Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping Others Has Long Defined Her Life

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping Others Has Long Defined Her Life

Article excerpt

Byline: Christina Swanson

Martha Stewart did not invent hospitality. Many people who work in hospitality-centered businesses know that it goes beyond welcoming strangers or providing a home-like atmosphere to guests.

True hospitality is a way of life where acceptance, comfort and kindness are offered to all who cross their path.

It can be demonstrated simply by being friendly. Those who help their community as a volunteer show it by volunteering.

Being a part of a church community, Southside resident Sandy Asher goes a step further with everyday hospitality through the words from Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

Sometimes the "angels" are the ones providing. Because a handful of folks opened their hearts, a 1915-era dilapidated home was refurbished to open its doors as a nonprofit hospitality house - St. Andrews Lighthouse Inc. - which has morphed into Gabriel House of Care.

Fifteen years ago, Asher, and her husband, Ed, were part of this group - the board of directors at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church by the Sea in Jacksonville Beach - who saved the donated home from demolition to expand the church's outreach mission.

Starting in 2006, it took four years of hammer, paintbrush and hoe wielding renovations, and bake and yard sale fundraisers, to qualify as a member of the National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses and welcome its first guest in June 2000.

"Realizing that many out-of-town people in desperate need of treatment would not come because they couldn't afford to, inspired us to keep going," said Asher.

When the first guest arrived by herself, she was afraid to be alone in the four-bedroom house, so the Ashers stayed the night with her.

"Most people tend to be afraid of communal living, until they realize that it is through sharing the ups and downs like a family, they inspire each other to cope," Asher said. "We look at our role as playing a part in the healing process rather than running a house."

Over the next 10 years, as St. Andrew's partnered with many medical facilities in Jacksonville to provide shelter and support to patients and families, the Ashers played a major role in keeping the house running smoothly while working at their "day" jobs as compliance managers for Prudential. …

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