Where there’s joy, there’s Carol … and a reunion at Hope Lodge


Where there’s joy, there’s Carol … and a reunion at Hope Lodge

By Mike McCarty


IMG_4167A motorcycle emerged from the shadows of Bethlehem Church’s garage and into the bright, late-afternoon sunlight. The rider in the red helmet and dark jacket, and his passenger in the pink jacket and silver helmet turned left onto Commerce Avenue. Their destination: Hope Lodge.

After all, this was the third Monday of the month, when Bethlehem’s team volunteers to cook and serve meals for out-of-town cancer patients and their families. The American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge, 129 Jefferson Ave. SE, offers a free place for Lacks Cancer Center patients and their caregivers to reside during their Grand Rapids stay.

The woman on the back of the motorcycle was Carol Liebert. She had coordinated Bethlehem’s Hope Lodge team since the squad’s inception in December 2011. Carol stepped down a couple months ago and passed the baton to Donna Johnson. And on this day – May 15, 2017 – Carol was returning to Hope Lodge – as a woman with terminal cancer.


Carol wanted a chance to see her old friends.

Her joy was infectious.


“It was so great to feel the wind in my hair,” Carol said with a big laugh as she arrived at Hope Lodge, climbed off Dennis Johnson’s motorcycle, and took off her helmet to reveal a bald head, courtesy of chemotherapy.

caroltextCarol’s pals were happy to see her. They were the ones who arranged to give her a ride on the chopper.

“She has been kind of the life of the party (at Hope Lodge), bringing joy and laughter to the evening,” said Pastor Jay Schrimpf, who grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for IMG_4175patients and caregivers and the Bethlehem team. About a dozen Bethlehem members were there.

At Hope Lodge, the reasons for her volunteerism flooded back. “The patients and caregivers are so wonderful,” Carol said. “They make you feel good.”

The people who come to Grand Rapids for cancer treatment depend on the volunteers for food, caring conversation, and “an hour of normal,” Carol said. “You laugh a lot. You become family.”

Laughter and family also describes Carol Liebert and the Hope Lodge team from Bethlehem.