SALT LAKE CITY — A familiar and beloved place of worship will become a warm and comforting place of hope in the near future, thanks to a substantial gift from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the American Cancer Society.
During a press conference Tuesday morning, local ACS officials announced the LDS Church has donated 2.2 acres of land valued at $4.2 million dollars for the future construction of a Hope Lodge near downtown Salt Lake City.
The land is on the northwest corner of 100 South and 400 East, where the old 13th Ward meetinghouse is located. The meetinghouse, built largely by local members in 1951, has been vacant for four years.
"I'm sure there will be some mixed emotions on the part of those who built this building with their own blood, sweat and tears," said Glenn McKay, director of real estate for the LDS Church. "But I can't imagine a better use for this property than what it's going to be used for."
What it will be used for is the construction of a Hope Lodge, a facility that offers free housing and other facilities for those who must travel to Salt Lake City for cancer treatments.
"Nearly 16,000 people will be treated for cancer this year in the state of Utah," said Katie Eccles, who chairs the Hope Lodge board for the local ACS. "We estimate that about 4,500 of those patients have to travel to Salt Lake City for treatments, and have to bear the expense of housing, laundry and eating at restaurants while they are here. It has been a long-held dream for us to be able to offer the warm and comforting surroundings of a Hope Lodge to the many patients who come here for first-class cancer treatment, but have no affordable place to stay.
"Thanks to the LDS Church, we will be able to provide a centralized and convenient location where the Hope Lodge can truly be a home-away-from-home for cancer patients," Eccles continued. "For cancer patients from rural communities in every corner of our state, as well as from out-of-state, this facility will remove the stress of worrying about where to stay and how to pay for it. They can focus their energies on getting well."
Although he was not able to attend Tuesday's press conference, Bishop H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the LDS Church, said "we're pleased to be able to contribute to this important and compassionate project."
"The war against cancer is fought on a very personal, profound level that tests even the hardiest individuals and their caregivers," Bishop Burton added. "This lodge will provide a haven of peace and rest to those engaged in this difficult battle."
Eccles said that with this "generous gift from the LDS Church," the American Cancer Society can now move forward with a fundraising campaign to fund the construction of a $15 million Hope Lodge facility that will include 35-40 rooms for patients and their care-givers, as well as cooking and laundry facilities.
"The size of the property will also allow us to have places for meditation and perhaps a healing garden," Eccles said. "And the location here is perfect, with excellent access to hospitals and medical facilities, as well as all forms of public transportation."
Transportation to and from cancer treatment centers will be provided by the Hope Lodge, Eccles said.
Depending on how quickly funds can be raised, Zeke Dumke III, co-chair of the Hope Lodge Board, said he anticipates ground could be broken for the new facility by the end of 2014, with the new Hope Lodge opening its doors by the end of 2015.