A little over a year ago, I asked Pete and Christy Dokken if they would have lunch with me and let me pick their brains about the local real estate market. Med City Foundation’s board of directors was looking to expand lodging offerings to patients and I didn’t know where to start: Should we rent or buy? Should we look at single family homes or maybe a duplex?
I had called Pete about five years earlier after seeing his name on a large sign by Gibbs Elementary school in Rochester. My husband and I were thinking about moving but needed to sell our current home and figure out what we wanted to do next. It was a down market and so our house was losing value, but it seemed like an opportunity to upgrade. Pete and Christy quickly became two people we spent more time talking and texting with than our own family. They coached us through letting go of the first home we had owned, and even got us through the purchase of our dream home, which wasn’t easy and took almost nine months (including poor Pete driving us all over Rochester to look at close to 30 or 40 homes…I lost track!) Kind of like your hair dresser, your real estate agent many times becomes a close friend in a short amount of time.
Christy and Pete are also landlords and after we brainstormed at lunch what our options would be, they offered to let Med City Foundation rent a home from them, on a month to month lease, so that we could experiment with having property. This was a low-risk way for us to test out property management and learn from our patients.
About nine months later we have learned something very critical: we need to have a house for our patients in stay in. There are other lodging options, such as hotels, extended stay hotels, and other non-profit or religious hospitality homes. However, what is currently lacking is the ability to give a family a home that is private, welcoming, and is their own.
The other critical take-away is the fact that many of these patients are not able to pay, or can pay very little. They are here for weeks, or even months, and during this time they are still supporting their real home, on little to no income while mounting medical bills pile up.
This home environment is so important, especially for families. Most children are not able to stay at the Hope Lodge or Gift of Life Transplant House, and the Ronald McDonald House allows children, if the child is the patient. But the young father with three children and a wife who want to stay together, have to look elsewhere. Even if these organizations did accept families, they are already over capacity. The Ronald McDonald house alone in Rochester turned away 1000 families in 2016!
We are so thankful to Pete and Christy for working with us, teaching me along the way, and allowing us to not just provide a home for these families, but also begin to look at what our focus needs to be. We are hopeful to find ourselves in a place to have more property in the future to continue this important service to patients and their families.