A Special Milestone for Our Longest Serving Volunteer

Sep 4, 2012 10:00 AM ET

By John R. Seffrin, chief executive officer  

With our mix of grassroots events, patient and family services and support, and our decades-long investment in cutting edge research, the American Cancer Society is truly the embodiment of, “Think globally, act locally.” And nearly all of our work is made possible by our volunteers.

Each of our more than three million volunteers is essential to our mission of creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays, but today I want to honor a woman who has been part of the Society longer than anybody else, and whose contributions have helped make the American Cancer Society what it is today. Margot Freudenberg, the American Cancer Society’s longest serving volunteer, and founder of Hope Lodge, is celebrating her 105th birthday today.

In 1970, Mrs. Freudenberg, who began volunteering in the 1940s, founded the first American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Charleston, South Carolina. Hope Lodge provides a free, temporary place to stay when cancer patients and their caregivers have to travel far from home for treatment. Today there are 31 American Cancer Society Hope Lodge locations in 22 states, and more are planned. By providing free lodging, the Hope Lodge network saves cancer patients tens of millions of dollars a year, and makes more and better treatment options accessible for people, no matter where they live in the world. With a major financial burden removed, Hope Lodge guests truly can focus on getting well.

Mrs. Freudenberg’s personal story is as remarkable as her immeasurable contribution to making life easier for cancer patients and their families. She was born and raised in Germany, where she trained as a physical therapist, married, and started her family. She and her husband and young son endured the Nazi era until they escaped to England in 1939. They arrived in Charleston in 1940, where they were welcomed by Margot’s sister, who had settled there.

In a time when it was not usual for women to found businesses, she established her own physical therapy practice. It was also in Charleston in 1940 that Mrs. Freudenberg began volunteering for the American Cancer Society and other organizations. She has said that community service was her way of repaying the kindness and help her family received in leaving Germany and starting over in a new country. On behalf of the entire American Cancer Society, I am so grateful she felt that way. Happy birthday, Margot.

To learn more about visiting or supporting the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Network, visit www.cancer.org/hopelodge, or call 1-800-227-2345.