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VOL. 125 | NO. 138 | Monday, July 19, 2010

Lodging for Patients’ Families Increasing

By Tom Wilemon

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More hospitality options for out-of-towners seeking medical care in Memphis are on the way with the construction of two family lodging centers.

The $7.75 million American Cancer Society Harrah’s Hope Lodge is on schedule for an Aug. 27 finish date, while work on the $6.6 million FedEx Family House should be done by mid-November.

They will bring to five the number of hospitality lodges that offer people a free place to stay within and near the Memphis Medical Center district. The Memphis Grizzlies House, Ronald McDonald House of Memphis and Target House already serve families with children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

But people who come here to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital have had to pay for motel rooms or sleep in patient rooms. The FedEx House will change that.

The Harrah’s Hope Lodge is for adult cancer patients receiving care at any Memphis hospital or oncology center.

“We did a needs assessment study in 2003,” said Leighanne Hart, capital campaign director for the Mid-South division of the American Cancer Society. “At that time, it was determined that we had over 2,000 patients coming into Memphis from the Mid-South and other areas to receive their cancer care and there was nothing for adult cancer patient care who have that need. We also learned that people were coming into Memphis and sleeping in their cars.”

Sixty- and 80-mile commutes can be a weary journey for patients receiving chemotherapy.

“The worst case is when a patient would just give up because they could not afford to come to Memphis and couldn’t afford a place to stay so they unfortunately did not receive their cancer treatment,” Hart said.

The Hope Lodge is already part of the Union Avenue streetscape. It is immediately east of Sun Studio.

The three-story structure was designed by Trivers Associates of St. Louis. The general contractor for the project is Brice Building Co. Inc. of Birmingham, Ala.

The first floor has common spaces including kitchens, a dining room, living room, patios and a screened-in porch. The second and third floors have a total of 40 patient suites for cancer patients and a guest/caregiver.

The American Cancer Society has raised $750,000 to cover the first three years of operating costs. Although the lodge is slated for completion at the end of next month, a date has not been set for when it will begin accepting guests.

“Our first position is a full-time director for the Hope Lodge facility,” Hart said. “We are currently looking for the right person for that job. It is a very important and a very big job.”

The American Cancer Society is looking to raise an additional $50,000 to cover construction add-ons to make the building more resistant to damage from earthquakes. The organization also expects to begin an endowment campaign for future operational funds once the building opens.

The Harrah’s Foundation, which is funded by the casino company Harrah’s Entertainment, gave $2 million to the building fund. The University of Tennessee Health Science Center donated the land.

The Plough Foundation and The Assisi Foundation of Memphis Inc. each gave $1 million.

“All hospitals and clinics within our community are supporting this very important endeavor,” Hart said. “There is nothing like this in Memphis, and this will be the 30th Hope Lodge in the country.”

The FedEx house is being built with donations from FedEx Corp., FedEx President Fred Smith and his wife, Diane Smith, and FedEx Chief Financial Officer Alan Graf and his wife, Susan Graf.

“This is really sort of a dream and vision of Susan Graf,” said Janet Phillips, executive consultant for Le Bonheur. “She is very involved with the Le Bonheur Club and has spent lots of hands-on time down here.”

The FedEx House is located on the north side of Poplar Avenue across the street from the new hospital. It is three stories and will have 24 suites.

Looney Ricks Kiss of Memphis is the project architect, while Montgomery Martin Contractors is the general contractor.

The FedEx House will be managed and operated by Wilton Hotel Management Co. Inc. The company also runs the Memphis Grizzlies House.

“The FedEx Family House is really going to offer such a great benefit in terms, not only a place to sleep, but in my mind a real nurturing environment,” Phillips said.

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