Rest, Refuge, Rejuvenation

Hope’s Harbor Family Hospitality Homes supports children receiving medical care by providing critical hospitality services to their families.
Feb 2, 2024
Heather Herron
Tim Brumbeloe

Last summer, Mike and Erica Kovacs spent countless hours keeping vigil at their son’s bedside. Born prematurely and weighing under two pounds, Henry was being cared for at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Dupont Hospital. It was a stressful and scary time for the family who lives in Winona Lake, nearly an hour west of Fort Wayne. The idea of driving back and forth each day to be near Henry was daunting.

“I don’t think we could have, honestly,” says Erica. “Just the thought of being away from him and the thought of that distance, especially in those first several weeks – we couldn’t have gone that far. We did everything in our power to stay as close as possible, so we were there every single day for 109 days with him.”

They were able to find a source of strength next door at Hope’s Harbor. With one location on Dupont Hospital’s campus and another at Lutheran Hospital, the organization provides temporary housing for families of sick children. 

“I was minutes from my son’s bedside. I could get there in five minutes and, in those early weeks, even that was too long. The thought of 45 minutes would have been absolutely torturous,” she stresses.

In addition to being convenient, Hope’s Harbor provides a comfortable, safe place to stay and access to home-cooked meals so families can avoid expensive hotels and dining out. Guests can prepare food themselves in the community kitchen or can enjoy meals provided by volunteers.

“Our families consistently say, ‘We take care of ourselves last,’ which sometimes isn’t even at all. To have someone else prepare a meal takes the mental weight off them. Parents are able to keep their energy and focus on their child,” says Hope’s Harbor Executive Director Wendy Hoering. “We’ve had a couple of corporations prepare meals as a team building activity. It’s such a great way to support the families.”

That’s exactly what a group from Barrett McNagny law firm has done several times. Attorney Joe Cohen says he always jumps at the chance to volunteer for the local nonprofit, which was founded in 1997. 

“It’s a neat experience and you feel good about giving back,” says Cohen. “You get to meet the families face-to-face so you’re seeing the impact that you’re making.”

Cohen is so committed to the mission at Hope’s Harbor, he joined the board of directors six years ago, spending the past two years as president. He believes having this resource in our community is essential. 

“At any time an unexpected event can occur. You can’t predict it so, when that does happen, the last thing we want someone to worry about is where they’re going to stay and what kind of meals they will eat,” says Cohen. “We want the family to be able to focus on what’s most important, and that’s their child getting better. We try to take as much of the other burdens and stress away from them so they can focus on their family.”

Over the course of their stay, the Kovacs were able to take advantage of services provided at both Hope’s Harbor locations. They say it made all the difference during a time when they were exhausted and scared.

“It was a really great feeling of community having people we barely knew, or even complete strangers, envelop us with kindness. They helped make it possible for us to be with our son as much as we could by taking care of all those creature needs that we didn’t have time for,” Erica recalls.

Cohen says the board of directors is acutely focused on how to accommodate more families, especially at the smaller Dupont Hospital location, which is almost always at capacity. 

“We’re currently trying to figure out how we can address that need,” he says. “I think we are confident in saying that expansion of our Dupont campus house is the number one priority in the coming year. The exact ‘how’ is what the board is working on, both from a construction standpoint but also from a fundraising standpoint.”

Hoering echoes Cohen regarding the need to expand the Dupont location, either by remodeling the existing facility inside the medical office building or by building a new freestanding house. In addition to increasing the number of guest rooms, she says they’d like to create indoor and outdoor family-friendly recreation spaces that are similar to what they provide at the house on Lutheran Hospital’s campus. 

Over the past 20 years, more than 12,000 families have been served by Hope’s Harbor, formerly known as the Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House. While preserving its legacy, Hoering hopes to take the organization to the next level, providing refuge for people like the Kovacs, who need the resources when they’re most vulnerable.

“We have families and individuals from all walks of life, all personality types and all backgrounds, but they know from staying here that they have something in common. They know that there is somebody that they love receiving care in the hospital. That piece of common experience I think breaks the ice. Another family is going through the same challenges and stresses that you are,” says Hoering. 

“I’m so thankful for the sense of community that it was able to create,” adds Erica. “I think I was expecting that the house was going to be just a place for us to live briefly and take care of ourselves. It was a lot more than that. We were able to create a bond with the families that were staying there with us. We’re from such diverse walks of life, but we have this one incredible experience that we’re all living through, and Hope’s Harbor really brought us together and brought that sense of support. I don’t think we could have weathered our NICU stay the same way without it.”

Hope's Harbor Family Hospitality Homes

Owner(s): Executive Director: Wendy Hoering

Address: 7922 W. Jefferson Blvd., Fort Wayne, Indiana 46808

Phone: (260) 459-8550



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