On a winter day in 1989, a prominent Marquette Cardiologist drove through the hospital parking lot and saw one of his patients in a pickup truck. The man was wrapped in a sleeping bag, and was shaving his face in the side view mirror. The Cardiologist later learned that his patient lived in a small town several hours away, and could not afford a hotel when he came to the hospital for his follow up care from his heart surgery, and would sleep in his car, even in sub-zero temperatures. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that this was not a unique situation. It appeared that many types of medical patients seeking specialty medical care from outside the area would frequently sleep in their cars, bathe in the public restrooms and snack on whatever was available in the hospital coffee lounges. Soon thereafter, physicians and volunteers would come together to create a plan to convert a small house next to the hospital for these types of patients, and offer the overnight accommodations at whatever donation level the patient could best afford. The first “Beacon House” in Marquette, Michigan was launched.
Beacon House has since played a crucial role in providing access to specialty medical care to families in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (the U.P.) for over 30 years. From the start, the mission has been to provide compassionate and supportive services with a safe, affordable, place to stay for patients, families, loved ones and caregivers in times of medical crisis when home is too far away. Beacon House is a donation-based organization, and strives to serve all those in need with dignity and respect, and without judgment, ensuring that no guest ever feels unwelcome due to income or financial situation.
Beacon House was established in 1990 with the original four-bedroom home near the hospital and in 1994, a second home was added to accommodate even more guests. In 2002, the hospital announced it would be demolishing the homes to create more parking space. The volunteer group efficiently created a 501c3 non-profit organization with a diverse board of directors, and with a bank loan, purchased a small hotel near the hospital to continue its mission to care for those in need. In 2013, it expanded its services to include managing 21 beds in a small section of the hospital, for outpatients who had difficulty traveling back and forth to the hospital from Beacon House during cancer treatments and other critical medical issues. In 2014, the hospital was sold to a for-profit organization who announced that they would be building a new hospital in a different section of town and closing the old hospital once it was built. They also announced that the new hospital would not have room for any hospitality rooms. The Beacon House board of directors then began mapping out a strategy to sell the Beacon House building and launch a capital campaign to raise the funds to build a new hospitality house next to the new hospital.