cancer House of Hope, located at 1999 Westfield St. in West Springfield, enhances the lives of people with cancer and those who care about them. The house provides emotional, educational, social, and spiritual support services and relaxation programs free of charge.

“It is our mission to be a supportive, caring and hopeful place of healing,” said Program Director Joe Kane. “We serve 400 guests a year, and every penny of every dollar donated to the house directly supports programming and the people we serve.”

He describes volunteers as the “beating heart” of the facility, and those interested in volunteering should contact him at (413) 733-1858 or jkane@chd.org.

“Their commitment to provide a welcoming place where people feel at home is crucial to our mission of service,” he said. “And it doesn’t take much time. Most volunteers work a regular three-hour shift each week, and we try to be flexible to accommodate personal schedules.”

Who is a good candidate to volunteer? “Anyone who has personal, lived experience with cancer and its effects on individuals and families,” Kane said. “Someone who has been through a cancer experience themselves is in a unique position to be a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on. These people are often highly motivated to give something back, too. Some volunteers are people whose lives were impacted by the cancer diagnosis of someone they care about. And some volunteers are just people with compassionate hearts.”

Kane encourages prospective volunteers to think about their own passions and talents so they can put them to productive use in service to others. He also noted that about 80{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of the people who walk through the door at the house are women. “I think that might reflect the nature of the services we offer and also the social nature of women, but men seek out our services, too. It would be great to have more male volunteers to provide the kind of connection that comes when two men talk to each other.”

One crucial job performed by volunteers is answering the phone. “Since we most often make our first connection with guests on the phone, this is a very important job,” says Kane. “You also could make sure the house is clean and presentable, greet guests who walk in our door, and give tours. You could schedule and update appointments. You could listen to a guest’s story and offer support, or aid a guest in finding a wig or prosthetic.”

The house is always interested in volunteers who speak a language in addition to English. People with experience in fund-raising, event planning, office management, or building maintenance can help with the operation of the house. Certified massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, and yoga instructors are sought after as well.

“The satisfaction that comes with volunteering is immeasurable,” Kane believes. “The Cancer House of Hope provides a volunteer-orientation program to help you understand our mission and values, and get you started right. If you think you’d be a good fit, or if you just want to learn more about the opportunity, please contact me today.”

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