Current Date: Sat, 25 May 2013 17:44:20 -0400
As his wife rests in her room, James “Buddy” Turnage washes the dishes.
It would be easy for an outsider to forget they aren’t at home.
Turnage and his wife have been living in the State Employees’ Credit Union Family House since July, when she started treatment for a bone marrow transplant at UNC Hospitals.
The Family House is an organization that provides housing to UNC Hospitals’ patients.
Seriously ill patients and their families come to the house through the hospital system’s referral and arrive to find a community striving to provide support and care.
The house, which opened in March 2008, recently hosted its 100,000th guest.
Greg Kirkpatrick, executive director of the house, said reaching the 100,000 mark demonstrates the need for such an organization.
The Ronald McDonald House next door provides similar services, but for children less than 18 years old. The SECU Family House is open to all critically ill patients.
Alex Lee was a student in aerospace engineering at N.C. State University before coming to the Family House.
He said he has to go to the hospital three times a week, and being able to stay at the house makes it much easier.
The house, which has 32 rooms and eight suites, according to its website, has been working at near full capacity since it opened.
Guests can stay in a private room for $35 a night or a suite for $50 a night.
If there is not enough room in the house — which there frequently isn’t — guests can stay in a local hotel for a discounted price.
Debbie Dibbert, a member of the house’s board of directors, said the house is already making plans for expansion.
After washing his dishes, Turnage motioned to the pantry and said all the food is provided through donations and shared with the residents.
Turnage said good deeds are the norm in the community.
Betty Hutton, a volunteer in the house, said there are 80 volunteers that work every week, compared to just six people on the staff.
She said a patient could come to the Family House with nothing but the clothes on his or her back and find anything they need.
And the interest in the organization goes beyond the medical community.
UNC fraternities and sororities often come to make meals for the families, and many of the University’s a cappella groups have come for evening performances. Kirkpatrick said men’s basketball coach Roy Williams went to the house for a fundraiser.
“Chapel Hill is a unique community where people are looking for an opportunity to give back,” Kirkpatrick said.
And as for Turnage, he finds comfort in the sense of community found in the house: “When you can’t get home, it’s the next best thing.”
Contact the desk editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.