New leader at The Father’s House continues mission of supporting foster children, families

Tim and Kristan MacDonald stand on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. 

Tim MacDonald started The Father's House with his first wife, Doreen, whose idea it was to help foster children. She later passed away and he was living elsewhere. But when MacDonald's current wife, Kristan, learned there was a need for someone to oversee the facility, she urged him to move back to Hamilton to help with that, and they did. Area foster children, who face struggles other kids don't, will benefit. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald stand on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. Tim MacDonald started The Father's House with his first wife, Doreen, whose idea it was to help foster children. She later passed away and he was living elsewhere. But when MacDonald's current wife, Kristan, learned there was a need for someone to oversee the facility, she urged him to move back to Hamilton to help with that, and they did. Area foster children, who face struggles other kids don't, will benefit. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

This Thanksgiving, Tim MacDonald knows he has been doubly lucky in marriage, after his first wife died. Both his wives have helped Hamilton-area foster children and their families in a big way.

MacDonald’s first wife, Doreen, sparked the idea of turning the former Butler County Children’s Home on Hamilton’s South D Street into what has become The Father’s House, a support system for foster kids and those who care for them.

The couple lived nearby in a beautiful house built in the 1930s, and Doreen “would walk by that property, and at that time it was abysmal looking,” MacDonald said. “And she said, ‘Tim, there’s something about that property.’”

She researched the property at the library, learning about the orphanage that was created in 1869 to care for children whose fathers were killed in the Civil War. One evening, Doreen excitedly told him, “Do you know thousands of kids have been processed through that property down the hill?”

ExploreCouple restoring former children’s home for foster, adoptive families

The MacDonalds thought instead of an orphanage, they could restore the buildings to serve as homes for families to live in community and show the way for other families who want to do a good job of fostering children.

The Father’s House is a place for community meals, movie nights, and conversations between couples about what approaches to problems have worked for them. It also provides such services as trauma counseling.

“It just provides a really strong support to the families that live on the property, but also to many that can’t live on the property, but would engage with us,” MacDonald said.

He bought the property, but the company he was with at the time required him to move to California. Doreen MacDonald, a diabetic since childhood, died in 2005, at age 40.

“Thankfully, Daryl Gunnarson stepped up, and moved from Loveland to Hamilton,” MacDonald said.

“I passed the baton to him, he really carried it well,” along with his wife, Roxann, he said. The Gunnarsons beautifully restored the large building known as the Mansion and other parts of the complex before fulfilling a longstanding dream in October 2020, and moving to Montana to a home they built on family land.

Roxann died of cancer early this year. Daryl Gunnarson remains on The Father’s House’s board.

Back to Hamilton

MacDonald now is married to Kristan.

“When we heard they were moving to Montana, my wife said, ‘We need to go back there and make sure the concept is lived out,’” MacDonald said.

She said that in March of 2020, and he responded: ”Yeah, sure, we’ll go back for a couple weeks. No problem.”

But she told him: “No, we need to move back there.”

“I said, ‘No way in heck,’” MacDonald recalled. “I mean, 10 years in Ohio was fabulous, having a great time in Hamilton. Anyway, we came back in August (2020) for a visit, and I really felt so much peace in my heart about moving back there, making Hamilton our home, making sure the concept really gets played out, as far as a community committed to the adoption and fostering of kids in need.”

So they moved from Seattle to Hamilton last November, living in the same home where the Gunnarsons did.

“I think it’s kind of cool,” MacDonald said. “My first wife had the vision; my second wife has the desire to help implement, and make sure it’s done right.”

Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald stand on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. Tim MacDonald started The Father's House with his first wife, Doreen, whose idea it was to help foster children. She later passed away and he was living elsewhere. But when MacDonald's current wife, Kristan, learned there was a need for someone to oversee the facility, she urged him to move back to Hamilton to help with that, and they did. Area foster children, who face struggles other kids don't, will benefit. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Tim and Kristan MacDonald stand on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. 

Tim MacDonald started The Father's House with his first wife, Doreen, whose idea it was to help foster children. She later passed away and he was living elsewhere. But when MacDonald's current wife, Kristan, learned there was a need for someone to oversee the facility, she urged him to move back to Hamilton to help with that, and they did. Area foster children, who face struggles other kids don't, will benefit. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald stand on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. Tim MacDonald started The Father's House with his first wife, Doreen, whose idea it was to help foster children. She later passed away and he was living elsewhere. But when MacDonald's current wife, Kristan, learned there was a need for someone to oversee the facility, she urged him to move back to Hamilton to help with that, and they did. Area foster children, who face struggles other kids don't, will benefit. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Doreen would tell him, “Mac, you are such a good guy. Your second wife is going to really inherit (a good husband), because I have been working you for 14 years.’”

The Father’s House recently hired Justin Higham as its executive director. He and his wife, Kinsey, live on the property with their three biological children and those they foster. MacDonald is president of the organization’s board, and plans to buy a house about a block away, “and so we’re still going to be in the neighborhood, so to speak.”

“I feel good about him taking over,” MacDonald said. “And I feel great that I’m going to be a block away so I can continue to give guidance and kind-of actualize the vision even more so.”

Three families now live at The Father’s House, which is owned by the non-profit organization New Oaks Community.

Good fortune often smiles on The Father’s House.

The company Quality Gold in Fairfield, which has about 350 employees, recently had a BINGO fundraising game and donated $8,855. It is being used to restore an outdoor clubhouse for children that was built in the 1930s. Nearby, an outdoor basketball court is being transformed into a state-of-the-art multipurpose court play surface for basketball, pickleball and other games.

Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald are starting to remodel the clubhouse on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Tim and Kristan MacDonald are starting to remodel the clubhouse on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton.  NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald are starting to remodel the clubhouse on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

The court’s surface is costing $13,000 less than it would have because a man who had it installed at his home two years ago is replacing it, and the sports tiles will be reused.

“We are debt-free,” MacDonald said. “Everything we do is cash and we now have surplus.”

And after getting the property almost completely in order, it now is time to transition to completely make the dream real.

“We’re at that place of finally living out the vision,” MacDonald said.

It’s important to help fosters and their families because the odds are against the kids, MacDonald said: “At 18, they’re supposedly emancipated,” MacDonald said. “It’s such a wrong use of that word. Because they’re emancipated into hell. There’s no good outcomes for most of these kids. So if I can create a value-added way to educate some of these guys,” such as with knowledge about how to create computer coding, so they can land good-paying jobs.

ExploreButler County foster kids: 12 more ‘graduate’ during annual celebration
Caption
The Father's House at the site of the former Butler County Children’s Home on S. D Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

The Father's House at the site of the former Butler County Children’s Home on S. D Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
The Father's House at the site of the former Butler County Children’s Home on S. D Street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald are remodeling the sports courts on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Tim and Kristan MacDonald are remodeling the sports courts on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton.  NICK GRAHAM / STAFF
Caption
Tim and Kristan MacDonald are remodeling the sports courts on the property they are renovating that was formerly Butler County Children’s Home on S. D street in Hamilton. NICK GRAHAM / STAFF

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham


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