It’s Stanton Hospitality House, a temporary home for families whose loved ones are hospitalized at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center. Guests may stay for just one night or for months on end.
“They get here during a pretty stressful time,” says Melissa Hamrick, the coordinator who oversees Stanton Hospitality House. “But once they get settled in, you can see them relax a little bit.”
Many of the guests are parents of infants being treated in the medical center’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Terri Howard lives just 30 minutes from Cape Fear Valley. But when her twin sons, Tyler and Diontonio, were born 10 weeks ahead of schedule, a one-hour round trip was more time than she could bear to leave them in the NICU.
“The receptionist saw that I wasn’t going home,” she said. “I was just sleeping for a few minutes here and there in the waiting room. She told me about the hospitality house and asked me if I wanted to stay there.”
Howard moved into Stanton Hospitality House, where each day she could sleep, shower, grab a bite – and then quickly get back to her babies. Her two older children also spent time at the house, which is stocked with books and toys for its younger guests. Five weeks later, when the twins were strong enough, Howard took them home to stay.
“The house was wonderful,” says Howard. “The staff was just great and I felt very at home there.”
Some guests find themselves a little farther from home. Jessie Rutledge came all the way from New York when her brother, a Fayetteville resident, was scheduled for open heart surgery at Cape Fear Valley. Her sisters, from Ohio and Virginia, and a niece from California, joined her at the hospital for an anxious wait.
“A volunteer came up to us in the waiting room and struck up a conversation,” she says. “He asked where we were staying and we told him we had gotten a hotel room but couldn’t check in until 2. So he said, ‘I know a place that would be better.’”
One phone call later, Rutledge and her family were checking into Stanton.
“We stayed five nights,” she says. “The house was beautiful and felt like home. It was wonderful.”
Not only does the Stanton House offer a cozier setting than your average hotel room, it also beats the price by a long shot. The daily rate is $8 per person, or $15 per family. Even that can be waived in cases of financial hardship.
Established in 1991, the house began with a suggestion from Carolyn Gaskins, a physician’s wife who had seen similar programs at other hospitals. It was named for Margaret Stanton and her late husband, Hawkins. Margaret Stanton is still active on the house’s governing board, Hamrick says, and often stops by with groceries and supplies for the guests.
The house is operated by the Cape Fear Valley Health Foundation and has grown to include two adjacent homes: the original house, expanded to include 10 bedrooms, and a three-bedroom neighboring house, often reserved for large families.
Hamrick says that the house could not operate without the support of loyal church and civic groups, who help to keep it stocked and ready. But spreading the word is another important part of fulfilling the mission of Stanton Hospitality House.
“It’s not always common knowledge that we’re here, even for people who live nearby,” she says. “So I spend a lot of time trying to make sure that the people who need us know that we’re here. When people have been here, they leave with a very good impression of Fayetteville.”