“The Howie’s House is a very special place for everyone. Not just the guests, but the volunteers too.”
Most donor families, while they may correspond with their loved one’s recipients, don’t often get the opportunity to meet the recipients in person. When a donor family member does have the opportunity to meet a transplant recipient, even if the gift did not come from their own loved one, these interactions can be very meaningful and of much comfort to them. This is the feeling members of Hearts of Gold get when they come to the Howie’s House. Hearts of Gold is a donor family support volunteer group run through Gift of Life Donor Program, and its members meet regularly at Gift of Life Howie’s House to participate in the Home Cook Heroes program, where they can interact with transplant recipients and families.
Diane Milbourne, Hearts of Gold team leader, explains, “Being at the Howie’s House gives us an opportunity to talk to transplant recipients and those who are waiting for a life-saving transplant. It is probably the first time that potential transplant recipients and their families come into direct contact with donor families. It is important for both of these groups to interact, to hear each other’s stories. We are happy to share the story of our loved one and reassure people that the gifts they are receiving are done so because our loved ones wanted to give the greatest gift of all, the gift of life.”
Having served their first meal just a few months after the Howie’s House opened in July 2011, Hearts of Gold has since returned three times every year to prepare dinner or brunch for transplant families. “We remember when we first started cooking, their weren’t too many guests in the House, now there is always a full House. The Howie’s House is truly a blessing for each family who is coming to Philadelphia for their medical needs.”
Hearts of Gold aims to serve meals that bring comfort to the guests staying at the House. Because all of the members of this team have had loved ones in the hospital, they relate to the stress and anxiety that caregivers can feel on a daily basis. The team explains, “At that most stressful time of our lives, we were not interested in eating, but knew it was necessary. We know it is the same for the guests staying at the Howie’s House after a long day at the hospital. Comfort foods are just one small way for our group to help them.”
From chicken pot pies to casseroles and soup, the group always tries to make a different comfort food. However, nothing can top the popularity of their trademark meal, “Breakfast for Dinner.” Serving the guests eggs, bacon, sausage and home fries, Hearts of Gold ties it all together by making their special heart-shaped pancakes!
The group volunteers at the Howie’s House to remember, honor and celebrate their loved ones. The members find healing through the Home Cook Heroes program and other opportunities with Gift of Life Donor Program. “The Gift of Life organization has been there for each donor family at our worst possible time. Physical activities, like cooking together as a group, releases the endorphins in our brains, which makes us look at life in a more positive way,” explains one of the Hearts of Gold members.
Interested in getting experiencing the benefits of the Home Cook Heroes program for yourself? Gather your friends, family or coworkers together and participate in this heart-warming program which provides an essential means of healthy support for transplant families staying at the Howie’s House. Dinners are served every night of the week, along with brunch on the weekends. These meals afford our tired guests with the opportunity to decompress, share their experiences and find solace in a communal setting. Volunteers donate their time and the food, and get to see the impact of their efforts on the families they serve, all the while learning the importance of supporting organ donation in their own lives. Come try it out! Click here to learn more about the Home Cook Heroes Program.