CINCO RANCH (Covering Katy News) – The Ballard House is an organization that helps families in need, during their worst possible time of need, when a loved one is being treated for a fatal illness. The Cinco Ranch operation does not charge its guests, so it's dependent on volunteers, fundraisers and donations. COVID-19 has disrupted all sources of funding for The Ballard House, and disrupted its volunteers. Still, that has not stopped people from finding creative ways to help.
Volunteers are vital to their operations, but currently they are not allowed to enter the building. Patients staying at The Ballard House have compromised immune systems. Visitors can't be allowed during a pandemic.
“Our number one challenge is keeping our current patients and their families safe,” Executive Director Katy Alt said during a video interview with Covering Katy News.
The need to ban volunteers from the building was devastating for Alt because their contribution to the operation is vital.
“We’re down to one staff member at a time,” Alt said.
Even the best medical insurance plans don’t cover the cost of food and lodging when people have to travel great distances to seek treatment that they hope will save their lives. A spouse or parent often has to stop working to travel with a sick family member, and the costs for lodging and food adds up quickly. It’s a financial double whammy. It's hard to pay travel expenses when a family has fewer dollars available to spend. That is where Katy’s Ballard House steps in and provides lodging for free. Katy area volunteers also provide meals and many other essential services. Some of their duties are to simply be human to those facing humanity’s biggest challenge, the battle to stay alive.
“The volunteers are there to just relate with the guests, be a listening ear,” Alt said.
The volunteers also make The Ballard House more efficient so the facility can maximize the number of people who are helped each year.
“They help transition the guests. The faster we can get a guest checked out the faster we can get a new family in, and we rely heavily on those volunteers,” Alt said.
Volunteers are not allowed to enter The Ballard House during this time of COVID-19, but they are still helping from afar.
“Proud Pie came last night,” Alt said. Proud Pie is a coffee shop and artisan pie bakery that often supplies meals for patients who stay at The Ballard House. “They continue to support us,” Alt said. They can't bring the food into the building and serve patients, but they are still dropping the food by the front door.
Help has also been coming from the National Charity League and other Katy area organizations.
“We have BFF’s of The Ballard House, a group of local women that get together to help,” Alt said. “The Real Housewives of Jordan Ranch have also continued to support us by dropping off supplies and meals,” she added.
Katy’s show of love does not stop with food.
“There is a sweet group from a local church called Threads of Hope, and they have provided cloth masks for us,” Alt said. “They typically make blankets that we are able to give to our guests when they come in. When they first check in we literally wrap the blanket around them and say this is a hug from the Katy community.”
Threads of Hope has recently switched from manufacturing blankets to making cloth masks for those who are living at The Ballard House.
Many patients have had their treatments postponed because of COVID-19. Not healthy enough to return home, they’ve stayed at The Ballard House.
One patient was exceptionally grateful to be able to stay at The Ballard House after his treatments were postponed and he had to leave the hospital.
“He was ill and hospitalized. He was able to come back to The Ballard House,” Alt said. “He was not able to go home but he was able to come back to his home away from home. He said this is just what I needed to be able to heal. He said this place is incredible.”
The Ballard House is funded by donations and fundraisers. Two fundraisers were disrupted by COVID-19. The Color Run had to be postponed until the fall, and the Sip N Stroll was called off too, but Alt says it will be held as soon as it’s permissible to hold large gatherings.
“I’m guessing that everyone could use an opportunity to get together and have a glass of wine together,” Alt said. “As soon as it is safe to put that on, we are ready to roll.”
Those who want to donate needed items to The Ballard House can do so on Amazon.
“We have an Amazon smile wish list for supplies, primarily cleaning supplies and coffee supplies,” Alt said.
The organization’s website also provides numerous additional ways to donate.