For those who are unfortunate enough to have a loved one in one of Hamilton’s hospitals, the Mark Preece Family House offers a place to stay and a helping hand.
The 1870s stone building located at 191 Barton St. E. first opened its doors in April of 2011. It was founded in memory of Dr. Mark Preece, a physician working in Hamilton Health Sciences’ Intensive Care Unit before his death in 1997.
According to Pearl Wolfe, executive director at the House, the idea came from Preece’s own experience after undergoing cancer treatment in the United States.
“It began when the [Preece family] stayed at a hospital family house where Mark went for treatment,” Wolfe said. “They brought the idea back to Hamilton.”
The Mark Preece Family House, which received charitable status in 2002, relies on funding from room rentals, fundraising, and donations. In total, the house has 24 rooms that are available for $45 per night. The House has a small team of employees, along with roughly 50 volunteers who keep the house fully staffed 24/7.
The staff at the house work tirelessly to create a safe and comfortable space for guests like Anna-Maria, who asked that her last name and the names of her two sons currently in hospital not be used.
‘Mark Preece is a home away from home.’
Originally from Windsor, Anna-Maria is a proud mother of five. In 2015, her life changed forever when one of her sons was in a serious car accident, leaving him with brain injuries.
That’s when she found the House.
“Mark Preece is a home away from home,” she said. “There’s always a meal waiting for me. It’s such an amazing place after a long day at the hospital.”
Anna-Maria found herself back at the House late last year when another one of her sons fell ill, this time needing hyperbaric oxygen therapy at Hamilton General Hospital. Anna-Maria says without the House, she doesn’t know what she would have done.
“I don’t think I could have done as well as I did if I didn’t have this wonderful place to stay,” she said. “Now I come back not with one son but with two and they’ve been as wonderful as the first time.”
Anna-Maria has nothing but praise for the staff and volunteers.
“They’re very caring,” she said of the staff. “[All] the people, from the manager to the janitor, were all so comforting. Pearl is wonderful, she’s like a mother hen.”
True to Anna-Maria’s words, Wolfe says being there for those in need is exactly why she loves her job.
“It’s a very great privilege to work with families who are going through such a difficult time,” Wolfe said. “No one realizes they need such a place to stay until a critical injury or illness happens to someone in their family.”
For those unfortunate enough to experience that grim reality firsthand, the Mark Preece House will always have its doors open – something Anna-Maria knows all too well.
“I hope that I never need to come back here for medical reasons,” she said while fighting back tears. “But I know that if we should return, there’s open arms here that will be waiting for us.”