Ada’s Place in Fair Haven supports those seeking medical care in Indy
As soon as she could, in the first weeks of her pregnancy, Zelpha Allen decided to undergo genetic testing.
At 41, she was already suffering from serious complications with her pregnancy and wanted to make sure the baby was healthy. But tests revealed the baby had high markers for Down syndrome, and subsequent scans revealed a heart defect that may require immediate surgery.
Allen, who lives in Argos, a small community in Marshall County about two hours north of Indianapolis, has learned that she is due to give birth near a high-level neonatal intensive care unit.
While worrying about the circumstances of their daughter’s birth – when she might arrive, the possibility of a stillbirth, if she had been born alive, if she would need immediate surgery – Allen’s family was now faced with a new challenge: how were they going to afford an apartment or hotel? Should Allen sleep in his car outside the hospital?
A social worker put them in touch with Fair Haven, an organization providing housing and support to patients and their families who traveled to Indianapolis for medical treatment – completely free. At 35 weeks, Allen got the call. An apartment was available and she could have a space near Indianapolis hospitals where she could safely wait for the arrival of her baby girl.
The offer, Allen said, sounded too good to be true. But it’s true, and it gave them some relief in the storm. Scarlett was born on August 31, about three weeks after Allen arrived in Indianapolis. At less than a month, she has already had two surgeries and will have at least one more by the age of 8 months.
“Fair Haven was just that little ray of sunshine,” she said, “whenever I felt like everything was falling apart.”
Ada’s Place, Fair Haven’s first brick-and-mortar location, celebrated its grand opening on Friday and will serve approximately 1,500 additional families each year, providing on-site accommodation and day services.
It’s a project that has been brewing for years for Amanda Milner, who founded Fair Haven in 2007, six years after being diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma as the new single mother of two toddlers. His mind raced: who would take care of the children? Who would help him get to his appointments and treatment? If she couldn’t work, who would pay the bills?
Her support network of friends and family grew, helping with childcare and doctor visits – when she lost her home, her father used her retirement savings to help her to find new accommodation. When she returned to work at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, she regularly interacted with patients who were receiving potentially life-saving treatments and saw that they did not all have access to the same level of support as she did.
âI just saw God come for me in many ways,â she said, and she wanted to return that kindness. Fair Haven welcomed its first guest in 2008.
âWhen you talk with people who are going through a really, really difficult time and your heart is moved and you want to help them,â Milner told IndyStar, âit’s such a joy to have something really practical to offer to people. “
$ 2.8 million facility includes 12 guest suites
Previously, Fair Haven operated 10 fully furnished apartments in the city, connecting 125 families each year to a home away from home as they navigated the chaos of treatment. Ada’s Place, named after the father of the man who donated the new building to Fair Haven, offers 12 guest suites, a laundry room, a small chapel, and a community kitchen.
The $ 2.8 million project, located on West 16th Street, a short drive from University and Methodist hospitals, will allow Fair Haven to significantly expand its reach. Night services are expected to serve an additional 500 families per year, Milner said, and day services – which will allow family members referred to Fair Haven to do laundry, shower and decompression – will serve an additional 1,000 families per year. an, she said.
While the organization’s values ââare rooted in the teachings of Christianity, Fair Haven serves everyone, Milner said. She hopes guests will feel the love of Christ, whether it be something as small as being assigned a room in which the bedspread happens to be their favorite color or something as prominent as one. discovery or reconnection with their own faith. There are over 125 scriptures written on the framing of the walls, she said. If each of the rooms is numbered, they also bear the name: Joy. Faith. Promise. Beloved.
Each guest suite, many of which have two beds, includes a private bathroom and a kitchenette with a mini-fridge and microwave. The chambers, Milner said, were designed before the pandemic to allow immunocompromised patients to self-isolate if necessary.
Behind the building is a secluded courtyard which will soon include a fountain and children’s play set in addition to the existing basketball hoop and small court.
In the center of the building is a community room with a fireplace, television and large shelves separated by built-in benches. Across from the guest suites, on the other side of the community room, is a dining room and kitchen. Rather than building a commercial kitchen, there are basically three home kitchens furnished so families can have their own space to prepare their meals. The kitchen features modern finishes, with white cabinetry, stone countertops, a gray tile backsplash, and stainless steel appliances.
Fair Haven offers more than just a place to stay. Volunteers and staff are there to support patients and their families.
Allen said that when she was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia, Fair Haven’s director of client services, Tricia Bishop, was at her bedside. It’s an example, Milner said, of the organization’s belief that âpeople are preciousâ and should feel supported both physically and emotionally during their stay.
âEveryone who stays with us comes here from out of town, so they don’t have the support system of their families and communities and friends around them as they go through what might be the hardest time of their lives, âMilner said. âSo it’s really important to us that we don’t just provide accommodation, but if people want support and want someone to come with them, we have staff and volunteers to do that. “
A place to rebuild mind, body and spirit
Nicole Miller-Dixon has come a long and arduous road to reach Fair Haven.
Miller-Dixon, 42, has been staying in one of the apartments in Fair Haven since late July. She was diagnosed with stage 4 rectal cancer in 2020, and a host of chemotherapy and treatment issues resulted in a nasogastric tube, multiple surgeries, and an ileostomy (a bypass of the small intestine outside the body. body) which she semi-affectionately calls âBrendaâ. “
She came to Indianapolis after doctors in Fort Wayne told her there was little more they could do for her. Unfortunately, her complications continued, she said, and after weeks of immunotherapy, her healthcare team discovered that the cancer had metastasized throughout her abdomen. The treatment plan, doctors told her, is to extend her life, not to cure her. Doctors “save me more time,” she said, but is confident that doctors will find something that will keep her for a long time.
“I can have cancer,” she said, “but cancer didn’t have me.”
If it had not been for Fair Haven, Miller-Dixon said she could not have afforded accommodation in Indianapolis, that she could not have afforded treatment. Without it, she said doctors gave her a prognosis of “maybe a year”. Fair Haven, she said, made the difference between life and death.
As a mother of four, Miller-Dixon said she felt the need to project strength and persistence. She wants her kids to understand that if they focus on something – even as intimidating as surviving cancer – they can make it happen. It’s exhausting, she said, to have to be so strong.
But at Fair Haven, she can take the time she needs to rest and repair her mind, body, and spirit.
âYou have friends here in Fair Haven who, when you’re not strong enough, will help you pick up those pieces,â Miller-Dixon said, âand rebuild them for you.â
To learn more about Fair Haven’s mission, make a donation, or become a volunteer, visit fairhavenfoundation.org.
Fair Haven Annual Fundraiser
What: Paris Flea Market, a shopping event featuring a variety of items including home accessories, furniture, mirrors, chandeliers, tableware, estate jewelry, and art.
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., October 8 to 9.
Or: 14159 Boulevard Clay Terrace, Carmel.
Tickets: $ 5, available at the door or on the organization’s website, fairhavenfoundation.org.