Jan 29, 2020 12:01PM
written by leah williams | photos by rhonda dogay
Cancer: the word everyone hates to hear. It brings devastation, grief, anxiety, and financial burdens that come with treatment. Gifts of Hope saw the need to help patients during their journey by providing financial assistance with medical and travel costs, offering support groups to help ease the pain for those battling, and offering free lodging to those traveling to Midland to receive their treatment.
Ruth Ann Wilkinson
Ruth Ann Wilkinson had a vision, before passing away to her battle with cancer in 1996, to open Hope House. Her dream was to bring hope to the minds, bodies, and spirits of the cancer patients and their loved ones by providing a home away from home for patients to stay and find rest during their treatment at Allison Cancer Center. Her vision was realized in the formation of Gifts of Hope.
Mary Collier, Fred Newman, Dr. James Corwin, and other Midlanders pooled their resources and began the process of founding a nonprofit. In 2005, Gifts of Hope began with a board passionate about the mission. A year later, the original Hope House opened its doors to provide lodging for cancer patients. Soon after opening, they quickly reached capacity and patients had to be placed in hotel rooms which became costly. The dream for a larger Hope House became a reality in 2010 and continues to serve as a blessing to those in surrounding areas. They have provided over 10,000 nights of lodging and served over 54,000 patients in the Permian Basin.
The Executive Director, Fatima Castillo, has been with the organization since early 2011 and has grown the organization tremendously. Although the Hope House is the most well-known service within Gifts of Hope, the organization also offers support to cancer patients as well as survivors by assisting with dental and medical expenses, prescription assistance, equipment, and a meal program at Allison Cancer Center, transportation, and a wide variety of support groups.
The meal program is one of the most utilized programs and is run by volunteers, many of whom are cancer survivors that benefited from the program themselves. In 2018, over 5,216 meals were served to patients at Allison Cancer Center. The projected number of 2019 patients served is expected to exceed the 2018 figure. Lunch is prepared and served Monday – Friday in the infusion room at Allison Cancer Center to patients receiving treatments.
Every October, Gifts of Hope hosts ‘Pink the Park’ at Grafa park. This past fall marked the 10th Annual Pink the Park event.
A large majority of Gifts of Hope’s clients live in surrounding areas outside of the Permian Basin that must travel to Midland to seek treatment. Since transportation can become very expensive, Gifts of Hope offers help with gas cards as well as a transportation service that can provide rides to and from their treatments.
Gifts of Hope touches cancer survivors as well as patients with support groups and free activities. Some of these activities include a free yoga class every week, cooking and nutrition classes, informative guest speakers, and art activities. Many of these events are held at Gifts of Hope’s Hope House and every activity is free to anyone who participates. Gifts of Hope has already served over 2,000 individuals and is anticipated to double that amount by end of 2019.
Every October, Gifts of Hope hosts ‘Pink the Park’ at Grafa park. This past fall marked the 10th Annual Pink the Park event. The event has grown with each year and is a time for survivors to come together to honor and remember those who lost their battle to cancer. It is also a special time to celebrate those who have defeated cancer. The event always includes a speaker, brief yoga session, a variety of performances, a dedicated walk around the park, and many fun and free activities for kids and families.
It is evident that Gifts of Hope has touched many individuals and their families by the hundreds of testimonials they have received over the years. A few of them include:
“We have truly been blessed to be given this gift of accommodation at Hope House. What a huge ease to our stress and calm to our heart and bodies to have a home away from home without worries and our focus remains on God and healing. No worries other than getting better. May God’s blessings remain here in this house and across the street.”
“Thank you so much for providing a home away from home while we were going through this trying time in our lives. We cannot, with words, express what a blessing it has been to be able to feel the security, convenience, and comfort of a place bathed in love and prayer. God bless all who had and have a part in making Hope House possible for those of us who have been touched by cancer.”
“Dealing with accepting cancer is not an easy thing but having Hope House to provide some peace and comfort makes it a little easier. This is a great facility which is kept going by the work and efforts of many people, keep up the great work and never forget that we as guests here will always be grateful. May the Lord keep and bless each and every one of the volunteers.”
A recent client was asked how Gifts of Hope had touched her life and she responded with “acceptance”. As a stage IV cancer patient, Meredith had found herself unable to connect with a good local support group. Once her sister introduced her to Gifts of Hope and Executive Director, Fatima Castillo, Meredith immediately found love and acceptance. She quickly became involved with the support groups and the weekly yoga class. Once she started to physically feel better and gain her strength, she knew she wanted to begin volunteering at Gifts of Hope to help others. Her story is just one of many who have come through the doors of Gifts of Hope. They have given so many individuals hope, comfort, encouragement, and support during and after the journey of cancer. †
To learn more about volunteer opportunities, ways to give, or to benefit from the services offered by Gifts of Hope, please visit their website at giftsofhopetx.org.