Volunteers offer healing through arts and crafts at SECU House

Volunteers offer healing through arts and crafts at SECU House
March 28
08:00 2019

By Lisa Northrup

Every Monday, the SECU Family House partners with Sawtooth School for Visual Art for an evening of Art and Wellness. This program gives guests a creative way to heal outside of the hospital and to help their minds rest from their illness or that of their loved one. Patients and caregivers use this time to talk and laugh.

One volunteer is Vickie Clontz of Annie’s Keepsakes. She facilitates monthly wool felting activities with guests and recalls a story from one evening.

“We had a large lively group! It was an eclectic group. We even had a three-year old boy felting with the help of his grandma. Everyone was joking around and cutting up with each other as though they had been best friends forever as they wet-felted colorful wool fibers into beads and made necklaces. I remember one lady in particular was so outgoing and friendly. She was really the life of the party and stayed until everyone else had left. As she was helping me pack up, she shared with me that her daughter was in the hospital, had just had surgery that day, and was in intensive care. She wasn’t sure what the outcome would be. I was so glad that I was able to provide a little distraction for this worried mom. You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life.”

Volunteers, many of them active seniors, make the Family House more than just a place to stay. When the stress of caring for an ill loved one far from home starts to take a toll, it means the world to guests when they are greeted with a warm smile and a distraction such as an art activity.

“I actually get as much or more from my ‘students’ at the Family House as they get from me in our little workshops,” said Vickie Clontz.  “It’s a real wake-up call for me as I compare my problems with theirs, which are often serious health issues either with themselves or their family members. I truly love sharing my passion for creating with others and seeing the joy they derive from making their own exquisite work of art.”

The 45-room Family House is an affordable alternative to a hospital waiting room or an expensive hotel for people coming to Winston-Salem for out-of-town medical care. It has hosted families from 95 North Carolina counties and 42 states, and has served more than 33,000 overnight guests since opening in 2011. A special team of 85 regular volunteers helps the house run smoothly and puts an extra special touch of hospitality to their stay.

Vickie’s advice for anyone looking to volunteer: “Do what you love and find a way to share it with others. There are so many needy people in today’s world. I heard on the news that today’s teenagers are lonelier than ever, even with all the social media they pursue. So imagine how much more is needed in places like the Family House. Can you cook? Volunteer to help serve a meal. Do you play music or like to make crafts? Find an organization that can use your talent. You will be blessed much more than you can imagine by giving of yourself, and you will be a blessing to others too!”

Lisa Northrup is the director of donor relations for SECU House. A variety of volunteer opportunities are available at the SECU Family House. Please contact Lindley Curtis at or visit to find out how you can join the Family House family.

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