TRAVERSE CITY — A ministry that tries to pair local families who have a room to spare and out-of-town families of patients at Munson Medical Center received Munson’s Community Health Hero award.
Pastor Daniel LeCouteur and members of Family of Faith Lutheran Church last summer launched the support project called Many Rooms. LeCouteur’s fledgling church doesn’t have a physical building and meets for services in restaurants, schools and homes.
“It struck me as interesting that they don’t have a place to call their own, so they were sensitive to other people who were displaced and didn’t have a place to be while their loved ones were getting medical treatment at our regional hospital,” said Dan Johnson, chair of Munson Healthcare Community Health Committee.
LeCouteur sought a way to serve the community, but without a physical building he knew the church couldn’t take a traditional path such as a food pantry. He was approached by a couple staying at Munson Manor -- which houses patients receiving treatment at Munson and their families -- and the couple said the facility is sometimes full.
“I started thinking maybe there’s a possibility this could be a ministry,” LeCouteur said.
A full Munson Manor forces patients and their families to find expensive and sometimes scarce hotel rooms or sleep in cars to be near the hospital. It’s not unusual for Munson Manor to fill on a weeknight, and manager Norm Weichelt said as many as 18 families may fill the wait list.
“Sometimes in the summer when we have a lot of festivals going on there aren’t rooms for anybody coming in from out-of-state,” Weichelt said. “They end up sleeping in their cars, or in the patients’ rooms if they’re allowed to, or in the lounge at the hospital.”
Seven families signed up to host through the Many Rooms ministry, and out of three referrals from the hospital thus far LeCouteur matched one to a host family. He hopes to double or triple the number of host families.
The ministry is named after a bible verse, John 14:2, which reads “my Father’s house has many rooms,” and LeCouteur wants that to be true for Many Rooms ministry, too.
The ministry doesn’t just provide beds for out-of-town patients and families. The host family and out-of-town family that connected through the program have been in touch since the stay.
“They became friends, actually,” LeCouteur said. “We’re not only providing a service for access to the regional hospital, we’re building nice relationships as well.”