Celebrate 15 Years of a Home-Away-from-Home

Posted - May 30, 2024

Since opening its doors as a healthcare hospitality house in September 2009, Harbor House of Rochester has provided temporary housing for families who have a loved one in a Rochester hospital.  Located just two blocks south of URMC, hundreds of families have benefited from our hospitality over the past 15 years.  In addition to being convenient, Harbor House welcomes families into an attractive setting that is affordable and supportive.  Originally founded out of dedication to the families of patients receiving heart transplants and other advanced cardiac care, Harbor House now provides a haven for all transplant families as well as those facing other critical care needs. 

And the BEAT Goes On 2024 

Celebrate Harbor House’s 15th anniversary on Saturday September 28th at 6:00 p.m. at Rochester Museum and Science Center on East Avenue. Listen as former Rochester Amerk and Buffalo Sabre Gates Orlando, a cardiac care pioneer, is interviewed by local meteorologist and heart transplant recipient Scott Hetsko of WHAM 13 News. Visit https://www.harborhouseofrochester.org/event/atbgo2024/  for tickets and more information.  

Incorporated as a not-for-profit in March 2008, Harbor House helps families from all walks of life.  According to Harbor House Director Lawrence Jones, “While most of our families are from Upstate New York, in 2023, we’ve had guests from as far as California and Bangladesh.”  In previous years Harbor House has provided temporary housing for families from Egypt, India, and China. “The hardest part of my job is having to tell a family or their hospital social worker that we’re full and can’t accommodate a family in need.”

Harbor House Board President Scott Anthony said, “It is amazing how many people’s lives have been positively impacted by this unassuming house with just room for four families at 89 Rossiter Road.  I just wish we had a larger facility to be able to assist more guests.”   

Sarah’s Guest House in Syracuse, though in a smaller city and less of a medical hub, is in the process of expanding to twenty rooms for guests.  Kevin Guest House in Buffalo, the first non-hospital affiliated healthcare house in the United States, has expanded to three buildings to help over thirty families at a time. 


At And the Beat Goes On, Harbor House’s annual gala, founding Managing Director Joan Malley will be honored.  For many people, Harbor House is personified by Joan’s warm and welcoming presence. Joan retired in 2021 but remains as busy as ever as a proud grandmother.   

Joan Malley, Harbor House’s founding Managing Director, and Dr. Leway Chen, founder of the of the URMC Heart Failure & Transplant Program as well as a Harbor House founder.

While the idea for building a healthcare hospitality house for the families of hospitalized patients dates back to 2001, the project gained steam in 2005 when Tom Arcara had a heart attack and subsequently needed a heart transplant. During Tom’s hospitalization, his wife Christine met families enduring similar medical crises.  

After Tom received the gift of life, he and his wife Chris worked with a group of nurses, hospital staff, and Dr. Leway Chen, Medical Director of the URMC Heart Failure & Transplant Program, to start a healthcare hospitality house in Rochester.  When the Arcaras and Dr. Chen appeared on a local television news program, the Tietgen family was motivated to help.  Their good friends, Gary and Linda Acker, had travelled to the Cleveland Clinic so Gary could get a heart transplant before URMC had its own program. During Gary’s hospital stay, Linda found herself in a strange city, struggling with the difficulties of medical crisis alone. The Ackers discussed the lack of support, bleak and expensive accommodations with their friends, the Wackerman and Tietgen families.   

The founding board members, Gary Acker, Chris Arcara, Tom Arcara, Leway Chen, and Rob Wackerman, joined efforts to accomplish their mission. 

In 2009, the Jennifer Linscott Tietgen Family Foundation generously provided the funds to purchase the house at 89 Rossiter Road. Frank Imburgia, a heart transplant recipient, heard about the project and volunteered his company, FSI Construction, to donate labor and materials needed to renovate the house. On September 28, 2009, Harbor House opened its doors to guests for the first time.   

See a more detailed history here. 

With generous assistance from the Davenport-Hatch Foundation, Harbor House received a new roof this May.  This roof is engineered to last for 35 years – where will Harbor House be in 2059?  Hopefully expanded, and unwavering in its commitment to provide great service to our guests.  

An anniversary is an opportunity to honor the past, but also to envision a bright new future. Harbor House is proud of its commitment over the past 15 years to help families facing medical crises.  Our challenge now is to grow both as an organization and a facility to meet the increasing demand of families from near and far in need of affordable and comfortable healthcare hospitality housing.  Can we come together again, to rise to this challenge?  

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