Lodge marks 42nd year helping cancer patients

Andrea Lewis (left) greets Margot Freudenberg, 105, who founded the Charleston Hope Lodge, and Freudenberg’s friend Eleanor Durgee on Saturday.

Lee Davis had one goal on Saturday — to meet and thank 105-year-old Margot Freudenberg, a survivor of the Holocaust and founder of the American Cancer Society’s Charleston Hope Lodge.

Davis, who lives in Hartsville and is undergoing treatment for leukemia at the Medical University of South Carolina, has been staying at the lodge since Aug. 10 and was one of 160 attendees at its annual reunion and anniversary party Saturday.

The lodge is a 16,000-square-foot, 17-room home at the corner of Calhoun Street and Ashley Avenue, for cancer patients under active treatment who live at least 40 miles away from Charleston.

The facility, which provides lodging and food for free, has housed 10,000 cancer patients and their primary caregivers since its opening in 1970, and has been the model for 31 other existing Hope Lodge facilities in the United States and two more that are in the works.

“This place has meant everything to me as I go through treatment,” said Davis. “It’s been a godsend because there would be no way I could pay for hotel, plus food, for up to 130 days.”

Not only have Davis and her husband, Martin Davis, found a “home away from home” at the lodge, but they described all they have met as “friends and family.’

Davis and Freudenberg, who suffers from macular degeneration and can barely hear with her right ear, spent minutes talking to each other and exchanging the universal expression of friendship, smiles.

Longtime friends of Freudenberg, Ruth Patterson and Eleanor Durgee, said her drive to establish the lodge came from her appreciation for the welcome she got after fleeing the Nazis in Germany.

“Her words have always been, ‘I owe a debt to America for accepting me when we left Germany,’ ” Patterson said.

Patterson and Durgee also note that despite her hearing and eyesight, Freudenberg is lucid and is fond of saying, “I still have all my marbles.”

Sundi Herring, the manager of Hope Lodge, said Freudenberg never misses the anniversary party and is a treat for guests, current and past, to meet, as well as to mark a milestone in their cancer journeys.

“This is a chance for guests to reconnect and remember. While they are here, they form friendships and bonds like none other,” Herring said. “And this is a time to be together again, at a different chapter in their lives.”