It was meal time that Pat Truman most looked forward to as cancer took over her body.
At one point, the former Independence School District cafeteria worker wanted her family to join her for a crab dinner and baked potatoes rolled in butter and salt.
Truman had a certain way she wanted the food prepared, too, whether it was the prime rib or the catfish, said her sister-in-law, Debbie Carr.
“Pat’s bucket list was all about food,” said Carr, of Springfield, Mo.
Those meals were cooked, savored and placed in the family’s collective memory at the Reviving Hope Mansion, a house used by relatives of Independence School District employees who are receiving cancer treatment.
The home at 2025 S. Jackson Drive allows out-of-town relatives to be with their sick family members without incurring lodging expenses or staying at the patient’s own home.
The Independence School District bought the house when officials were looking for access to a large tract of land for Little Blue Elementary School and a possible future high school.
“The question was whether to rent it,” recalled former Superintendent Jim Hinson, who recently took a new post on the Kansas side of the area.
Conversations with an employee, about family coming into town to visit someone receiving cancer treatments, sparked an idea to offer the space for employees with cancer and their families, Hinson said.
Elizabeth and Ed Streich, both cancer survivors, then took the initiative and opened the house to the cancer program two years ago. They collaborated with several churches and area businesses, which continue to volunteer time and efforts to keep the house running.
Elizabeth Streich also donated much of the furniture for the house.
“The perspective is that the families that came into town, that were large, could stay together,” Hinson said.
Lots of sunlight greets visitors who walk through the doors. It feels like home. A sunroom allows for watching birds. Four bedrooms can sleep up to 10 people. A downstairs area offers a dinette.
Then there’s the dining room with a large table, which allows families to spend time together.
Families can spend a few days, or up to two weeks, depending on the situation. An online calendar is available to check availability. Immediate family and friends stay at no cost, but may make a donation if they wish.
The house serves as headquarters for a larger outreach program to support employees and retirees battling the disease.
“When you deal with the diagnosis, there are so many things involved — emotional, financial,” Elizabeth Streich said.
In September 2011, the Carr family of Springfield became the first to stay at the house. They soon lost Ron Carr’s brother, district bus supervisor John Carr, to stomach and esophageal cancer.
“It happened very fast,” Debbie Carr said.
The Carrs returned after Ron’s sister, Pat Truman, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
Having the “home base” at Reviving Hope allowed extended family to visit, too.
“It gave us a place, almost like a second home, to get away from the sadness,” Debbie Carr said. “We would go back there and regroup and it made it a bit more normal.”