Providing Compassionate Support to Families in Need
Nonprofit organizations are oftentimes overlooked in the community due to a lack of promotional funds and advertising, amongst other reasons. To help spread awareness of these efforts being made, we feature a local nonprofit in each issue that we believe deserves a spotlight shined on the great work that they’ve done and continue to do within the community.
I spoke with Kelsey Zottnick, Executive Director of Tracy’s Sanctuary House, in which she discussed this extraordinary initiative, its evolution, and the many services that Tracy’s Sanctuary House offers to the Bismarck-Mandan community.
A Beacon of Hope
Tracy’s Sanctuary House emerged from a personal tragedy that struck Tracy and her family. On August 9, 2004, over 200 miles from home, Tracy, along with her husband, her eleven-year-old daughter, and another passenger were returning from a trip when their vehicle rolled. Tracy, who was not wearing a seatbelt, did not survive.
“While Tracy was fighting for her life far from home in an area hospital near the accident, Tracy’s husband and young daughter paced the cold hospital halls and waiting room. Distraught and overcome with waves of emotion, they desperately needed a private place to go and find sanctuary through their anguish. They needed a place to await the arrival of Tracy’s college-bound daughter. And later, after Tracy’s passing, they needed a place to make phone calls to family, to make necessary immediate arrangements, and to openly grieve. So far from home, they needed a sanctuary…there was no such place,” Zottnick said.
The turmoil highlighted the pressing need for a private and compassionate haven for families in similar predicaments. Tracy’s family, with unwavering determination, set out to create that sanctuary—a place where loved ones could find respite, support, and solace during the most trying times.
“In 2005, Tracy’s Sanctuary House opened as a temporary home to people who find themselves in similar situations as Tracy’s husband and daughter faced during their anguishing hours in the hospital halls alone and far from home,” Zottnick said.
A Journey of Compassion
Since its inception, Tracy’s Sanctuary House has undergone a transformative journey. In 2016, the organization witnessed an influx of families due to the oil boom in Western North Dakota. With heightened demand, Tracy’s expanded its services to accommodate families for stays ranging from 24 hours to over six weeks.
“A lot more serious injuries and accidents happened that were transferred to our local hospitals. We also saw an influx of out-of-state families using our facility. Also, we had to tighten up our policies and procedures so we continue to review our safety guidelines and admittance to entry at Tracy’s Sanctuary House,” Zottnick said.
Their commitment to helping anyone seeking medical care from out of town, whether for appointments or longer-term treatments, became a cornerstone of their mission. Tracy’s Sanctuary House has also forged partnerships with local hospitals, refining their safety protocols and admission processes to better serve the community.
“We’ve expanded our reach to the surrounding communities and have made large strides with the hospital and the referral process. We help anyone seeking a medical professional from out of town, whether it’s for appointments, long stays, or even families visiting loved ones in retirement and nursing home facilities. We do require a key deposit now at check-in but work with families on a fee-based scale that fits their needs,” Zottnick said.
Unveiling The Impact
The statistics associated with Tracy’s Sanctuary House speak volumes about its dedication and reach. Since opening its doors, the organization has provided temporary housing for over 4,000 families, translating into an estimated 10,000 individuals who found comfort within its walls. The average stay duration since 2022 has been two weeks, reflecting the vital support extended to families during their most challenging moments. Operating the sanctuary incurs an annual cost of $115,000, which covers expenses such as utilities, maintenance, insurance, and staffing.
Behind The Scenes
At the helm of Tracy’s Sanctuary House is Kelsey Zottnick, the Executive Director who wears multiple hats, including managing day-to-day operations, grant writing, organizing fundraisers, and even tending to housekeeping duties. Together with a dedicated group of volunteers, Tracy’s thrives as a tight-knit, family-run endeavor.
“The house takes a lot of work, as we don’t receive any government funding and aren’t sponsored by any local hospitals. We’re a small family that’s made up of seven board members, four of which are family members who launched Tracy’s, along with three local community members. We have seven beds and five rooms in the house to look after,” Zottnick said.
The house itself accommodates up to five families at a time, offering a range of amenities such as fully furnished rooms, two kitchens, a serene chapel, and various common areas where families can come together with one another during challenging times.
What sets you apart from other organizations in your community, or other organizations with similar missions?
There is no other house like ours in the surrounding community. We offer a place to stay for kids and adults. Ronald McDonalds house is only for parents of children but we offer a place to stay for anyone who has a loved one in the hospital no matter age or family affiliation.
Setting A Unique Standard
Tracy’s Sanctuary House stands apart from other organizations with its distinctive focus on accommodating individuals of all ages. While Ronald McDonald House serves as a haven for parents with hospitalized children, Tracy’s offers support to anyone with a loved one in the hospital, regardless of age or family affiliation. This inclusivity sets them apart in the community, ensuring that no one feels alone during their challenging journey.
Services That Uplift
Tracy’s Sanctuary House will provide everything for an emergency night stay. Dubbed a “medical Airbnb,” the organization provides comprehensive services to ease the burden on families in need. The house is fully stocked with food and amenities, eliminating worries about essential supplies. Families can rely on Tracy’s for stays ranging from emergency overnight visits to prolonged periods extending over six weeks. With facilities that include a full-service washer, cable TV, and Wi-Fi, Tracy’s ensures that families can focus on supporting their loved ones while finding comfort within their temporary home.
The Power of Donations
Donations to Tracy’s Sanctuary House play a pivotal role in sustaining their mission. Contributions directly contribute to the organization’s operations, which encompass utilities, groundskeeping, maintenance, insurance, mortgage payments, staffing, and other essential expenses. While families staying at Tracy’s are encouraged to donate within their means, no one is turned away due to an inability to contribute.
Support Beyond Monetary Contributions
Tracy’s Sanctuary House welcomes support in various forms beyond financial donations. Individuals can volunteer their time, organize drives to meet the house’s specific needs, and spread awareness about the organization’s services within churches, hospitals, and the surrounding community
Empowering Readers To Make A Difference
Readers seeking to support Tracy’s Sanctuary House can engage in numerous ways. Sponsoring a family for a night, a week, or even a month can make a profound impact. Alternatively, they can choose to sponsor specific expenses such as utility bills, yard care, or mortgage payments.
Volunteering at Tracy’s is an excellent opportunity to get involved in person and show support. Looking ahead to next January, stay tuned for their annual Winter White Party for a Purpose fundraiser!
A Lasting Legacy
Tracy’s Sanctuary House represents an enduring tribute to the memory of Tracy and her spirit of love and giving. The organization remains committed to spreading awareness about its services, engaging with clubs, churches, and community groups to create a network of support.
“We are always looking for ways to spread the word about Tracy’s Sanctuary House. We speak at clubs, churches, and groups that will have us. The mission was started in memory of my mother, Tracy, and I plan to continue her love and giving through Tracy’s Sanctuary House as long as we can and the community continues to support us,” Zottnick said.
Tracy’s Sanctuary House shines as a testament to the profound impact a small, compassionate organization can have on a community. From its humble beginnings to its far-reaching services today, this nonprofit has become a sanctuary for families facing unimaginable challenges. Through donations, volunteer efforts, and spreading the word, individuals can empower Tracy’s Sanctuary House to bring solace and support to countless families in the Bismarck-Mandan community for years to come.