Nonprofit offers overnight shelter


Elijah Itah, graduate student in school counseling, and Mi Hee Jeom, doctoral counseling student, plant tulips outside of the Pay-It-Forward House during Selfless Saturdays hosted by the Women’s Resource Center in October 2010.

By Maria Ahmad

Having a family member in the hospital can be tough, but a nonprofit organization eases the worries by providing overnight accommodations to out-of-town families.

The Pay-It-Forward House, 719 Somonauk Street in Sycamore, is a volunteer-based organization whose mission is to provide accommodation to family and friends of those who are in-house patients of Kindred Hospital, 225 Edward St. A $5 donation per night is asked for but it is waived for those who may not be able to afford it.

“Kindred has very ill patients who may not be able to feed themselves or other difficulties,” said Jea Nae Remala, Pay-It-Forward House’s executive director. “It is critical for family members to be there for them.” Before the Pay-It-Forward House, families were limited to paying for hotels for overnight stays. For those staying for a long period of time, finances became an issue. Many families resorted to sleeping in the hospital lobby or in their cars, which served as the motivation for the House’s founders to create the Pay-It-Forward House.

“Although the House is not a part of the hospital, the staff supports it through bake sales and volunteering on their own time,” said Amy Voigt, medical staff coordinator and associate to the CEO of Kindred Hospital. “It is a safe haven for those who have family in the hospital.”

Families who come to the House are greeted and checked in by volunteers. The House sees about 200 volunteers per month. Every volunteer must go through an orientation session, which are held at least once a month for new volunteers. Volunteers are asked about their passions and talents and then assigned to various activities in the House such as baking cookies, gardening, data entry, house cleaning or giving tours to the visitors. Students are encouraged to volunteer either individually or as a group.

“It is a gratifying feeling in assisting loved ones who are worried about family at Kindred,” said Dixie Zander, Pay-It-Forward House volunteer coordinator. “Just sitting and talking to someone, knowing that you were able to provide them warmth and place to lay their head, is a satisfying feeling.”