Beacon House: Neighbors for those in need.
By Eric C. Hammerstrom [Courtesy of Best Version Media, Marquette Neighbors]MARQUETTE, Mich. — When a crisis arrives, you find out who your best neighbors are. They’re the ones who arrive at your door in a moment of need, with food, and kindness and maybe just to lend an ear when you need to talk.
Unfortunately, some of life’s scariest moments pull us far away from home, and that’s when we learn just how big our neighborhood is. That’s when Mary Tavernini Dowling and the staff of Beacon House becomes some of the best neighbors in the U.P.
Dowling is C.E.O. of Hospitality House of the Upper Peninsula. Once simply known as Beacon House, the organization operates a 33 room hotel on Third Street for hospital patients and family members. The group has also maintained 21 beds in 11 hospital rooms, for those whose situation is too dire for them to leave the hospital.
“I believe we are viewed by how we treat others, and by how we treat our neighbors,” said Dowling. “For the team (at Beacon House) our whole emphasis is on our guests and their well being. When they get news about a family member’s medical situation, they come back to Beacon House and sit and talk to us.
“They need someone to listen, to offer support and compassion,” Dowling said. “That’s a beautiful thing, and that is what is most important to us. Often, they are here by themselves, and they’re scared. The person at the front desk is their new friend, and our staff tries to be the family and friends they don’t have with them.”
The Hospitality House of the Upper Peninsula also operates coffee shops at the hospital and Peninsula Medical Center, and a wig salon for cancer patients. As C.E.O, Dowling directs each entity of the organization and ensures the organization stays financially stable. That’s an especially big job this year, with fundraising under way to build a new Beacon House next door to U.P. Health System Marquette’s new hospital on Baraga Avenue.
“We just executed the letter of intent to create a ground lease,” said Tavernini. “As soon as we raise the money to break ground, we can do just that.” Beacon House board members and staff recently met at Ore Dock Brewery to share plans with community members, business leaders, city commissioners and past donors. Dowling also toured the new hospital along with Beacon House Vice President Sue LeGalley and Brian Sinotte, C.E.O. of U.P. Health System Marquette, Associate Administrator Mary Armijo, Head of Operations Steven Salyer, and Head of Marketing Victor Harrington.
They brought a special guest with them–Iron Mountain native Steve Mariucci, so “Mooch” would get a chance to look down from the hospital’s eighth floor and see the site of the new Beacon House.
In April of 2007, Steve’s mother, Delores “Dee” Mariucci, was rushed from Iron Mountain to Marquette, and Beacon House became the family’s home away from home.
“Steve stayed with us for about a week,” said Dowling. “He and his brothers converged on Marquette. He certainly could have afforded to stay anywhere, but having his whole family together and staying close to the hospital meant the world to them.”
Beacon House was also able to provide accommodations in a more private setting than most hotels could.
“Steve’s mom had cancer,” Dowling explained. “The other guests understood what they were going through. There was that mutual respect. That’s one of the nice things about a hospitality house versus a hotel, when things are really critical like that.”
Mariucci has been incredibly supportive of Beacon House, serving as its spokesman, as an honorary board member and as the first $150,000 donor with the Legacy of Love campaign.
“I love Marquette so much,” said Dowling, whose family moved here when she was eight years old and her father was in the Air Force. “We treat our neighbors well whether it’s Steve Mariucci from Iron Mountain or Ed from Engadine.”
Construction of the new Beacon House will occur in three phases, said Dowling, who joined the staff of Beacon House in 2011 to help with the organization’s first Celebrity Golf Outing. In 2013, her roll expanded and she began directing the other hospitality programs.
Phase One of construction will take place on land donated by U.P. Health System Marquette, on a corner of the hospital’s property. The $3 million facility will include offices, kitchen space, a playroom for children and a TV Lounge, along with 20 room for guests. Phases Two and Three will each add 20 more rooms, with each phase costing $1.5 million.
Selling the current Beacon House on Third Street is critical to the process, as the sale will cover the organization’s debt and provide surplus money for Phase One. It’s an ambitious plan, and will expand the capabilities of Beacon House.
“We need to be as close to the hospital as possible for families when things are so bad they don’t even want to leave the bedside of a loved one,” explained Dowling. “There are times when nurses have to beg people to take care of themselves, too, to say, ‘You need sleep. You need a shower.’ That’s something a lot of people don’t understand, unless they’ve been through it,” she added. “There’s a need to be close by.”
Guests are asked to donate what they are able, Dowling said, explaining that the average hotel rate in Marquette is approximately $150 per night in peak season.
“People give us what they can,” she said. “Sometimes, that’s $5 a night, sometimes that’s $100 a night.”
“We calculated that if you stayed at the cheapest hotel in town and ate the cheapest meals you could, our average cancer patient would spend about $6,000 out of pocket to get through their treatment,” Dowling said. “A lot of people in the Upper Peninsula just can’t do that.”
“80-percent of our donors are from Marquette,” Dowling said, “and they take care of our guests, 100% of whom are not from here; the guests are from all across the Upper Peninsula. That tells you what great neighbors people from Marquette are.”
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A Home When Needed the Most:
The U.P.’s First Hospitality House
By Andrew R. Lorinser
On an unassuming beige stucco building with arched burgundy awnings a ‘For-Sale’ sign drapes down its edge, as traffic rolls by its front entrance on one of the busiest streets in town. Despite its location, many are unaware of the hundreds of lives touched inside its walls. It’s more than a building, more than a house, and much more than a hotel. Guests here all in a different heart wrenching medical situation, hundreds of miles away from home.
MARQUETTE, Mich. — For 16 years, Beacon House has been operating a 33-bed hospitality house for residents of the U.P., supporting their emotional and logistical needs while receiving critical medical care at the nearby hospital, UPHS – Marquette. Where children’s hospitals have a Ronald McDonald House, cancer patients have the Hope’s Lodge, and veterans the Fisher House, Beacon House fulfills that role for any patient and family during a medical visit to Marquette. Beacon House is the U.P.’s only hospitality house, and one of the largest in the country.
The idea of having a hospitality house in Marquette began in 1990. Several women from the Upper Peninsula Medical Auxiliary started a small house next to the hospital to temporarily accommodate out-of-town cancer patients during their treatments. They recognized some of the patients lived too far away to logistically be able to commute back and forth for treatment. Soon after, they also realized that families of patients were sleeping in cars, on hospital room floors, or in some cases, opting out to receive medical care entirely because of a lack of a safe and affordable place to stay. Thus, a second home, the Hospitality House, opened its doors, this time to accommodate the family members of Marquette General Hospital patients.
When the hospital determined the need for more parking space, the two small houses were slated to be torn down, yet the need for hospitality housing hadn’t diminished. In September 2001, a volunteer group formed a board of directors, set up a non-profit and set out to purchase The Village Inn, a nearby hotel that was for sale. Out of this, the Beacon House at 1301 N. Third Street in Marquette began operating the donation-based hospitality house with 33 guest rooms, a community kitchen, children’s play room, and a guest lounge.
“Every guest is a new inspiration, some do stand out,” says CEO Mary Tavernini Dowling. “Ed was waiting for a kidney transplant, and needed daily medical treatments. He stayed with us for over a year, and we were able to help him keep up his nutrition as well as his spirits,” she says. “Edie and Charlie stayed with us off and on over two years while doctors were trying to save her leg from amputation. We threw them a small wedding anniversary party while they were with us. Tom and Linda followed an ambulance from Newberry after their son was in a snowmobile accident and stayed until they had to take him off of life support. Butch and Ellen rushed here from Escanaba when their son was run over by a car when he was playing with friends in a pile of leaves. They all came as strangers with a tragedy but left feeling like members of our family with unbreakable bonds.”
On January 1, 2014, Beacon House began operating the 11 hospitality rooms with 22 beds at the hospital. These programs work in conjunction when patients and families need close proximity to the hospital and services.
When the new owner of the hospital, Duke LifePoint, announced plans to build a new hospital on the other side of town, the Beacon House board of directors began researching the opportunity to build a new Beacon House next to the new hospital. Guests were surveyed and the conclusion was the need for close proximity to the hospital was great.
Through a generous donation by the hospital, the organization secured land to build next to it. In the summer of 2017 the capital campaign ‘Legacy of Love’ was re-surged to raise funds for the construction of a new Beacon House, and the Beacon House location on Third Street went up for sale.
Beacon House Board member Steve Mariucci has been a great friend of the organization from the very beginning and has been fundamental to the Legacy of Love campaign with the first $150,000 donation. When his mother was terminally ill, he and his family chose to stay at Beacon House, so they could be close by and together. Mariucci often remarks how wonderful it was to have the understanding from other guests for what his family was going through, as their families were going through something similar. Steve Mariucci now serves on the Board of Directors and is the campaign chair of Beacon House’s capital campaign ‘Legacy of Love.’
One of Beacon House’s most publicized stories over the past year is Travis Thetford’s journey. In 2006 Travis had a traumatic brain injury after an assailant left him for dead in California. A former U.P. football star, Travis was determined to recover with the aid of Beacon House during intensive physical therapy. Travis, now completely independent and attending Northern Michigan University to study physical education, donated his time to give back to Beacon House as a volunteer. From a guest, to a volunteer, to a public advocate for Beacon House, Travis is a proud spokesperson for Beacon House sitting aside Steve Mariucci during television commercials, telling his inspiring story to the press.
“It is science,” said Dowling. “Patients heal faster when loved ones are by their side.” And if it is within their power of Beacon House and its donors, the organization is determined to make that possible for each family who finds themselves in those dire circumstances.
If you would like more information on the Beacon House, or find out how you can help this amazing home continue supporting our local families, you can contact them at 906-225-7100 or find them on the web at www.upbeaconhouse.org.
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