National award goes to volunteer at Greenville cancer center

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - When a person is going through cancer treatments, there's a place to give them hope and it's appropriately called the McConnel-Raab Hope Lodge in Greenville.

"To me it's just important to be there to brighten their day," says Wanda Smith.

Smith is a cosmetologist five days a week and on her weekends, she's volunteering at the Hope Lodge. She's been volunteering for 16 years total, six years have been spent brightening days for people at Hope Lodge.

"She volunteers all the time, we have a Wiggin' Out with Wanda that she started last year where we had different groups that donated wigs and she comes in and sets up the activity room with wigs, our guests come in and have just an outstanding time and just laugh and joke," explains Katrina Combs, the Hope Lodge manager.

For LB Lewis, who is going through her second bout with cancer and is staying at the lodge, she created fond experiences thanks to that program.

"It was mother and daughter wig night and we tried wigs on," Lewis tells WITN. "I always had long black hair, but we tried on wigs that were curly, that I looked a librarian."

It's the way Smith made Lewis feel that's been giving her hope. "She has so much energy and positivity when she's here, she makes everyone smile."

It's the reason Smith earned the prestigious Margot S. Freudenberg national award.

"It is quite the honor, Margot started the first Hope Lodge in Charleston, South Carolina," Combs says. "We are ecstatic and the honor is well deserved,"

Smith says it's a team effort and that she never feels like it's a chore, but her calling.

"I was just honored and surprised because I was not expecting it," Smith tells WITN. "I wasn't, but to God be the glory."

There are 32 other Hope Lodges across the country, started by Margot Fruedenberg, that provide free lodging for cancer patients who don't live close by, but receive treatments, like in Greenville.