There are sixteen hospitals in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but only one is a Level II Trauma American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACS) verified Trauma Center-U.P. Health System-Marquette. According to the American Trauma Society, Elements of Level II.
Trauma Centers Include:
- 24-hour immediate coverage by general surgeons, as well as coverage by the specialties of orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology and critical care;
- Tertiary care needs such as cardiac surgery, hemodialysis and microvascular surgery may be referred to a Level I Trauma Center;
- Provides trauma prevention and continuing education programs for staff;
- Incorporates a comprehensive quality assessment program.
As a result, many people travel to Marquette, MI, to receive services, treatments, and specialty care. In some trauma situations, individuals are transported to the hospital due to the level of care they are able to provide. Sometimes this results in family members having to travel long distances to be with their loved ones in their time of need. Thankfully, the Beacon House is a shining ray of light and hope for individuals who need to spend time in Marquette for medical reasons, but don't necessarily have the means to be there.
Mary Tavernini-Dowling is the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Hospitality House of the Upper Peninsula, more commonly known as the Mariucci Family Beacon House or simply the Beacon House. The Beacon House got its name because of the beautiful image it portrays as a welcoming beacon of light in the storm surrounding a medical crisis.
The Beacon House is a non-profit, privately funded hospitality house located next to U.P. Health System-Marquette hospital. They serve individuals and their family members who are attending day or long-term medical appointments as well as recurring appointments for dialysis, cancer treatment, NICU stays, etc. The Beacon House has 22 guest rooms, two family kitchens, a chapel, reflection room, children’s playroom, work stations, a private patient TV lounge, a wig salon for cancer patients, outdoor space, and a room for video conferencing. The Beacon House offers rooms without a fee with the caveat that people will donate what they can afford for their stay.
Recently, the Beacon House has begun providing guests shuttle service to and from the hospital. Despite the hospital being within close proximity (5-10 minute walk), staff are very excited about providing this additional service since it will help individuals, especially in the winter, get to and from the Beacon House and the hospital.
“We have designed this whole thing to be as compassionate, loving, caring and affordable as possible. The Beacon House is here to take the big worry away from people when they find themselves far from home in a medical crisis of some kind. We are here so individuals don't have to worry about where they are going to stay, how they are going to afford it, how they are going to eat, or how they are going to get back and forth to the hospital,” Tavernini-Dowling says.
The Beacon House has come a long way since its inception. It started as a four-bedroom house that provided coffee for guests each morning. Its next stage in evolution came when it took over an old hotel which increased their space and capacity to serve more individuals. When the hospital in Marquette relocated from College Avenue to Baraga Avenue, the Beacon House had no other choice but to pick up a move as well. Since relocating takes time and money, the Beacon House spent years planning and fundraising to design and build their new location.
“Being able to turn the key in the front door for the first time and knowing that this building is paid in full was such a huge achievement. We could not have done any of this without our donors and sponsors," Tavernini-Dowling says.
Tavernini-Dowling had the personal pleasure of being able to spend well over a year with the blueprints making all the small personal touches that make the Beacon House so magical.
“I tried to make it a comfortable and soothing place for people to be because most of the time, people who are here are in very difficult situations. Having that space to go with your thoughts and feelings was a big priority of ours while designing the Beacon House,” says Tavernini-Dowling.
The Beacon House works very hard to help individuals find alternative lodging in the event they are unable to stay at the Beacon House. They are constantly writing grants in hopes of receiving funding to attain hotel vouchers for individuals. The Beacon House works closely with Travel Marquette and most hotels will match every hotel voucher she purchases.
“Our strongest desire is to help as many people as we can and in as many ways as we can. The workers pour their love into their work and continue to go above and beyond to help and support the individuals who visit the beacon house,” Tavernini-Dowling says.
During the school year, the Beacon House has Wildcat Wednesdays where they have a NMU sports team come by the house to eat dinner with guests who are staying. After a few visits, they found out once the sports teams got there, the most important part was visiting with the guests and not making dinner. So, now they have decided to prepare the food ahead of time which allows the team members an ample amount of time to talk and interact with the guests.
“The students get so engaged with the individuals staying at the beacon house which allows the people at the beacon house to just relax and take their mind off of everything going on,” Tavernini-Dowling says.
If anyone in the community is wanting to help the Beacon House, they accept monetary donations on their website. The Beacon House is also always in need of paper products such as toilet paper, paper towels, and Kleenex as well as toiletries including toothbrushes and toothpaste. Some people come to the Beacon House in a crisis and they want to be able to help them the best they can. So, they like to have back up supplies on hand for individuals in need. This includes items like shirts, pants, undergarments, and socks. These are items that are not as commonly thought of, but greatly appreciated. The Beacon House can accept anything that is new and wrapped.
Tavernini-Dowling's passion and excitement for what she does shines bright and impacts everyone around her. She recently won the Remarkable Women of the Upper Peninsula contest. Anyone who has the chance to meet her can say they instantly know why she received this recognition. Mary is excited for the future and being able to collaborate and partner with the NMU Center for Rural Health. She believes this partnership will provide many new opportunities and she can't wait to see how efforts will advance by collaborating and supporting each other's efforts.
To contact the Beacon House, please call (906) 225-7100 or visit their website. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Beacon House, please complete and submit a volunteer application which is available on their website.
The Northern Michigan University Center for Rural Health seeks to improve the health and well-being of Upper Peninsula residents and communities by developing collaborative partnerships that enhance the access and availability of affordable, quality healthcare services. For questions or comments related to this story, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.