“I want to tell you about a unique non-profit organization that reaches out to families that are struggling with a medical crisis. The National Association of Hospital Hospitality Houses is a network of houses all around the United States. They provide lodging and support for people of all ages and all walks of life who are dealing with medical emergencies far from their homes. Hospitality Houses have been one of the world’s best kept secrets.” Barbara Bush, Former First Lady
One of these best kept secrets opened in Amarillo in September 2010. The Medical Center League House, located in the heart of the Harrington Regional Medical Center at 7000 Amarillo Blvd., has been a joint project developed by Harrington Regional Medical Center, Baptist Community Services, and the Junior League of Amarillo. The synergy created by these three organizations working together has made this facility a reality.
The idea began with the dream and passion of Dick Rathgeber, a philanthropist and Austin business-man who has spearheaded the development of ten Hospitality Houses throughout Texas. Dick met Susie O’Brien, a sustaining member of The Junior League of Amarillo, at an Austin fundraiser and asked her if there was a Hospitality House in Amarillo. When Susie said “No”, he proceeded to tell her about the Hospitality House concept and its mission. He also explained that he usually likes to approach the Junior League in an area, because Junior League members know how to fund raise and complete a project.
Susie returned to Amarillo excited to tell her cohorts in the Junior League of Amarillo about the possibility of building a Hospitality House. The Junior League began talking to various constituencies at the Medical Center and in the community in order to determine if there was a need for such a facility. The members of The Junior League concluded that a Hospitality House was in fact desperately needed at the Medical Center in Amarillo, and would be a significant benefit for not only the Medical Center but also for the people of the surrounding towns in the Panhandle who utilize the Medical Center.
“A Hospitality House in our community is extremely needed. We have so many patients and families from the surrounding area that will benefit from the Medical Center League House. Night after night, families sleep in chairs in waiting rooms so they can be near their critically ill loved ones. I anticipate that it will be utilized to its full capacity daily.” Jennifer Wheeler, Director of Case Management at BSA
With Dick’s commitment of $200,000, The Junior League voted to proceed with the project and began fundraising, with the leadership of Stacey Harwell and Lori Henke, seeking to match his pledge. This was followed by a matching pledge from local philanthropist, Sharon Oeschger, whose gift precipitated numerous pledges and donations from various foundations, trusts and generous individuals. Sharon and Dick were named Honorary Co-Chairs of the Medical Center League House project. The land where the facility was to be situated was donated by Harrington Regional Medical Center. Fundraising efforts continued and were rewarded with financial commitments from surrounding communities to purchase and name specific rooms throughout the facility.
“It’s just a guaranteed success of a project and that’s exciting to a businessman. The fundraising is easy, because everyone likes to give to something that makes their brother‘s load a little lighter. Giving people a nice place to stay when their loved one is sick is just a winner of an idea. You touch thousands of lives a year.” Dick Rathgeber
Sharon Oeschger, a Junior League Sustainer, has been a vital part of this endeavor. Sharon shares the giving heart of Dick and has poured her heart and soul into this project, not to mention her continued financial support. There were times when this project came to a stand still, and Sharon was always there to keep pushing the League House to completion.
After eight years of fundraising, The Medical Center League House began construction in the fall of 2009. Architect Gregg Bliss, was hands on working closely with Pioneer General Contractors and Cleve Turner, the landscape architect. The interior design and purchasing of the furniture was completed by a committee comprised of Junior League members, led by Amber Glawe. Amber’s experience in hotel purchasing was invaluable to the project. Bray Whaler International, a contract purchasing company for commercial properties, donated their services which allowed Amber to purchase the furniture, carpeting, and wallcoverings at significant savings. Tri-Tex Enterprises donated blackout lining and sheers for the window treatments, including fabricating and installing the drapes. Other Vendors including, Serta Mattresses, Brinton’s Carpeting, Koroseal Wallcoverings, Carson’s Hospitality, JTB Furniture, American Hotel and Standard Textiles made generous contributions to the League House through price reductions and donations. As the construction came to a close, Baptist Community Services began its commitment to manage the League House. It hired Amber Glawe to be the Executive Director for the facility in July 2010.
“Baptist Community Services felt that it was evident that she had a passion for this project and a true understanding of its mission, and therefore was a natural fit to manage this Hospitality House.” Paula Bliss, League House Board member and Assistant Vice President of Marketing, Baptist Community Services
The two-story, hotel-like facility opened with its first guests in the fall of 2010. The League House has 31 guest rooms (two ADA) containing 2 queen beds, with private bathroom. The facility has a living room, dining room, kitchen, laundry room, multipurpose room, and a prayer garden. The multi-purpose room is available to the guests as well as to the public to hold meetings or other functions. The League House is a non-profit organization, relying on contributions and in-kind donations for its operations. A nightly $45.00 donation is requested, but charitable assistance is available to guests, according to need.
The mission of the Medical Center League House is to serve as a home away from home for patients and their families coming to Amarillo, Texas for health care treatments. It seeks to provide comfortable and affordable lodging in a caring environment of support and assistance.
Many giving opportunities remain to partner with the League House through naming opportunities, bricks, trees, and benches for the Jatawn Wells prayer garden expansion project, and donations to the Adopt the House Fund. This House is a beautiful blessing to the Panhandle, one of which Amarillo can be proud.
“Won’t you please help these ‘homes that help and heal’ become known to the world?” Barbara Bush
For more information about the Medical Center League House giving opportunities, or to make a reservation call 806-358-3759.