Natalie's Everyday Heroes: Kay Jensen of Kathy's House

NOW: Natalie’s Everyday Heroes: Kay Jensen of Kathy’s House

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Kathy’s House in Milwaukee is a hospital guest house. It’s a place patients and their families can stay while undergoing medical treatment, far from home. Many volunteers work all year to make Kathy’s House feel more like home.

Everyone—from patients to staff—is glad to see Kay Jensen when she comes in to Kathy’s House. That’s because her hands are usually full of a big box of cookies.

“This morning I brought birthday cake cookies,” Jensen said. “I bring a couple different kinds, but that's definitely a newer kind that I make.”

The cookies are big and colorful, with sprinkles and white chocolate chips. They would brighten anyone’s day.

“They have a little bit of pudding, cheesecake pudding, in them,” she explained. 

Here, these cookies take on special meaning. In the communal kitchen, she meets a cancer patient from who’s staying at Kathy’s House while undergoing treatment.

“How long are you here for?” Jensen asked. “I have seven treatments left to go, out of 42, so I'm done next Friday,” the patient said excitedly.

All of the patients at Kathy’s House live more than 50 miles from here.

“Comfort foods are really important for people going through tough times and you wouldn't be here if you weren't going through tough times,” said board member, Carolyn Bellin.

Bellin said Kathy’s House does serve as a home away from home for those who’ve traveled here for medical care.

Kathy's House

“The guests say it's wonderful to open the door and to smell something freshly baked or freshly cooked,” she said.

A homemade treat is a small comfort that can make a big difference.

“And they're delicious,” Bellin said with a big laugh.

Jensen has been baking for Kathy’s House twice a month for the last year, but she’s known patients staying at Kathy’s House since she started as a nurse at Froedert Hospital in 2001. 

“It was very common that I would have like, lets say five to seven patients in that week and not one of them would be from the Milwaukee area,” Jensen said.

Bellin said many nurses who volunteer here see the importance of Kathy’s House. Dealing with health issues is hard enough, but Jensen has heard many times how hard it can be for patients and their families to find a place to stay.

“Most people couldn't even imagine using a hotel stay for their entire six weeks of treatment,” she said.

Volunteering isn’t new for Jensen. She started doing it back when she was a teenager.

“Before I was even 16 I worked as a volunteer at a hospital,” she said. “They used to call them candy stripers way back then.”

From candy striper to cookies… Jensen is happy to be helping others, one sweet gesture at a time.

“I like a good sturdy cookie. Even if people don't want to eat the whole thing right away, they'll wrap it in a napkin and finish it up later,” she said with a smile. “But rarely does someone not finish their cookie, they usually eat the whole thing.”

Jensen may soon have more mouths to feed at Kathy’s House. The organization is in the middle of a $12 million dollar campaign to raise funds for a new facility. Kathy’s House plans to break ground next spring and the plan is to have it finished the following year. The new Kathy’s House will have 36 guest rooms and an elevator, to make it easier for patients to get around.

If you’d like to nominate someone for Natalie’s Everyday Heroes, just send Natalie an email at [email protected]. We’d love to hear about someone doing good work in your community.

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