Creating a “Home Away From Home” for Out-of-Town Patients

Receiving a life-threatening diagnosis can be devastating. The challenge can be made even more difficult when the treatment requires traveling far from home and community. Home Away From Home (HAFH) tries to bring a little comfort and love to those struggling with these dual challenges and it has been doing so successfully for over 20 years. One guest recently posted on their Facebook page “This ministry was a blessing to us in our time of need!”

Two young volunteers delivering meals to guests staying in the Home Away From Home apartments while receiving treatments.

Home Away From Home is a hospitality ministry serving out-of-town patients and their caregivers, administered by the non-denominational Little Rock Church. The program began specifically by serving those who were being treated for multiple myeloma, a complex cancer whose treatment used to require months of residency near a hospital. The congregation of Little Rock Church saw the need to serve out-of-town multiple myeloma patients at a particularly vulnerable time in their lives and took action.  Today, HAFH has expanded to any patient and family from out of town and it serves over 100 families every year.

The congregants of Little Rock Church provide the core of support and service that makes Home Away from Home possible. Ron Cook, the Outreach Minister at Little Rock Church, estimates that about 50% of the 340-member congregation contributes to HAFH in some way each year. Volunteers serve in a variety of ways: cooking meals, putting together new furniture, making care baskets, praying with patients and their families, and even delivering watermelons in the summer. Cook says, “We try to do things that are creative and meaningful to our guests.”

Volunteers recently gathered to collect cleaning supplies and write inspirational messages in support of Home Away From Home.

Home Away From Home began with a single apartment in 1995 and today has 17 apartments at two locations in Little Rock. The growth and demand has been so great in recent years that Cook says, “HAFH has outgrown the capacity of Little Rock Church!” Partnerships with Fellowship Bible Church and other community organizations are important to the success of the program today, and Little Rock Church is seeking additional partnerships and volunteers. Those who want to support Home Away from Home can do so in three main ways: 1. By donating cleaning supplies. Many patients have compromised immune systems and so keeping the apartments very clean is important. 2. By donating linens and towels. Keeping fresh, clean linens in 17 different apartments requires a lot of linens and towels! 3. By donating funds for scholarships for guests. This money will help offset occupancy fees that guests pay.

Those interested can donate online at this link: https://littlerockchurch.org/serve/home-away-from-home/hafh-gifts/.

Kim Burket, HAFH ministry coordinator, celebrates the blessings their partners and volunteers bring to HAFH guests.  “We are in the midst of exciting times with HAFH and are thankful! Since Little Rock is a medical hub that provides a wide range of care to families from across Arkansas and around the world, we have a huge opportunity to join together with other churches, organizations and businesses to serve guests visiting our city.  We see how our true home setting, along with our encouragement, love and hope is making an impact in families’ lives. Our concept is pretty simple… ‘Loving our neighbors as ourselves.’ Together, we can continue to grow this important work of hospitality. The need is real – and we invite hearts and hands to help.”