On the command “Ready, set, dig,” the first shovels of dirt were turned at the groundbreaking of the Daksha Chudgar Lydia House, a respite center for women being treated for cancer.
Supporters of The Lydia Project gathered Friday morning on an empty lot on Interstate Parkway near Doctors Hospital for the ceremony. By April, organizers said, the .74-acre tract will be home to a new 8,000-square-foot center that gives women undergoing cancer treatment a place to stay.
The center was named in honor of Dr. Daksha B. Chudgar, an OB/GYN and fertility specialist who died in 2009 after her second bout with cancer.
The $2 million facility will have 12 rooms with two beds each, and a resource library and a space for volunteers, support groups and counseling.
It was a day worthy of celebration, said Doug Welch, the CEO of Doctors Hospital.
“It’s really two celebrations in one,” he told the crowd of about 80, which included representatives of six area hospitals.
The new house marks not only the expansion of The Lydia Project’s services, but also the legacy of the doctor it honors, he said.
The Lydia Project was founded in Augusta in 2003 and has provided thousands of hand-crafted tote bags, support and prayer for women with cancer, said Michele Canchola, the executive director of The Lydia Project.
The agency offers free services to cancer patients and their families, including rent, utility and prescription assistance.
“We could not do what we do without the dedication of Lydia’s volunteers and staff,” many of which were present Friday, Canchola said. “I thank God for all things Lydia.”
It’s because of generous individuals who know the pain of cancer that events such as Friday’s groundbreaking happen, Mayor Deke Copenhaver said
“All of our lives at one time have been touched by cancer,” Copenhaver said. “We as a community are truly blessed to have such giving people.”
Dr. Daksha Chudgar’s husband, Dr. Bipin Chudgar, who is also an OB/GYN and sits on Lydia’s board, has pledged $500,000 to the project.
Individuals and businesses are also supporting the project, with some signing up to sponsor rooms in the new house.
“People are incredibly generous,” said Hap Harris, the president-elect of the Lydia board of directors. “Cancer is the scourge of the planet. We all want to beat this thing.”
His wife, Frances, was diagnosed with cancer twice.
“It knocked us off our feet at the time, but we’ve been blessed to beat it both times,” he said.
“I always say to people, I hope you don’t need The Lydia Project’s help. I hope you don’t have to deal with cancer, but if you do, we’ll be there for you.”