Hope Lodge reopens after COVID shutdown, closing big health gap


JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – The Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge in Jackson is reopened after the COVID shutdown, serving as a home away from home for cancer patients.

Without free accommodation, many residents of the state would have to forgo treatment. Hope Lodge bridges the health gap.

“It’s just a lifeline,” said Gwen Vansciver.

The Decatur resident was one of the first guests to return to Hope Lodge after it reopened. The 73-year-old man is undergoing treatment for esophageal cancer. She lives an hour and a half away and, without Hope Lodge, thinks she may have had little hope.

“If I had to go back and forth every day and someone had to take time off work to pick me up, and I’m just not sure I could even get the treatments, to be honest with you,” Vansciver said.

The American Cancer Society facility provides free housing for patients undergoing active cancer treatment and living 40 miles or more from the treatment center. Before the pandemic closed in 2019, it served 332 guests for more than 4,800 nights. Last year there were just 167 guests, staying over 2,800 nights before the doors closed.

“We are a non-profit organization, so we only operate through donations and community involvement,” said Hope Lodge senior manager Sydenie Howard. “It takes a village to run this place, and we are able to provide our customers with everything they need.

And now they need donations to continue housing cancer patients away from home. The 32-room facility can accommodate up to 64 people, including patient, family, and caregiver.

“It’s a wonderful place,” added Vansciver. “I’m not talking so much about the fact that you are here, but if you have to be anywhere, this is the place to be.”

The American Cancer Society is hosting its annual fundraiser, the Great Strides Walk at Trustmark Park, on October 23 at 9 a.m.

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