Volunteer of the Week: Paula Thomas
Paula Thomas spends her spare time volunteering at Hope Lodge, a place where people can stay while receiving cancer treatments at nearby hospitals. She is this week’s Volunteer of the Week.
Paula Thomas has never had a problem doing household chores. In fact, this retired nurse from Maple Grove is now sprucing up a home that isn’t even hers.
Every week Thomas goes to the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, a place where cancer patients can stay for free while receiving treatment at local hospitals.
“I love going there,” Thomas said. “I feel a strong connection with Hope Lodge.”
Over the years Thomas has lost her parents, two brother-in-laws and several friends to cancer and says her time at Hope Lodge helps.
“I guess it’s my way to remember them, while giving back to others at the same time.”
Twice a month Thomas and several other members of her church, Lord of Life Lutheran, make a pot-luck dinner for those staying at Hope Lodge, plus Thomas spends at least three hours a week there doing light housekeeping.
“It’s relatively easy work but I feel like I am making a difference,” she said.
The facility, which held its grand opening in April 2008, has 40 rooms which can host a cancer patient and a caregiver.
The Hope Lodge strives for a ‘homey feel' and to do that takes a lot of work. Thomas has no problem doing laundry from the guest rooms or tidying up the community kitchen where guests can prepare their own meals.
Those that stay at Hope Lodge in South Minneapolis typically live about 40 miles away from a treatment center.
“Being able to stay at a beautiful facility for free really takes a burden off people,” Thomas said. “Dealing with the disease is hard enough, so having a place to stay does make a difference.”
Thomas’ church supports Hope Lodge as one of its many missions. Director of Missions and Ministries at Lord of Life Lutheran Church Michelle Welinski says Thomas is an intricate part of the team.
“She is really the one that has spearheaded this effort,” Welinski said. “I know that volunteering means a great deal to her and she is a shining example of how everyone can put faith into action.”
Welinksi believes Thomas’ passion lends itself to another lesson many can learn from.
“A lot of people think of far reaching places to donate money or time to help, but a lot can be done locally,” she said.