Volunteers and supporters of Nipissing Serenity Hospice have one million reasons to smile, more like 1.2 million to be exact.
The announcement of $1.2 million dollars in provincial funding yesterday, earmarked for the construction of a residential hospice to serve the people of Nipissing and East Parry Sound, was made by John Fraser, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, at a news conference in North Bay.
"It's for capital expenditures, so it's about $200,000 a bed, that's spent on construction, " said Fraser.
Once construction is complete, the province will provide $630,000 in annual operating funding.
Those in attendance to hear the news were quick to give Fraser a standing ovation.
Fraser explained that his family went through its own journey when his father was coming to the end of his life in a hospice setting. He told the crowd 'how we care for each other at the end of life, is just as important as at the beginning of our lives.'
"I think it's great news for the community. In the 2016 budget, we announced the palliative care investment. We decided to do more to support hospices and communities that wanted to build hospices. So that's why we have a capital program. It helps to support those communities that need that little bit extra to get over the top. Hospices are community-based and that's what makes them strong because the community contributes not just their dollars, but their time and their effort and they come together to make sure we take care of each other at a really vulnerable time in a family's life," explained Fraser.
"The investment announced back then received support in the way of an ovation by all members of the legislature. That never happens. The effort you're engaged in is going to make an incredible difference in people's lives."
The Chair of the Board of Directors for Nipissing Serenity Hospice, Mathilde Bazinet, welcomed the announcement, saying it means no further delays in moving forward with construction.
"It's been six years for me. I didn't think I had that much patience," she laughs.
"With this news, we know we have a lot of major donors out there who were waiting for us to get provincial funding and then they were going to write their cheque out and sign their pledges."
The money is enough to fund six beds, the hospice committee wants to add an additional four beds.
Ron Farrell, is the Chair of the Board, of the North East Local Health Integration Network.
"We think this is an extremely important venture because the people of North Bay-Nipissing-East Parry Sound don't have this resource right now and they really need it. So to see it progressing like this is really good," said Farrell.
"At the moment, the funding that is available is for six beds because we anticipate that that's the need at the moment. We don't know what the demographics are going to be for the future. If we look at the demographic shift that's coming, we can only anticipate that the need will grow. So as the need grows, they're anticipating opening more beds, which is probably a wise approach, rather than try to add on to a building later, if you have some capacity to grow."
As a member of the hospice corporate fundraising committee, Dave Mendicino says the group will be hitting the ground running over the next few months.
"We're still waiting to hear about the possibility of another $1.5 million from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation. We are expecting a favourable response. Once that funding is all in place we're basically at 90% of our goal to raise $6.5 million," said Mendicino.
"The committee has its own list of donors it's going to be approaching between now and construction start-up. That's what we're going to be concentrating on to bring us to the $6.5 million, and we anticipate reaching that goal in the near future. Once that happens we will transition into fundraising for operating funds.This isn't the time to sit back and take a breather. It's time to step on the gas and focus on bringing this home."
Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli, whose family has made a financial contribution towards the project, says if there ever was an example of a grassroots fundraiser, it is this one.
"I was speaking with a couple of funeral home directors who told me that the hospice is their number one destination for donations because people know we desperately need this hospice in North Bay."
Mayor Al McDonald told the crowd the city believes the hospice is greatly needed in the community.
"Our commitment was the land that was donated, which is just a small part of what they're doing. It's unbelievable how much has been done in that period of time"
In his final remarks to the crowd, Fraser said,
"If there are rest stations that exist between heaven and earth, hospices are certainly one of them. It's where a community gathers around a family and says we want to help you through this. So the effort that you're engaged in is going to make an incredible difference in people's lives. It will give them an experience that they will remember with sadness, and with fondness as well."
Construction is scheduled to begin at the John Street location in late March,next spring.