By Lori Szepelak
WEST SPRINGFIELD – The stately door to Center for Human Development's (CHD) Cancer House of Hope will have an open house for residents on March 20 to mark its relocation from sites in Springfield and Westfield.
The open house is planned from 5 to 7 p.m. at 1999 Westfield St. On-street parking is available on the side street.
"We are in a raised ranch home on Route 20, so we are still in a house," Cheryl A. Gorski, program director, said during an interview with Reminder Publications. "Our mission to serve people affected by cancer in a home-like setting has not changed whatsoever."
Gorski noted that the house is easily accessible from every major road and highway and is in a "wonderfully centrally" located area of homes and businesses. In addition, the house is at the corner of a bus stop so area residents can access the facility via public transportation.
"We realize it was not always easy for people to get to Westfield or to Sixteen Acres in Springfield for programming, so we hope this location will make it somewhat easier for people who otherwise could not attend our programs," she said.
During a tour Gorski was excited to showcase the detached garage that has been renovated into a yoga and healing arts studio.
"In Westfield, yoga was held off-site, so we rarely saw those people at the house and there always seemed to be a disconnect," Gorski said. "Now we are all in one place and this is a huge benefit of consolidating operations."
The Cancer House of Hope, a program of the CHD, based in Springfield, is overseen by Gorski. Her staff includes Lauri Scott-Smith, administrative assistant, and volunteers from across the region.
"People can also expect to see the same counselors for support groups, yoga, Reiki and everything else we do," Gorski said. "We have a new location with all familiar faces."
Gorski noted the consolidating to one site made sense on several levels.
"We are a very small organization with only two full-time staff people, so operating two locations with two staff was not the most efficient way to run an organization," she said. "From a financial standpoint we will save hard-to-come-by-funding by having one set of programs instead of two, one set of office supplies, and utilities. Even though we have only been in the new house for a few weeks, I already feel as though we will be more organized and run much more efficiently than we have in a long time."
Gorski said that seeking a house in West Springfield would ensure that as many people from between Westfield and Springfield would continue to use the services.
Current programming includes:
• Mondays: 3 to 6 p.m., Reiki with Nancy Greenwood; the second and fourth Mondays of the month, by registration, a Children/Teens Group led by Andrea Bailey.
• Tuesdays: 6 p.m., Bereavement Group, led by Janice Pagano; 6:30 p.m., Relaxation Session, led by Brad Alm. On the second Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m., a Melanoma Group is led by Sarah Asheim.
• Wednesdays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Reiki with Nancy Greenwood.
• Thursdays: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Reiki with Annie Knox; 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., Yoga Class with Niti Martin; 3 to 6 p.m., Reiki with Annie Knox; on the first, third and fifth Thursdays of the month at 6 p.m., an All Cancers Group meets, led by Nancy Ferguson; second Thursdays, 6 p.m., a Family and Friends Group meets, under the direction of Nancy Ferguson; and the fourth Thursday at 6 p.m., a Recently Diagnosed Cancer Support Group meets, under the direction of Nancy Ferguson.
Gorski noted that the house is open for walk-ins from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
"Most of our programs, however, run in the afternoon and evenings, but the walk-in hours are generally when we expect to have volunteers on-site," she said. "On Fridays we are open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m."
As Gorski looks to the future, she hopes to start offering programs including Pilates and Tai Chi in the coming months.
"The new yoga studio gives us the opportunity to bring new wellness programs to the House because we now have the space," she said. "We are also waiting to find out if we will be receiving grant funding to offer one-on-one phone counseling for those who may not be able to attend a support group due to illness or transportation issues."
All programs are free for people affected by cancer in any capacity, including survivors, caregivers, friends and the bereaved.
"We are fortunate to have highly experienced, amazing staff who are compassionate professionals," Gorski said. "We know what the experience is like for anyone facing a battle with cancer and we want everyone to know you don't have to face your journey alone."
Gorski said the house offers a place "away from a medical facility" where you can connect with others who understand your situation, find great, shared camaraderie in a yoga class, or a kind ear and relaxation in a Reiki therapy session.
"We also have free wigs, breast prostheses, mastectomy bras, medical equipment and a lending library," Gorski said.
More than 2,700 visits were made to the House in 2012, according to Gorski, with the most popular programs being yoga, Reiki therapy and bereavement support.
"CHD made it possible for us to consolidate our operations, something I've advocated for since our merger," Gorski said. "We are still open for business, thanks to their willingness to take us on two years ago. Any merger or collaboration has its challenges, but ultimately we are still here and serving those in the community who need us, so we will always be thankful to CHD for everything they have done and continue to do for the Cancer House of Hope."
For more information on the Cancer House of Hope, call 733-1858 or visit www.chd.org/cancerhouseofhope