With rooms filled with comfortable couches, a small café and reading areas supplied with resources, Hope Connections is striving to create a sanctuary for cancer patients and their families at its new home at Grosvenor Mansion in Bethesda.
“[The participants] can’t believe it,” said Amy Weinberg, development director of Hope Connections, an organization that provides support groups and programs for people with cancer. “The participants are like, ‘When are we opening? When are we opening?’ because it’s beautiful, it’s calming, they can see themselves there… It’s a sanctuary – hang out with us the whole day – and we’ve had people walking around like, ‘I can’t believe this, this is amazing, I never thought it would be this great.’ Some of the people who helped found the place came and they were just like practically in tears.”
Hope Connections opened in Bethesda in 2007, formerly as The Wellness Community – Greater Washington, D.C., before changing its name in 2011. Hope Connections had operated out of the Beaumont House on the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology campus on Rockville Pike since 2013 before leaving June 2020 and moving to its new location at the Grosvenor Mansion at 10100 Laureate Way. The new location is expected to open in a hybrid format of virtual and in person for its programs Oct. 19. Currently all programs are virtual and have been since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weinberg said the move to the new location was prompted by the takeover of the Beaumont House location by Rochambeau French International School. It took about three years to open after purchasing the property, according to Weinberg.
Hope Connections hosted an open house for its new location Sept. 16, introducing participants and supporters to the organization’s new home. There were about 150 participants at the open house, according to Mary McCusker, president and CEO of Hope Connections.
The new building has two floors open to guests featuring a full kitchen where people can grab a coffee, tea, a snack or join a cooking demonstration. There is a boutique on the upper level of the building, across from a small café area. On the main level there is a reading room featuring fiction and books on various cancers, life and death and more. On the second level, there is a smaller reading room with a smaller book collection.
The new building has rooms with a television screen hanging on a wall that hold a different purpose than watching TV shows and movies.
“People who can’t come will be on Zoom and then we’ll have a device so you’re not just on Zoom,” Weinberg said. “It follows the people who are talking in the room so that the people who are on Zoom can really feel like they’re here so they get that therapeutic experience.”
McCusker said Zoom has help extend the organization’s reach throughout the country, such as in California, Las Vegas and within the Midwest.
Members can participate virtually in group therapy sessions as well as the organization’s mind and body sessions including yoga, Pink Ribbon Pilates and Tai Chi. Weinberg said the new location offers more space for its programs.
“It’s same program but in spaces that are really designed for them,” she said. “It’s just really better designed for what we do.”
In the previous space, a lack of storage made class instruction more crowded but now there is more open space for the mind and body sessions.
Hope Connections programs are open to the family members of cancer patients as well.
“All of our services are offered to the caregivers as well because a lot of times that is the person that is forgotten,” McCusker said. “You have your doctors, you have the friends and everyone’s focusing on the cancer patient, and you have that caregiver that’s so often caring for the patients maybe trying to hold down a full-time job that maybe becomes the lead of the family.”
To join Hope Connections, people can sign up online or calling the organization at 371-634-7500. Hope Connection’s programs are free to participants as the organization is funded by grants and donations.
“Our slogan is no one should face cancer alone and part of that no one is no one who can’t pay,’ Weinberg said. “So that’s what we raise money for, we pay money for the therapists as well as the building and the participants don’t pay a thing.”