Cancer patients, families get new HopePublished on Thursday, December 18, 2014By: Ruth CumminsToo often, cancer patients and their families facing travel for treatment and doctors’ appointments forfeit access to quality medical care because they can’t afford a hotel room.That should change soon in the Jackson area when the American Cancer Society opens the ACS Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge on North State Street, within close proximity to cancer treatment centers at the city’s hospitals.Planned construction of the lodge, which will provide a place to stay and support services for cancer patients and their caregivers, got a major boost this week when the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation announced a $3 million donation, one of the largest gifts ever awarded by the nonprofit in central Mississippi.Artist rendering of Jackson, MS Hope Lodge and OfficeThe Jackson lodge, with estimated construction and office building costs of $10.9 million, joins 31 other Hope Lodges nationwide that together provided 265,000 nights of free lodging in 2013.“The ability for a patient to access care … is critically important to getting a diagnosis and cancer cure,” Kelly Doss, ACS Mid-South Division executive vice president, said at a news conference Monday to announce the gift and naming of the lodge in honor of the benefactor.Trustmark Bank CEO Jerry Host, who co-chairs the lodge fundraising campaign with BlueCross and BlueShield of Mississippi CEO Carol Pigott, said planning for the project began a decade ago. “With this gift, we will have reached the halfway mark,” he said.The building, to feature 32 guest rooms with private baths and sleeping accommodations for two, will be constructed on land made available to the ACS by the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Just across State Street from UMMC, it’s the former location of Schimmel’s restaurant. The lodge originally was to be built on UMMC-owned land on the northeast corner of campus, but was relocated due to the discovery of graves on campus suspected to be from late 19th to early 20th century.“We’re very proud of the fact that this building is right here amongst the hospitals,” said John Lewis, a Foundation director. “I drive by this site every day going to work. I’ll be able to watch the progress.”ACS officials hope construction on the lodge can begin within the next year.Doss told those at the news conference the story of a cancer patient from Meridian who, upon his diagnosis, lost hope and didn’t want treatment offered in nearby Birmingham. “He didn’t have a lot of finances, and he didn’t have a place to stay,” Doss said.The ACS arranged for the man to stay at the Hope Lodge in Birmingham.“He got treatment,” Doss said. “And, his physician has just given him the all-clear.” Helping to announce a $3 million donation from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation toward construction of the new American Cancer Society Gertrude C. Ford Hope Lodge in Jackson are (from left) Baptist Hospital Chief Executive Officer Chris Anderson; St. Dominic Hospital Chief Executive Officer Claude Harbarger; Ford Foundation directors John Lewis, Cheryle Sims and Tom Papa; Dr. Charles O'Mara, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs; Kelly Doss, ACS executive vice president; and Jerry Host, Trustmark Bank CEO and co-chair of the Hope Lodge fundraising campaign.