Marshfield (OnFocus) – The American Cancer Society (ACS) announced today that it would be closing Marshfield’s Hope Lodge location. The announcement was met by outrage from the local community, largely due to the fact that the lodge was fundraised for and maintained using community donations.
“The funds to build the Hope Lodge in Marshfield were raised by the American Cancer Society through a statewide campaign that included support from the Marshfield community,” an ACS representative said. “Operating a Hope Lodge takes a significant investment of resources. The American Cancer Society is anticipating at least a 30% decline in revenue nationwide, which has prompted us to make some difficult decisions to invest our limited resources for maximum impact.”
Built in 2003, Marshfield’s Hope Lodge was financed through a campaign driven by community members. The Lodge has been supported through ongoing community donations, through fundraisers like the annual Vita Bella Gala and Relay for Life.
“The ACS decision to close was delivered to our health care system with no advance notice, and no provision for the 15 families that are depending on the Lodge for upcoming treatments,” said Al Nystrom, Board Member. “Further, ACS has declined to return the facility that we paid for and gifted to them. The lack of collaboration with our health care providers and lack of consideration for patient families is very disheartening.”
“We’re kind of blindsided by this,” added Jerry Meissner, longtime supporter. “It’s dear to so many hearts here in Marshfield and there have been so many generous dollars that have been donated over the past 17 years to continue to fund this beautiful facility. What a great addition to the community and people that use it are just so gracious about their care there. It’s one of these things that communities all over the United States should be participating in and trying to fund something like this and Marshfield was fortunate to have one and keep it going.”
Dave Krause, whose son Will was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2012, knows firsthand the value of having a welcoming place to stay when traveling for appointments. Krause was also involved in some of the fundraising aspects for the Hope Lodge in the early 2000’s.
“What impresses me most about Hope Lodge in Marshfield is that it’s the community supporting a service that in a lot of ways doesn’t benefit the community directly, because it’s people coming outside the community to use it,” he said. “Marshfield as a community has embraced what the ACS does with Hope Lodge and supported it at the level they have, to help people from outside the area have a place to stay.”
He added that his family has utilized places similar to Hope Lodge and that having a place like that to go “takes a weight off.”
“Our conversations with Marshfield Clinic Health System are ongoing in order to determine the future of the facility and how to continue to meet the needs of cancer patients,” ACS said in a statement. “It’s a process that’s just started and will be guided by a contractual relationship between the American Cancer Society and Marshfield Clinic.”
Meissner said that he hopes the Clinic and community can somehow acquire the title for the building and make a plan to keep it going.
“People don’t want to see this close for good. The community is unaware of the fact that this building was under the title of ACS. I assumed it was a building that we owned. We own the land that it sits on,” he said. “My hope would be that we can acquire the building for $1 and then sit down and make a plan to operate and keep this going.”
Meissner added that the need locally for a facility like this is critical.
“There’s a huge need for so many families, children included, that can’t afford the cost of weeks or months of cancer treatments away from home. Hope Lodge is such a great thing for the community,” he said. “It’s horrible what’s going on right now. My word to the ACS is ‘Seriously, why would you do this?’ We thought ACS was an organization that had cancer patients first and foremost in their heart. Obviously, it’s all about money, which we did not realize.”
“I’ve become very disorientated with the idea of ACS telling me that something is not profitable,” said Ken Heiman, longtime supporter and advocate for the Hope Lodge. “I didn’t know they are supposed to make a profit from hardship. I know for a fact that there were 15 families waiting for it to open back up, waiting to have someone in their family go there for treatment and you turn their back on them, on this community? You’re telling me it doesn’t make you any money. I don’t care. Go away.”
“The ACS didn’t put anything into the Hope Lodge. All they did was loan their name, in essence,” added Heiman. “Whether we were going to renovate or redecorate, it was done through money donated by private citizens and businesses in the area. Fine, we’ll give the ACS name up. We the community can make it work.”
“I understand ACS wants to sell it and that’s absolutely ridiculous. It was built with community dollars,” said Krause. “Ideally I’d like to see ACS back off on their closure and continue to run it. I think they are best suited to run it and just need to be more transparent if they are running at a deficit. It would be great if they would keep it open and let the community help them.”
“I know this community extremely well and we are going to fight hard to keep this open,” added Meissner.
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