How It Started

The idea for building a healthcare hospitality house for the families of hospitalized patients started in 2001, shortly after the heart transplant program began at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Strong Memorial Hospital. An organized group attempted to get a house started, but they were unsuccessful in getting the necessary funding for the project. The project was put on hold. 

In 2005, Tom Arcara, a Rochester resident, had a heart attack and subsequently needed a heart transplant. During Tom’s hospitalization, his wife, Christine, met families enduring similar medical crises. Many were from out of town and spent long hours at the hospital and on the road, traveling to and from their homes. After Tom received the gift of life, the Arcaras organized a fundraiser to provide amenities for the heart failure unit. Their long-term goal was starting a hospitality house for families of out-of-town patients. 

In August 2006, the Arcaras teamed up with a group of nurses, hospital staff, and Dr. Leway Chen, Medical Director of the Heart Failure & Transplant Program. They traveled to Pittsburgh to visit Family House, an established healthcare hospitality house that instructed the group on how to start. There they learned about Healthcare Hospitality Network, a national association that would provide vital support. Filled with excitement and information the group returned to Rochester and got to work fundraising and raising awareness for the cause. 

In 2007, an unrelated family was having similar thoughts of starting a healthcare hospitality house in Rochester. In 1999, before URMC had a heart transplant program, Gary and Linda Acker traveled to Cleveland for Gary to receive a new heart. During his hospital stay, Linda found herself in a strange city, struggling with the difficulties of medical crisis alone. The Ackers discussed the lack of support and questionable accommodations with their friends, the Wackerman and Tietgen families.  

Meanwhile, the Arcaras and Dr. Chen appeared on a local television news program to raise funds for a healthcare hospitality house in Rochester. One of the Tietgens caught this spot and connected the Ackers and Wackermans to the effort. The founding board members, Rob Wackerman, Gary Acker, Chris Arcara, Tom Arcara, and Leway Chen, began working together. In 2008, Harbor House of Rochester, Inc. became a 501c3 not-for-profit organization. 

In 2009, the Jennifer Linscott Tietgen Family Foundation donated the funds to purchase the house at 89 Rossiter Road. Frank Imburgia, a heart transplant recipient and Rochester resident, heard about the project and volunteered his company, FSI Construction, to donate labor and materials needed to renovate the house. Several businesses and individuals from the Rochester community donated goods and services to make the dream a reality. 

On September 28, 2009, the doors opened for guests for the first time. The house is available to any adult family member who travels to support a loved one hospitalized in Rochester. We have provided thousands of nights of rest in a home-like setting to people from all over the world.  


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