"You will find that charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the basket of bread but you must keep your gentleness and your smile. It is only because of your love, only your love, that the poor will forgive you the bread you give them.”
- St. Vincent de Paul
Certainly, Hospitality House volunteers have fulfilled the above directive for the 38 guests who have been housed in 2022 with more guests expected before the end of the year. A basket of bread may have been provided for these families, but, more often, the basket or grocery bag contained homemade cupcakes, cookies, casseroles or a favorite pizza. A new taste for pizza, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, King Edwards Chicken was added to food requests for families, especially the teenagers. For Kareem and Narshare from Belize, first time Chinese became a new favorite.
After surgery - Kareem standing tall!
Our families come from faraway places such as Belize, St. Vincent’s Island, St. Lucia and as close as South Dakota, Georgia. They may stay for weeks, months, sometimes just days, but, whatever, the time frame, they feel included as part of a new family: KBC. A number of these families have ongoing communication with HH volunteers or KBC members upon their return home. One volunteer is in touch via weekly texts with her newfound friend, Narshare Louis of St. Lucia. Narshare and Kareem anticipated a stay of only 4-6 months in 2020. As Kareem’s progress did not go as well as expected and Covid prevailed, their stay became a year. Families update volunteers on how their children are progressing with photos, texts or emails. It is heartwarming to hear how these children are doing after returning home, getting back to being “typical” kids.
Earlier in the year Patrick Burnett and his three-year-old daughter, Hope, stayed in the Brick House. Home for them is Barbados. A birth defect, a tear in her heart, brought Hope to Children’s for treatment. Her condition did not keep this little energetic busy bee from being a tourist. Thanks to volunteers she visited the Magic House, Zoo and a park. On Easter, volunteer, Charlotte Schaefer and family hosted Patrick and Hope. Elizabeth, Charlotte’s daughter, and the family dog entertained Hope.
Hope’s surgery was a successful! Dad has sent videos of Hope riding toy cars, dancing, being a joyous three-year-old. They made a lasting impression on all who met them. Hope for her boundless energy, Patrick for his absolute dedication to his little girl.
The island of St. Vincent is home to Janice Oliver and her teenage daughter, Jayniah. Since birth Jayniah had been unable to speak. She needed treatment for a rare defect in the Rima Glottides, the area between the vocal cords. Her inability to speak kept her from engaging with her peers, isolating her, socially. Surgery gave her, literally, her voice back,
The time here without biological family, far from home can make the days long for guests. To fill their days, Jayniah and Janice strung bright beaded bracelets. They gave this away as gifts and sold them at a marketplace in their hometown. A favorite outing while in St. Louis was a trip to Hobby Lobby where they stocked up on supplies for bracelet making. The volunteer who drove them to the store had begun to worry wen after two hours, Janice and Jayniah had not returned! When they, finally, did come to the car, they had bags of beads, charms for their craft making. Each of the volunteers was gifted with a bracelet before Janice and Jayniah returned home.
During their stay, Jayniah, was treated frequently to her favorite food, strawberries.
A family with a request for a long-term stay, six months, came to us from South Dakota.
Walter Salis and his 13 year old daughter, Kahlen came to the brick house in April. Like Patrick Burnett, Walter was another devoted father. Kahlen had a liver transplant was scheduled soon after their arrival.
Surgery had gone well. The plan was to celebrate her 14th birthday in early August. Weeks before her special day, her progress deteriorated. Kahlen was put on a ventilator, but her condition worsened. She died on August 17. During the months that Walter was here, he, faithfully, attended KBC Sunday service. When not in church or catching up on sleep, he stayed at the hospital, exchanging shifts with Kahlen’s mother. Many family members made the long drive from South Dakotah to be with Kahlen’s parents. Having access to the White House was very appreciated, allowing them time together to remember, grieve the loss of Kahlen.
The many months hosting families who left with healed children, did not prepare the volunteers for Kahlen’s death. Until this time, treatments had been met with success, happy parents, excited children returning to their homes. This was not the usual outcome, not what anyone expected.
The South Dakota family made a last trip to St. Louis to be with Kahlen’s parents. The volunteers brought deserts, brownies in memory of Kahlen’s favorite food: chocolate. An impromptu prayer gathering was arranged for the grieving family- time to reflect on their love of Kahlen.
Soon after, a family of six arrived in great need for a place to stay. Their 13 year old daughter needed daily treatment, and, the family did not have funds to pay for lodging. They were not only helped with lodging, but with gift cards to restaurants, food items were donated from KBC members and friends of KBC. Knowing that this very needy family received help, and were able to return home with a “well” daughter, was a comfort to the volunteers who were feeling, deeply, the loss of Kahlen.
Last December 2021 an informational meet and greet was held in the White House for potential volunteers for Hospitality House. Caroline Penberthy, the team’s valued event planner and fearless leader, scheduled a lovely tea and desert gathering. Monica Aceves, coordinator from World Pediatric Project was in attendance to share information about the organization. This morning gathering gained three new volunteers, each with a special skill.
Ardith Jeep (from Jamaica)
Is an awesome “welcome person”
bringing her delicious cupcakes to guests. (left)
Charlotte Schaefer is a hostess, extraordinaire. She provided Patrick
and Hope a lasting memory of Easter in St. Louis. Frequently, Charlotte will host a family in her home. For many of the guests who live far away sharing a meal with new friends is reminiscent of home. (right)
Donna Church, former librarian, has joined forces with Jennifer Pierre to bring books, puzzles, games into the houses for parents and children. They were able to obtain, per request, for two guests, a Catholic bible, and a St. James bible. The two ladies were thrilled to be gifted with these bibles.
All volunteers are welcome- team members encourage potential volunteers in, whatever way, they choose to be involved. Prayers, donations, visits with a family, bringing a meal, a desert or a smile, all are meaningful. You will find your acts of charitable kindness come back to you, two-fold.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt: 11:28