PORTLAND, Maine — A new facility on Portland's East End is aimed at making it easier for cancer patients to get to treatment, especially when they're traveling hundreds of miles roundtrip.
The Dempsey Center is operating Clayton's House at 40 O'Brion St. Clayton's House is making new use of an old building, acting as a hospitality home for clients who need to come to Portland for cancer treatment. It has four bedrooms, which each sleep two people (although it's currently operating at half-capacity because of COVID). The building also has semi-private bathrooms, a shared kitchen, and tablets to allow guests to connect with Dempsey Connects virtual programs.
"When people are traveling for treatments to the Portland area, instead of having to go back home or rent a hotel room, they can stay here at Clayton‘s House at no cost," Amy Hinitt, the manager of Clayton's House, said. She added the Dempsey Center has never done anything like this before but saw an unmet need.
"It’s not unusual to travel 50 or 100 miles for radiation treatment," Hinitt said, noting about 50 percent of radiation treatment happens in Cumberland County.
The Marr-Anderson family donated the building for Clayton's House to the Dempsey Center in 2017. Clayton's House is named after the Marr-Andersons' son and brother, Clayton, who was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer and moved into 40 O'Brion St. to be closer to treatment and friends. After he died, his family wanted to do something good for the community, which led to their donation.
"When we were able to connect with [the Marr-Andersons] and show them all of the work, they were so excited to see all of the dreams they had for the home come to life," Katelynn Davis, communications and marketing manager for the Dempsey Center, said.
Davis said the first guests stayed at Clayton's House in mid-July and had to drive more than 200 miles roundtrip for treatment.
"It was really cool when our first guests stayed to see the culmination of the efforts put in by the family and all of our volunteers and our staff," Davis said.
Volunteer Elyse Pomeroy is expecting to interact with her first guests next week. For her, this mission is personal. She grew up in a rural community where the closest hospital was an hour away. When she was in high school, her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I’ve had a lot of loss in my life, as well as helping friends and loved ones deal with cancer," Pomeroy said, noting her mom is now okay. Later, Pomeroy said, "I love talking to people and being with people and helping them in any way I can and just being a friendly face when I open the door — that’s why I’m here."
Hinitt said this program is referral-based. There are certain eligibility criteria that require going through a patient's clinical care team.
As a reminder, fundraising through the Dempsey Challenge on September 24 and 25 this year helps to support the mission of Clayton's House and other Dempsey Center initiatives. You can sign up here.