As we all know, Myrtle Beach and the neighboring beaches along a 60-mile stretch of the South Carolina coast are commonly referred to as the Grand Strand. The boulevard that runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean is lined with beautiful high-rise resorts that promise fun in the sun. Many consider this area paradise.
What many don’t know is that if you drive 11 miles inland you find a totally different world. Just 11 miles – a 15- minute drive. The poverty you find is a stark contrast to paradise. In fact, you could call it “paradise lost.”
Paradise lost is where this social worker found Miss Beatrice and her daughter Marva just about a year ago. These lovely ladies, mother and daughter, both senior citizens, called home a plot of land where both claim they were born. Miss Beatrice had been referred by her physician to hospice care. No one at Heartland Hospice was prepared for what lay in store for us.
These two precious ladies made their home in an aged, single-wide mobile home. Miss Beatrice spent the majority of her days in a hospital bed positioned in the small front room where leaks in the ceiling would not reach her and scrap plywood was strategically placed to cover holes in the flooring. Marva, the devoted caregiver and daughter, sat close by in order to attend to her mother’s needs. Neither woman complained about their lot in life. It was what they knew, what they were accustomed to.
As visits continued from the Heartland caregiver team, more and more glitches in the home became apparent. Miss Beatrice was always covered with several blankets and wore a knitted cap on her head, regardless of the temperature inside or out. As the weather began to cool, an “antique” electric heater appeared in the front room, very close to Miss Beatrice’s bed. The sight of this corroded contraption screamed danger. The Heartland staff discovered the heating system had not worked for as long as both women could remember.
An HVAC expert was called in to take a look at the heating system and determine what would be required to get it up and running. The system could not be repaired and a new system would cost more than the home was worth. It was recommended that the dilapidated heater be replaced with two new safety rated, energy efficient units. It was also suggested that repairs be made to the flooring and roof of the home and insulation be installed throughout.
Once the new heaters were in place, a church group that made home repairs for the elderly came forward. Again, the diagnosis was not good. Bottom line – the home was too far gone – any repair work would be fruitless. As the tears welled up and disappointment hit hard, a member of the church group offered a ray of hope.
A partnership with the Waccamaw Area Council of Governments was formed. This community development organization provides modular homes known as “elderly transportables” or “ETs” for seniors in need. After a thorough assessment – and to all of our joy, Miss Beatrice qualified!!
This summer, the entire staff of Heartland Hospice was able to dedicate a new two-bedroom, energy-efficient ET to Miss Beatrice and Marva. The neighborhood was invited to enjoy a cookout with all the trimmings as Miss Beatrice and Marva “cut the ribbon” and offered tours of their new home. A family Bible and keys to the new home, as well as housewarming gifts, were presented to these gracious ladies who accepted this tremendous gift with humbleness and heartfelt appreciation. Grandchildren and great grandchildren who were squealing with joy as they played in a bounce house, were the only guests present with dry eyes. It was a happy day!
Three months later, the two ladies still find it hard to believe. They both are settled in and smile from ear to ear when asked about their new home. They couldn’t be happier, even if they were in an oceanfront high-rise, just 11 miles East. For them, paradise had been found.
As the weather once again begins to cool, the staff at Heartland all rest easy and are comforted knowing that Miss Beatrice and Marva will be wrapped in warmth and love in their new home sweet home. Miss Beatrice’s friends and family are delighted she will live out the rest of her life in her much-loved new home.
We are very thankful to have such wonderful community partners and friends to count on to help when needed. Each one is truly a blessing. We are also grateful to have so many generous people contribute to our Heartland Memorial Fund, which allows us to provide for the special needs of patients and families like Miss Beatrice and Marva.
The writer works at Hearland Hospice in Conway.