The Independent Order of Odd Fellows New Jersey (IOOFNJ) has been a longtime supporter of the Howie’s House mission.
Former grandmaster, late heart transplant recipient and wonderful friend Harold Delhagen connected our two missions many years ago, and since, IOOFNJ has made a real difference in the lives of transplant families.
They supported our initial capital campaign to help build the Howie’s House and open our doors by underwriting one of our guest rooms. They’ve helped transplant families who couldn’t afford our nightly fee with a contribution to our Adopt-A-Family program. Additionally, IOOFNJ has volunteered on many occasions in our kitchen to provide warm, home-cooked meals to our guests in the evenings as part of our Home Cook Heroes program.
Most recently, they generously committed to a multi-year sponsorship of our shuttle program to help bring transplant patients and their family members back and forth from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House.
This contribution to our mission helps provide a much-needed service to our guests so they don’t have to navigate an unfamiliar city alone or pay expensive parking fees while caring for a loved one undergoing the transplant process.
In 2019 alone, their support helped us travel over 16,000 miles to provide more than 1,100 trips to and from Philadelphia hospitals and the Howie’s House!
IOOFNJ is an organization based on the foundations of Friendship, Love and Truth, and seeks to make our world a better one to live in through charitable work on various projects in their community.
We are so grateful for their support and look forward to serving transplant families with them in the future!
Theresa had considered herself knowledgeable about organ and tissue donation after seeing how it worked as a respiratory therapist, but when her co-worker’s granddaughter passed away and became an organ donor, she was inspired to learn more about the process.
After learning about the Howie’s House through a Gift of Life presentation, she and her family held a fundraiser to support our mission to care for transplant families. They also signed up to participate in our Home Cook Heroes program under the team name “Team Shea” as a tribute to her co-worker’s granddaughter.
“We had such a great time cooking meals for these families…and we’ve been volunteering ever since!” Theresa says.
Since her team’s initial visit in 2017, they’ve been back several times and have earned an All-Stars a plate on our wall.
Joining Theresa in our kitchen are her children and her grandkids. They prepare comforting meals like shepherd’s pie and meatballs and ziti. Sometimes they serve fun, interactive meals like “Walk-Around Tacos” where guests can create their own taco salads in a Frito’s bag.
Along with dinner, Team Shea brings games and gives guests a chance to win items like puzzle books, decks of cards, paperback books, or candy.
“We figured some of these items could make their time waiting a little easier,” Theresa adds. “No matter how bad a day they may have had, the Howie’s House guests are so nice and appreciative. It’s amazing.”
Team Shea also provides dessert!
“One time, a guest asked me if he could bring some extra cookies to his wife in the hospital to cheer her up,” Theresa says. “It amazed me that something Team Shea did—something so little—would make his wife’s time in the hospital a little bit better.”
Volunteers like Team Shea are such a vital part of our mission. Their hard work and dedication in our kitchen help us welcome transplant families home and lessen their burden of worrying about what to eat or where to get it after a long day.
Theresa hopes other people will become inspired to learn about the Howie’s House and its Home Cook Heroes program.
“People should go to the Howie’s House to see what it’s like and donate their time,” she says. “The staff tries so hard to make the guests feel as comfortable as possible. It’s even better than I imagined it to be.”
“My experience at Gift of Life Howie’s House is inexpressible.
I spent 42 nights there while my husband was in the hospital. The Howie’s House is a home. When visiting my husband daily at the hospital, I would find myself telling him what time I would be going “home” that day.
When I did arrive home, I was always greeted by the smiling faces of the dedicated staff and the aromas of a home cooked meal. The rides to and from the Howie’s House were another gift. The volunteers, many of them transplant recipients, were a source of support because they knew exactly what I was experiencing. Of course, there was also a tremendous connection that developed among the guests.
Although everyone had a different story, and we were all on different steps of the journey, it was such a comfort to share my day with people who were walking the same walk as I was.”
–Judy, past family House Guest
“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.
News & Events
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#SupporterSpotlight: Independent Order of Odd Fellows New Jersey
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows NJ has generously sponsored the Howie's House shuttle program!
#VolunteerSpotlight: Team Shea
Theresa signed up to cook meals at the Howie's House in memory of her co-worker's granddaughter.
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