By Amy McSweeney - October 24, 2023
Sandy Eckhardt Harbour is the only full-time, board-certified chaplain at the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Outpatient Center at McKinley Campus. She is available to provide spiritual guidance to all patients, caregivers and families. A chaplain’s role is different than that of a pastor or religious leader. At Moffitt, they help patients and family members in their time of need without a specific religious mission.
Harbour has a degree in marketing, but after ten years in the industry, she found herself at a crossroads searching to fill a personal void within. While attending Bible study, she recalls the impact the chaplain’s words left on her. At 33, she made the decision to go to seminary to pursue her Master’s Of Divinity. Harbour said it was the easiest professional transition she has ever made.
“Things fell into place,” Harbour shared. “I called the local seminary and got a packet the next day. Things just went so smoothly, like it was always supposed to be.”
Harbour served in church ministries for nine years, but her real passion was always chaplaincy care. When the opportunity came to be closer to family in Florida, she moved down south. She underwent additional training, earned her Professional Chaplaincy Board Certification all while working in hospice care for seven years before joining the Moffitt team. Harbour recently celebrated nine years at the cancer center.
On her daily rounds, Harbour stops to sit and visit with patients. She takes the time to get to know them and lets their conversation set the tone. She never pushes her personal beliefs, rather simply offers a hand to hold. Harbour shares her experience, strength and hope in a way that leaves you wanting more. She becomes a fast friend and makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm blanket.
"When the crisis of faith happens, people often become spiritually stuck. They believe God is good, but ask, ‘Why are bad things happening to me?’ The promise is that God will walk with us through the journey"- Sandy Eckhardt Harbour, Chaplain
“When the crisis of faith happens, people often become spiritually stuck. They believe God is good, but ask, ‘Why are bad things happening to me?’ The promise is that God will walk with us through the journey,” Harbour said.
In 2020, when patients were not allowed to have visitors due to Covid protocols, Harbour met triple negative breast cancer patient Jeni Coffie. It was Coffie’s third bought with breast cancer and she was alone in the hospital. Harbour offered her comfort when no one else could.
“I have always had a good relationship with God,” said Coffie. “Meeting Sandy has just strengthened that.”
Day in and day out, Harbour lends a spiritual hand to those going through some of the worst times of their lives, a very heavy lift for one person without God’s help. She understands her role is not to fix what may be wrong in someone’s life, but instead to stop, listen and let people be heard.
“Once we can realize that God is a safe enough place to be honest and share the good, bad, and ugly, we learn to feel blessed and understand we will get through the journey,” Harbour said.