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A Voice for the Good: Paul's Place

3Rivers is proud to support so many of the non-profit organizations that are committed to making our community a better place to live, work, and play, and we want to help spread the word about the difference they're making in our region. We’ve teamed up with 97.3WMEE to bring you A Voice for the Good podcast to do just that! We’re temporarily bringing the podcast to you via these Q&A online articles, as we’re doing our part to social distance and keep our community safe.

This article features Paul’s Place: Support for Families—a local non-profit on a mission to “provide the comfort and support of being at home, while being away from home.” Paul’s Place provides temporary housing for the loved ones of adult patients who are receiving treatment for life-threatening illnesses or other medical conditions. They aim to make sure the families of these patients are made as comfortable as possible—offering physical and emotional relief—so they can be strong and present for their loved ones in order to help them heal.

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We talked with Amy Torrez, Founder, CEO & Executive Director of Paul's Place, to learn more about their story and the difference they’re making for those in our community!

How did Paul’s Place come to be? What’s the history behind how the organization initially got started?

“Our story starts in 1999, when I was living in Austin, Texas, and my father was living in the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. In mid-September, my father was diagnosed with lymphoma. The nurses told me about a program that offered temporary, fully furnished apartments close to the Houston Medical Center that was offered to families of patients receiving treatment at any of the hospitals. It was a godsend! Overall, the sanctuary of our home-away-from-home helped my father actually beat the lymphoma after six months of treatment. It also provided relief, both physically and emotionally for me, so I could be strong for my father.

However, the treatment proved too much for my father’s transplanted heart. On March 11, 2000, he passed away from a heart attack. He was just two months short of having the transplanted heart 10 years. I will always treasure the six months I got to spend with him.

So, in honor of my father, I wanted to be able to provide that comfort for other adult patients and their caregivers/families. I wanted to be able to help provide education to the caregivers on how they can learn to be a catalyst for the healing process for their loved one through nutrition, counseling/support, and even through massage/touch. I wanted to be able to be a resource for families that are struggling to make it through a traumatic and stressful time in their lives and help pay it forward by offering a cost-effective place for them to be ‘at home, away from home.’”

What is the official mission of Paul’s Place, and how is it currently being put into play?

“Our mission is to provide temporary housing for adult patients and their caregivers when they travel to Fort Wayne for medical treatment. We currently have corporately leased, fully-furnished apartments where we house our families. We also have a collaboration with Children’s Hope House, so that we’re able to utilize the St. Joe Hospital Burn Unit suites for our Lutheran Health Network families.”

How do you see Paul’s Place evolving in the future? In what ways do you most want to grow? Where do you see this organization a year from now, or even five years from now?

“I see Paul’s Place adding custom built homes for our families, where we can house three families at once while still allowing them to be pretty well autonomous. We currently have land and an approved special-use permit by the City’s Planning Department. We just have to select the builder and raise the funds! I would also like to improve upon the access to resources that we provide for our families, such as yoga or mediation classes or financial counseling. Hopefully, a year from now, the building process will have begun, or may even be close to being finished. Our long-term goal locally is to have a house southwest by Lutheran and the new IU Health Hospital, and maybe even one up north by Parkview Regional Medical Center and Dupont Hospital.”

Are there any exciting new developments, updates, or changes that have recently taken place at Paul’s Place?

“Our biggest and most recent news has been obtaining the donations needed to purchase land to potentially build on! I had hoped to start the building process this year, but COVID had other plans. So, be on the watch for big news in 2021!”

Could you share a standout story or two that really illustrates the impact Paul’s Place has on individuals in our community?

“One of our most recent patients that stayed with us was a mother of three that had Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer. She said that staying at Paul’s Place provided peace for her and her family, and it gave them a sense of relief. After the first night, they were so much at ease that it was the first day that didn’t immediately involve her diagnosis. Having that peace and emotional relief even made her treatments a little easier. On the days she was feeling good, she and her family loved to walk through the beautiful trails that Fort Wayne has to offer. They were also able to spend time together at the city parks and take in the beauty and hospitality that Fort Wayne has to offer!”

How do patients or families go about qualifying and/or inquiring about support from Paul’s Place? What does that process look like?

“Families can inquire with their case managers, hospital social workers, or even the chaplaincy about the availability of housing. Of course, they can also go to our website to call me directly for availability, too.”

Are there other local non-profit organizations that Paul’s Place works/partners with to enhance their programs?

“We have a great collaboration relationship with Children’s Hope House on Lutheran Campus and their Burn Unit suites at the old St. Joe Hospital downtown. We often receive referrals from the Ronald McDonald House of Northeast Indiana, as well as American Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. We’re also in the process of building other opportunities for additional resources for our families as they work through their medical situations.”

Are there opportunities for community members to volunteer at Paul’s Place—and if so, how can they go about learning more?

“We’re always looking for great committee members for our fundraising events throughout the year, or even to help with administrative items and smaller programs! We host a golf tournament in July and a gala style event in September. I could always have a ‘Welcoming Team’ that would put together care bags for our families when they check-in, or to even keep in touch with the families to see what other resources they may need. Those interested in volunteering their time can get in touch with me anytime via the contact information on our website!”

In what other ways can community members support Paul’s Place—be it through monetary donations, material donations, education, etc.?

“We are always open for Sponsor-a-Night Donations, where individuals can donate $49 to sponsor a night’s stay for a family. There are higher amounts listed and what they represent to a family listed on our webpage.

As for other monetary donations, it’s important to keep in mind that we’re an independent, local non-profit. Therefore, any and all donations are kept locally and providing an immediate, tangible benefit to our families in need—a little can go a long way!

Those in our community may also consider hosting a 'Paper Drive' for the apartments. We often collect paper towels, toilet paper tissues, sanitizing wipes, laundry soap, fabric softener, dish soap, hand soap and small toiletry items for the apartments and families. This is a great kind of drive for smaller companies to do with their employees, too!

We’re also listed in the Kroger Community Rewards Program. People can select Paul’s Place as their chosen non-profit recipient of a percentage of donations from Kroger.”

Where can our readers learn more about Paul’s Place and how can they reach out to you to learn more or get involved?

“To learn more about Paul’s Place: Support for Families, they can go to our website at www.paulsplace.org and can also see what we’re up to by following us on  Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram!”

Want to tell your non-profit's story on A Voice for the Good? Text "VOICE" to 46862! Please note that this may lead you to incur standard text messaging rates or other applicable charges consistent with your wireless carrier/mobile phone plan.

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