You’re an Important Piece of the Puzzle!
Last winter we had a group of puzzle enthusiasts staying at the Harbor House. I had been saving a new 1,000-piece puzzle of the Finger Lakes and surrounding wineries for such an occasion.
The first night, the group opened the box and began organizing. That same night they succeeded in creating the entire border of the puzzle. With such a big achievement in just one night, puzzle mania struck the Harbor House. It seemed that everyone in the house had become obsessed with completing the puzzle. Even people who identified themselves as “not good at puzzles” joined in on the project. In three short days the puzzle was finished! Determination, a desire to succeed and camaraderie drew this group together to achieve a common goal.
That got me thinking about the House itself and how so many people have pitched in through the years in their own way to keep it running. The Harbor House was started piece by piece and it continues to stay open the same way. The entire Harbor House “family” works together—each member giving what they can by sharing either time, talent or treasure to ensure that families of critically
ill loved ones will always have a safe, supportive and affordable place to rest.
This year, we had to cancel our annual “And the BEAT goes on…” fundraiser due to COVID-19. Instead, we’ll be sending out an Appeal Letter asking for your support. I’m hoping that we’ll be able to raise the money we usually do at our annual fundraiser piece by piece this year. Whatever you can contribute will be gratefully received. YOU are an important piece of the Harbor House organization—together we can meet this challenge!
Thoughts from a House Guest
Our journey began seven years ago in Watertown, NY. My son was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at the age of 14, just two weeks after my father lost his battle with cancer. The next 17 months would be filled with countless medical procedures, surgeries, and rounds of chemotherapy treatments. If I could choose one thing that I would
consider a silver lining, it would be that my son received excellent care and our family received assistance because he was in pediatric medicine. There are so many programs and helping hands extended to
families with sick children, and rightfully so.
My son was fortunate to become a cancer survivor, but that title came with its own price. Approximately 5–15% of cancer patients will develop full-blown heart failure after surviving cancer due to heart
damage from chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Kaimi was diagnosed with congestive heart failure during his first official “you’re in remission” appointment. The next five years were spent trying to mitigate the effects of chemotherapy through medication and occasional inpatient stays to get Kaimi’s heart to a functional level. All of his care to this point was received in Syracuse, NY, just an hour away on Route 81, and we had optional housing in the winter months via The Ronald MacDonald House in Syracuse.
This all changed in June 2020. The nation was in turmoil with the pandemic, and getting medical treatment for non-pandemic conditions was complicated and difficult. Obtaining a face-to-face visit with a medical provider was nearly impossible as well as dangerous for individuals with serious medical conditions and compromised
After a great deal of effort, a normal visit with Kaimi’s cardiologist started a new journey into another direction of intense medical treatments with one stark difference: Kaimi is now on the adult side of the medical spectrum. This is not to say that he is not receiving excellent care and treatment from his medical teams, but it does present its own unique issues.
Within just a few days, this young man went from not feeling well in
Northern New York to being placed in a cardiac ICU unit over 2.5 hours away rom home, fitted with an “impella device.” For him, it was like getting caught in a rip current: being sucked into a vortex and rocketed away, traveling five feet a second, not knowing where he would end up.
The medical professionals at Strong Memorial Hospital do an impeccable job of caring for their patients. But the families of these patients need care, too. Unlike the attention that families with pediatric illness receive, the families of adult patients mostly fend for themselves.
This is where my story changes. I proudly told the people I met, “I’ll go home when he goes home.” That might sound like a cheesy line from a “made for TV” film, but it’s truly how I felt. However, those feelings didn’t reflect the financial and mental burdens that we were under. Sleepless nights are normal for people dealing with acute or chronic illness, but trying to figure out how to provide comfort for a loved one in that situation can also increase one’s own restless ness. Luckily, I was introduced to the Harbor House, which gives families the ability to have some normalcy by providing a comforting, home-like atmosphere.
By definition, a home is a building that serves as living quarters for one or a few families, and a harbor is a place of security and comfort. The Harbor House of Rochester certainly meets those requirements, but it provides so much more. Knowing that I could come home and cook a meal, do laundry, or just take a well deserved nap was what made this three-month journey bearable. Being around other people who understood what I was going through was also comforting. Even during a pandemic with strict adherence to social distancing guidelines, the personal touches and comforts were more than any hotel room could provide. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be a guest of the Harbor House with the ability to be close to my loved one. The sign you see as you enter the driveway is symbolic and provides a visual adaptation of what is to come. The beam of light emanating from the lighthouse is a beacon to guide you to safety within the Harbor House. Thank you.
Being a Good Neighbor
We all know closing places like the Harbor House during the Covid pandemic was completely necessary for the safety of all. Although it couldn’t be helped, these closings had an adverse affect on many organizations. It is with a lot of faith in humankind that many not-for-profits have forged on to continue their mission with limited funds and volunteers. I often tell our guests that they’ll discover the best in people at the worst of times, and that is exactly what this story is about.
My State Farm agent and friend, Chris Leonardi, called me just as we were ramping up to re-open the Harbor House. He asked me how things were going and I told him we were going to be up for a challenging few months with no fundraiser, limited guests and fewer than normal volunteers. He listened patiently for a while and then told me that he actually was calling because he hoped he might be able to lend a hand.
Chris and his State Farm agency are just a few minutes down the road from the Harbor House. Chris has supported the Harbor year after year by being a Corporate Sponsorship for our annual “And the BEAT goes on…” fundraiser. I knew he believed in our cause, but what happened next took me completely by surprise. He explained to me that State Farm was allocating money to be used by their agents to help out in their communities. I wasn’t expecting him to send me a check for double his usual sponsorship, but that’s what came in the mail the very next day!
This was the first deposit we had made to our account in several months. It gave the entire organization the boost we needed to believe that with the help of our friends and supporters, we would make it through the pandemic.
At Harbor House, we try to support families at one of the most difficult times in their lives. Thank you State Farm and Chris Leonardi for being a good neighbor and supporting the Harbor House during hard times!
Help Us to Clean and Go Green!
Harbor House is attempting to do its part to save resources and money for our cause. We’ve started a new project, trying to “clean” our database. We love all of our loyal supporters, but it’s time to dust the cobwebs off our aging list and create a more efficient, environmentally-friendly way to communicate. We will be converting to paperless correspondence. Hiring a company to clean our list and get our supporters to “Opt In” can be a costly, time-consuming process. We’re trying to do as much of it as we can on our own so we can spend our money where it counts—on families when they need it most.
To make a successful conversion, we NEED YOUR help. If you want to continue to receive the latest Harbor House news, please take a moment to e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org and type “Opt In” under the subject line. In the body of the email, include your full name, address, phone number and the email you would like us to use in the future. Please do your part to help us go green and save! Anyone who replies by Oct. 25th will be entered in a raffle to
win a $50 Amazon Gift Card!
Volunteer in the Spotlight:
Last fall I received a notice from Volunteer Match that someone was interested in the position I’d posted for a handyman. I hadn’t had much luck finding a handyman to come in on a regular basis, so I was cautiously optimistic.
I spoke to the gentleman about what kind of jobs we had at the Harbor House. I was so happy when he quickly returned his application and wanted to come over for a face-to-face interview.
Before long, he was ready to begin. Not only did Dave do the projects I had in mind, but he also did a complete walk-thru of the house and made a list of items he noticed were in need of a repair or an upgrade. It didn’t take me long to realize Dave’s abilities. He took on the role of Harbor House Handyman and happily embraced the responsibility of making sure our house stays well maintained.
One of the greatest things about Dave is that he researches a problem until he finds the best way to go about fixing it. I think it’s the engineer in him, because he doesn’t miss a detail. Believe me, this has been a blessing.
Dave is just coming up on his one-year anniversary, yet I don’t know what we did before he became part of our Harbor House “family!” Thanks for your hard work and dedication, Dave. We are so glad you answered that ad!