Family House

A Home Away From Home
by Leslie Williams Seiler
Family House

Offering a home away from home to patients and their families since 1985…

Peoria’s prominence for having first-class medical facilities in downstate Illinois draws thousands of patients from across the region to our city each year. Many times, people travel hundreds of miles to come here under conditions of maximum stress to be with a loved one receiving medical or nursing care at one of our facilities. They deal with the emergency room, the admitting process, new doctors, multiple tests, and life-changing diagnoses. Then comes the realization that the care their family member needs will require an extended stay in Peoria.

Out rolls the welcome mat at Family House, a local nonprofit that provides low-cost lodging to any out-of-town relatives of patients receiving medical treatment or those who travel here to receive outpatient care. In addition to providing an affordable home away from home, the organization offers meals and other supportive services designed to reduce day-to-day stresses.

“Family House makes access to one of the leading medical communities possible for families who otherwise could be sleeping in waiting rooms, paying expensive hotel fees or leaving part of the family at home,” says Alli Turner, interim executive director of Family House, who previously worked at Ronald McDonald House Charities in Chicago. “Family House makes it possible for families to stay together and aid in their loved one’s recovery.”

Turning a House into a Home
Family House began in 1982 as a collaborative project with the Junior League of Peoria, OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, Methodist Medical Center (now UnityPoint Health – Methodist) and Proctor Hospital. A board of directors was formed, and Family House, Peoria’s only hospital hospitality house, became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

In 1984, a century-old, 9,000-square-foot Victorian house, located at 1509 N. Knoxville Ave., was purchased. The four-story building offered 14 guest rooms, six bathrooms, four living room/lounges, kitchens, laundry, a playroom and private apartment. When its doors opened in 1985, volunteers primarily staffed Family House. The first full-time director was hired in 1991.

As time passed, the demand for more space was apparent. The three hospitals served by Family House were reporting more and more people coming in and having to sleep in waiting rooms. And despite its old-world charm, the house lacked contemporary amenities and was not ideal for guests with limited mobility. In order to build a larger, more modern Family House, a fundraising drive began in 2005 to raise $2.75 million. Thanks to corporate and private donations, ground broke on a new, 14,678-square-foot facility in 2010, in conjunction with the organization’s 25th anniversary. Just over a year later, in June 2011, the doors to a beautiful, new Family House opened at 1339 E. Nebraska Ave. It features:

  • Twenty guest rooms, each with an adjoining private bathroom, television, telephone and individual thermostat. The cost per room is $39 a night.
  • Wheelchair accessibility, along with an elevator
  • Several community rooms
  • Two kitchens that provide guests the opportunity to prepare meals and snacks to their liking and on their own schedule. Often, community groups will volunteer to cook a meal at no cost to guests.
  • A large dining room that can accommodate up to 20 people
  • Dedicated laundry facilities, computers with Internet access, free on-site parking and transportation to and from nearby medical centers
  • Day services for waiting room families
  • 24-hour security, so even when families are away from home, they can feel safe
  • Accessibility 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.

The new location sustains nearly an 85-percent occupancy rate and can accommodate 65 people per night. In 2012, Family House served more than 1,360 families. So far this year, the organization has assisted 982 families, and overall, Family House has aided 29,000 guests.

Never Far from Home
Conveniently located near the hospitals, Family House offers peace of mind to guests when they need it most. Most come from outside the Peoria area and never expect to end up at Family House. Guests have come from all 50 states and from faraway countries like Poland and South Korea.

“They are often far from home, tired and apprehensive about whatever medical need brought them to Peoria,” says Turner. “They are surprised by the level of care and comfort immediately experienced from our compassionate volunteers, trained staff, beautiful, modern facilities and peaceful surroundings. As guests return for follow-up visits or annual checkups, they become a part of our Family House family. They look at the house as their home away from home.”

Some stay for a few days; some stay for weeks, even months. And because most guests cannot afford the cost of an extended hotel stay, Family House becomes an affordable option at a difficult time.

Truly a Family
Family House is an independent organization led by a professional staff of seven employees—two full-time and five part-time—and 25 dedicated board members, as well as many wonderful volunteers who selflessly donate their time and talents.

The organization relies solely on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations and room charges to keep costs low. Additionally, it hosts four fundraisers throughout the year: a prime rib dinner, 5K run/walk, Golf with the Pros (coming up September 6th at the County Club of Peoria) and Christmas Magic (scheduled for November 29th at Four Points by Sheraton).

As Family House looks to the future, its staff, board and volunteers hope to continue providing a nurturing environment, compassionate care and the comforts of home to patients and families.

“Family House is so much more than a place to stay. It is a community of support,” says Turner. “The house is alive with hope and love as we support the entire family in the treatment of their loved one. We become the community that helps see them through the ups and downs of fighting illness away from home.” iBi

To learn more about Family House, visit familyhousepeoria.org.

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