The Gift of Friendship—This meaningful makeover was an honor for both the donors and the recipients

December 2011/January 2012 View more

Tuesday Morning Coffee Group Members
Back row: Vicky Zipfel, Chris Kolenda, Margaret Georgelos, Betsy Brown, and Kathy Simpson. Front row: Molly Butler and Kay Urbanick. Not pictured: Terri Setliff, Laura Spangler, Leah Vinik, Debi Bertrams, and Kim Grillaert.

Sometimes a gift comes as a pretty, wrapped package. And sometimes it comes as a staple gun, a paintbrush, and a surprise worthy of HGTV.

When Molly Butler was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this summer and was scheduled for a double mastectomy, it was her friends—a group of 12 women scattered among Naperville neighborhoods and several time zones—who supported her and her husband in meaningful, tangible ways. Their biggest effort, however, culminated in a surprise bedroom remodel that would make ABC’s Ty Pennington proud.

But more amazing, perhaps, is what began 10 years ago when Molly first invited several neighborhood moms to join her each Tuesday morning. Meeting in local coffee shops and living rooms, their weekly chats, over time, forged friendships that have weathered toddlers, teenagers, marital challenges, and more recently, breast cancer.

“I personally have felt that I gain knowledge and perspective from these women,” explains Betty Glynn, now an Arizona resident who hasn’t allowed 2,500 miles to keep her from their friendship gatherings when she’s still in the area. “Our coffee group is a chance for a time-out, a chance to kick back, a time to connect; and it’s a constant. Tuesday Morning Coffee Group helped me feel grounded.”

Nine years ago, when Molly first detected breast cancer, her friends quickly came alongside, determined to offer their support. Simple but meaningful gestures like being available to listen, offering to help with laundry, distracting their friend with a fun outing, or going with her to wig fittings not only impacted the women in the group, but their families as well.

“When my daughter Brittany was at Benet Academy participating in the Relay for Life fundraiser, Brittany sponsored Molly for the walk,” says Debi Bertrams. “It made an impact on all of us in my family because it put a face on breast cancer.”

This past summer, however, fully expecting to celebrate the approaching milestone of ten years cancer-free, Molly discovered another lump in her breast.

For the weeks that followed, the Tuesday Morning Coffee Group rallied around their friend, praying with her, going for walks, sending their tap-on-the-shoulder texts and phone calls, and providing meals. One afternoon, however, while Molly admired a comforter on display in a local store with friend Kay Urbanick, Kay realized there might be an even more surprising and effective way to support her friend.

With Molly and her husband planning to be gone for a five-day retreat, returning a week before the surgery, The Tuesday Morning Coffee Group put a plan into action, beginning with the purchase of the comforter.

“Eleven of us joined together under one cause to give Molly a bedroom that would help during her recovery,” Kay explains of the surprise home makeover. “Some of the girls who had never even painted or stapled fabric on chairs before jumped right in.” From stripping wallpaper to painting walls and trim, upholstering dining room chairs, sewing new pillow shams and curtains, and even redecorating the master bathroom—after five days the transformation was finally complete.

When Molly and her husband returned from their trip, her smile of amazement, upon seeing the dining room, turned to tears when she saw the bedroom. “I felt like HGTV should be there,” Molly says of the moment she saw the welcoming flowers, tell-tale cards left by her friends, and the amazing change to her home. “For the 26 years we’ve been in our house I’d never done anything to our bedroom, and now every time I walk in it, it takes my breath away! It’s like getting a hug from them all over again.”

But the benefits haven’t been one sided. “What she may not realize is that she has given us a gift, too, by accepting our help,” says Margaret Georgelos, communication coordinator for the group and dubbed by Molly as “Madam Secretary.” “Helping Molly helped me to shift my focus away from myself and the world’s problems for a little while.”

Kathy Simpson agrees. “We all had a blast doing it, we learned a little more about each other and ourselves. We truly lifted Molly’s spirit and made her bedroom a place for peace and healing. That’s what friends are for.”

Photo by Robyn Sheldon