Angie Taylor has always worked in the nonprofit sector, but the mission of the 20th Century Club, where she now serves as executive director, resonates in particular because of her mother’s cancer journey and witnessing the toll it takes on both patient and caregiver.
“I wish we had known about the 20th Century Lodge,” Taylor says. “So now, I want to build those relationships so that other people know who we are and why we’re here.”
Taylor became the executive director in March and has made community visibility one of her top priorities. She hopes to partner more with medical facilities, churches and other community organizations.
“Angie saw a need to improve the relationships with some of the cancer treatment facilities in Arkansas,” club member and former president Cindy McNeely says. “She has reached out and is making sure they know of the great work going on at the lodge so they can better inform their patients.”
The 20th Century Club Lodge provides free housing for cancer patients in financial need. The lodge has 21 patient suites that accommodate one patient and one caregiver, a communal kitchen, a computer library, a free laundry facility and a dining area where four evening meals are served weekly by members.
“We always encourage them, if they can at all, to come out and eat in the dining room,” Taylor says. “Socializing a little bit and meeting the guests and volunteers always makes them feel better.”
Taylor says this sense of community is the “spirit” of the lodge.
“This spring, we had five couples,” Taylor says. “They didn’t know each other when they came to the lodge, but soon enough, they were eating dinner together, playing cards or games at night, counseling each other, checking in on one another and finally saying goodbye as they all went their separate ways. Then, one of the patients passed away and they all came back together at the funeral, driving from various corners of the state to be there for each other once again.”
One of the women in the friend group described it this way: “We came to the lodge as strangers, we became friends and left as family.”
Another focus for the club this year is to brighten the holidays, a mission where Taylor is again inspired by her late mother.
“When we were going through her treatment, Christmas was sad and depressing for her — probably because she loved Christmas so much,” Taylor says.
The 20th Century Club’s answer is the Hope for the Holidays initiative where, when a guest enters their room for the first time, they’ll find a lit Christmas tree with wrapped presents underneath.
“The members of the club loved it and are even going to send Christmas cards to our past guests,” McNeely says. “Everyone really wants the holidays to be a special time. It’s challenging even in the best of circumstances. We want to make it easier.”
The Angels of Hope program is another source of encouragement for lodge guests. Established in 2008, the program is for young women in their junior year of high school and teaches them cancer awareness and how to become community leaders. Each Angel must complete 25 hours of volunteer service by serving at the lodge, CARTI or other cancer-related events.
“When the Angels come in and play games, do crafts or host a movie night, it’s so fun,” Taylor says. “The guests love the Angels so much.”
The guests often have a lasting impact on Angels as well.
“One of the Angels formed a bond with a woman who was here caring for her son, and when it came time for them to leave, the Angel was given permission to come down the night before and spend the last few hours at the lodge with them,” Taylor says. “For these girls to have that relationship and way of thinking before they even go to college — the sky’s the limit for them. They’re going to be able to do anything they want to do.”
Taylor came into her new position with the goal of paying special attention to the mental and emotional wellbeing of patients and caregivers.
“We are going to have game nights every week, along with movie nights. We’re also going to start doing chair aerobics and chair breathing for relaxation,” Taylor says. “We’re going to be looking more into the mental health component of fighting cancer.”
Another way they plan to relieve stress is by giving guests an outdoor space to unwind. In the coming months the lodge will renovate its courtyard to be more of a “mental health respite space.”
“We want patients and caregivers to go out there and recentralize back on what they’re thinking and how they’re feeling and talk through things,” Taylor says.
Taylor feels right at home in her new position, and her mother’s legacy is always on her mind.
“While my mother’s external resources were limited, she gave and gave with her time and love. Even while she was battling and eventually losing the battle to terminal cancer, she was giving her love and prayers to others. I can’t say enough about her influence on my life. She was taken far too early in her life and mine, but the impact she had on my life has played into all the big decisions I have made.”
Learn more at hopeawayfromhome.org.
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