Domus Pacis: ‘Powerful’ experience for respite recipients, and volunteers in Summit County |

Domus Pacis: ‘Powerful’ experience for respite recipients, and volunteers in Summit County

Kathryn Turner
Summit Daily News
Daily file photo Vince and Duck White-Petteruti are seeing their Domus Pacis nonprofit growing in leaps and bounds.

At the John Denver tribute concert last weekend benefiting local nonprofit Domus Pacis Family Respite, organization co-founder Duck White-Petteruti was told by a few locals that they hadn’t heard of it before. It’s something she hopes to change – not only because she wants to spread the word about the difference the organization makes in people’s lives, but to hopefully gain volunteers in a few different forms.

Domus Pacis provides families with a respite, or vacation, from traumatic illness like cancer. Individuals – nominated through places like hospitals and clinics, or doctors and social workers – and their loved ones are given a free stay in a Summit County home, along with donations like complimentary meals at local restaurants and free area activities.

It provides recipients with an escape from their normal environment, where they often feel trapped, and sometimes financially devastated, by illness.

“It’s miraculous, to be perfectly honest, what goes on that week,” White-Petteruti said.

And while the visitors are given the gift of respite during a trying time, volunteers benefit as well. They donate a home or gift certificate, put together welcome baskets, cook a meal or two, and sometimes even act as “foster families” by taking their contributions to the next level – cooking a little more, leading tours, or simply spending time with the visitors.

The volunteer descriptions sound pretty simple, but the actual feeling derived is so much more.

“The reactions I get are, ‘we’re blessed and honored to be a part of this. Call me anytime,'” White-Petteruti said.

Doug Pierce, owner of Arapahoe Cafe and Pub in Dillon, donates food whenever he can. On Wednesday, he was preparing a meal for nine.

“When I see a family trying to get away, it’s my absolute pleasure to make their getaway as good as it can be,” he said.

His own family has experienced cancer, so he understands.

“It’s heartwarming to be able to help a family who’s going through what those families are going through,” Pierce said.

And then there’s the cards. White-Petteruti makes sure visiting families are provided with thank-you cards, because it keeps the “stream of gratitude” going, and “(volunteers) need to hear from the family how powerful something so simple as a week of respite is,” she said.

“They make you want to keep doing it,” Pierce said.

White-Petteruti doesn’t like the word “growth.” Even though the organization is serving more than twice the number of families this year than it did in its first full year of service, 2009 (she expects up to 75 families this year, there were 30 in ’09), the co-founder prefers the word “opportunity” because “it’s not just the numbers of families,” she said.

“It’s better to think about how we’re making 10,000 amazing memories, rather than making a goal,” White-Petteruti said.

But with an increased number of opportunities also comes a need for more resources. Right now, there are 89 homes on the list of possible places recipients can stay – but with 60-75 families expected this year, White-Petteruti needs to double that.

“The more people I have on the list, the faster I can match a home,” she said.

Not every resort home is available at all times (maybe it’s being rented out for income, or family is staying there), and sometimes, respite recipients have certain requirements. A house needs to be accessible if someone is handicapped, free of pet dander if there are allergies, or big enough to accommodate a larger party. Simply put, it’s hard to make a family/house match; White-Petteruti has turned families down at the last minute because there isn’t a place for them to stay.

Besides more homes, the organization needs more in-kind gifts from local businesses, like Pierce’s generous donations. And then there’s the volunteers. Anything helps, White-Petteruti said. She would especially love to see children involved, who can participate through something as simple as baking a batch of cookies for a welcome basket.

“Philanthropy doesn’t start at 45,” she said.

So far, the love the organization and its respite families have gotten from the community is amazing, and speaks to how giving the people of Summit County are, White-Petteruti said.

“It gives the county this reputation of a very caring county,” she said. “It’s totally self-less.”

To donate time, funds, a home or in-kind gifts to the organization, or to find out more, visit or call (970) 547-4745.

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