Families in Fort Wayne and beyond benefit from the passion and partnership provided by three local women who specialize in caring. Amy Torrez, Jen Veatch and Melissa Dessaigne share a friendship and a vision to work together to serve families.
Amy Torrez founded the nonprofit Paul’s Place after her father got sick hundreds of miles away in Houston. She got help from an agency that arranged free temporary housing so she could stay nearby. When she returned to Fort Wayne, she discovered a need for something like that here.
Once Paul’s Place was established, Torrez quickly realized that she could learn a lot from the women who lead similar agencies — Veatch at the Ronald McDonald House and Dessaigne at Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House. She reached out to both, beginning a collaboration that serves all three organizations and helps thousands of families in need.
“For me it was really a no-brainer. Even though we’re in the same healthcare hospitality industry, we do offer something different. They help in pediatric situations. I serve families when an adult loved one is hospitalized,” explains Torrez. “I reached out to let them know, ‘Hey, I’m not here to step on your toes. I’m actually here to help you.’”
With that in mind, Veatch eagerly agreed to share her experiences at Fort Wayne’s Ronald McDonald House, which is conveniently located inside Parkview Regional Medical Center. It provides a home away from home for families when a child is hospitalized.
“At the Ronald McDonald House, the families who stay with us don’t live in our work space, we work in their home. It is in this spirit that we embrace families and provide a home, meals and other services at no charge. We embrace and we don’t let go,” says Veatch.
The Mad Anthonys Children’s Hope House provides the same services at three locations in Fort Wayne: a free-standing facility near Lutheran Hospital, a center inside the St. Joseph Hospital Regional Burn Center and a new home at Dupont Hospital. All three offer a place of rest, an overnight stay and a warm meal during a family’s time of need.
Dessaigne, who joined the Hope House less than a year ago, has already learned a lot from the informal partnership. She gets together with Torrez and Veatch about once a month to swap stories, help find solutions to problems and simply brainstorm. They want their unique collaboration to inspire others to do the same.
“We hope that other nonprofits will see the benefits of partnering. There are so many good things happening in Fort Wayne. We’d be remiss if we didn’t make an effort to collaborate with likeminded organizations,” says Veatch.
“It would be very easy for us to think that we should start offering other services based on the needs of the families that we’re helping, when the reality is that there are already so many other organizations that can meet those needs in a much quicker time frame and with greater expertise than we can,” Dessaigne says. “I would much rather rely on those organizations around us and really hone in on what our mission is. That’s where these meetings with Jen and Amy come into play.”
“I believe in the old African proverb that says, ‘If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,’” she continues. “There is so much that can be said about doing things together for what’s best for the community.”
“It’s not that we’re not competing,” Veatch points out. “However, the three of us discovered at the core of what we do is a deep drive for helping others. We each have different and personal experiences as to why, yet we share the same passion for walking along side families in need. This drive, combined with respect for each other, superseded concerns about, ‘Do you have the same sponsor I do?’ or ‘It’s my territory.’ This just worked for us.”
Veatch says one of the keys to their success is their willingness to not only share ideas but to support each other in times of need and to rejoice in times of celebration. Their obvious respect for each other is also key.
“Melissa has a kindness about her that she exudes without even knowing it. Right away I knew that she was the kind person I wanted to get to know,” says Veatch. “I could see with Amy that she had a fire within her because she had a story that was very personal to her. Her ambition is contagious.”
“Jen and Melissa both just have a huge open heart for what they’re doing,” Torrez adds. “They’re extremely professional but passionate as well.”
“When you find that common goal, it makes it that much easier to work together,” concludes Dessaigne.
Ronald McDonald House
11109 Parkview Plaza Drive
Fort Wayne, Indiana 46845