Doing ‘Moore’ for Families
An interview with Toni Moore, CEO of Hospitality House
When Toni Moore was a child and her mother needed medical care in another city, her neighbors in Sayre, Oklahoma, came together to support her family. That experience – combined with the time she spent working in hospital administration and her belief that the Bible commands her to be hospitable to those in need – helped spark a passion within her to assist other families in similar situations.
For the past 15 years, Moore has carried out that mission through the organization she co-founded. As president and CEO of Hospitality House of Tulsa, Moore and her staff and volunteers provide meals, rides, lodging, prayer support and other services to out-of-town families when their loved one is in a Tulsa-area hospital. Hospitality House provides these services to families without regard to the age or diagnosis of the patients. The organization serves around 1,000 families each year.
Along with a member of her staff (Community Engagement Director Sarah Soudek) and her family (daughter, Elise), Moore sat down with me for lunch at Dilly Diner to discuss her work, her life, and her love of faith, family and football.
Q: What do the words “home” and “community” mean to you?
Moore: I think ‘home’ means being with those you love unconditionally and with those that love you unconditionally. When I’m with my loved ones, it feels like home, no matter where we gather. I think ‘community’ means choosing to belong, contribute, engage in fellowship and celebrate with your neighbors. And I believe my neighbor is anyone who comes across my path and needs mercy, grace, or compassion.
Q: You grew up in a town of around 2,000 people. What did that experience teach you?
Moore: To love, appreciate, work alongside of – and, at the very least, get along with – those who don’t necessarily look, think, or act like you.
Q: Your father was a football coach. Did that shape your approach to leadership?
Moore: Yes! Watching my dad lead taught me to value the relationship more than my need to be right. He also taught me that a leader sacrifices so that those who are following can succeed and grow.
Q: You started Hospitality House 15 years ago. What would 2019 Toni say to 2004 Toni?
Moore: Rome wasn’t built in a day, girl! You’ve got time to grow this organization. Balance your life well. Make sure you spend as much time with your own family as you do caring for everyone else’s family.
Q: In addition to spending time with your family, you devote a lot of time to ballroom dancing. Has that activity taught you any work-relevant lessons?
Moore: Many. For example, it’s taught me that to lead others well, you must allow the followers to do their part, support them well, and help them maintain their balance.
Q: For those who haven’t been through it, what kind of hardships do families face when their loved ones need medical care far from home?
Moore: There are expenses like transportation, food and hotel. Some will deal with physical discomfort – sleeping in waiting rooms or vehicles to reduce those costs. Plus, they still have bills back home to pay. To make matters worse, they can lose their job since they’re missing work to be at the hospital. In some cases, it splits up a family because they have to leave their child with neighbors or relatives while they travel to the hospital. If they don’t have a supportive community to help deal with all of this, their financial burden increases, depression and hopelessness can set in, and the cycle can get worse.
Q: What advice would you give readers facing a difficult obstacle of their own?
Moore: Take off your own superhero cape and allow friends to put theirs on. Let them help you.
Q: What do you hope your legacy will be?
Moore: I hope my legacy will be that I invested in other people’s lives, and they continued that same legacy. I hope I’ll be remembered as a person who followed Christ and exemplified His character of love, grace and forgiveness through the practice of hospitality.
Q: What are some simple but meaningful ways for people to practice hospitality right now today?
Moore: Share a meal, a beverage, a conversation. Make eye contact, shake hands, give hugs, extend kindness, offer encouraging words, realize you have more in common with others than you thought.
Q: Can kids practice hospitality, too?
Moore: Absolutely. When you meet another child, introduce yourself and introduce that child to others. Shake their hand, ask their name and use their name as you play together.
For more information on Hospitality House of Tulsa, visit www.hhtulsa.org
Greg Forbes Siegman is co-author of The First Thirty (www.FirstThirty.com)