Ed's House fundraising exceeds goal by half a million dollars

By Cecilia Nasmith

The fundraising committee for Ed's House – the Northumberland Hospice Care Centre – has announced a campaign total that exceeds its goal by more than half a million dollars.

In order to build a 10-bed hospice, Gord and Patti Ley had been given the goal of ensuring $9.2-million was raised. At a celebration event at the Baltimore Community Centre this week, it was revealed that they have raised $9,810,998 in what Gord Ley called possibly the most successful hospice fundraising campaign in the province.

And it all took less than two years, the Leys pointed out.

Though Community Care Northumberland got the go-ahead for a residential hospice to serve the community as well as house their hospice-palliative care services from then-Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins in May 2017, fundraising began in a quiet phase in November 2017. At the time, they envisioned a six-bed hospice for $7-million. Even then, they had more than $1-million in commitments from private donors.

Last June, they gathered at the Baltimore Community Centre for an official launch. By then, they had operational funding for six beds but decided to build 10 suites in hopes of getting operational funding for the extra four at some future time. With a new $9.2-million goal, they already had commitments totalling $8.1-million.

This included $1-million from Kym and Brian Read (after whom the hospice-care wing will be named), $1.2-million from the province, and $1.5-million from Ed and Diane Lorenz (hence the name Ed's House).

This week's gathering in Baltimore was the occasion of much celebration, and the announcement that a new Ed's House Northumberland Hospice Care Centre Foundation will be formed to fundraise in support of on-going operational costs.

“Today's event is a real celebration of Ed's House. It's a celebration of our supportive and generous community. I offer my sincere congratulations on behalf of the province,” Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP David Piccini said.

“I can't say enough how proud I am of our community stepping forward.”

Patti Ley pointed out that the amount raised includes commitments totalling $653,000 from most of the Northumberland municipalities and from Alderville First Nation.

Gord Ley reported that, combined, members of the campaign cabinet and building committee personally committed more than $1.6-million to the project.

Building-committee chair Stewart Richardson shared the math they had done, and the estimate is that 80% of the building's funding came from private sources.

“Just imagine – a health-care facility where 80% of the costs are coming from private citizens,” Richardson said.

“I don't think I have ever seen that, and I don't think I will ever see it again.”

This outstanding generosity has taken the vision of Ed's house from plan to reality, Northumberland Warden John Logel said.

“Although the vast majority of Canadians are supportive of hospice-palliative care programs, access can be challenging, particularly in rural areas. That is why we are so pleased to be recognizing the progress of this vital project,” Logel said.

“This new facility will provide more alternatives to access compassionate end-of-life care delivered by dedicated professional staff and volunteers.”

“It's wonderful to see the shovels in the ground, truly a tangible sign of how far this campaign has come in such a short time,” Patti Ley said.

“Ed's House, Northumberland Hospice Care Centre, will have a meaningful impact on our community, offering a solid base of support for local families facing their greatest need.”

The building committee inspected 35 potential sites and visited 10 operating hospices, Gord Ley added.

“We are going to have the best of the best in this community, and it's because of this group.”

Richardson recalled the previous year's gathering, when he announced that they had just purchased the 1.5-acre property on Ontario Street where construction has now begun. He also shared details of the draft-concept plan for the design.

“Since that time, we have been very busy and, in the summer and fall, finalized all the plans for the water extension, the all-important gardens, everything from the walls to the interior rooms, featuring offices for the staff and our education centre on the lower level, family rooms, kitchen, living rooms, dining rooms, even a little cafe for those who want to steal away for a coffee, the silent room, the all-important spirit room and, of course, the heart of the hospice – the Read-Elliott Family hospice-care wing, which will feature six suites.”

They put out tenders and suggested approving the Cobourg-based Dalren Ltd. company for the construction. The province finally agreed and said that funding for some equipment and operational costs was a go.

“We broke ground four weeks ago. Since then, we have obtained the building permit – thank you, Hamilton Township – our water lines have been extended – thank you, Cobourg – and the Dalren crew have begun to build.”

At this point, with delays and weather issues, the opening will probably be next June.

“We are amazed at how this community has embraced this project. Municipal and provincial governments, Alderville, corporations, service clubs, all the volunteers who put together roast-beef dinners, Touch A Truck and the smaller fundraisers, individual families who donated anywhere from $15 to $1.5-million – thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Now a strong supporter of hospice, Madeleine Thibault-Smith shared her experiences essentially trying to set up a hospice at home for her husband Roy, who got a cancer diagnosis in 2012.

It was a time of difficult conversations about how his path to death would be, Thibault-Smith recalled.

“I spoke up with a very strong urge and desire to keep Roy at home all the way. He accepted that plan with much love and gratitude. We were going to build a hospice in our home.”

She investigated and asked questions about what levels of supportive services might exist. But in the end, she said, “you don't know what you don't know. It was not a situation many had experienced.”

She did have the backing of her doctor, who arranged with the Community Care Access Centre for medical support, and a co-ordinator scheduled on-going visits.

She would benefit from nursing visits, personal-service worker visits and occupational-therapist visits, as well as on-going support from friends and family members.

“In September 2013, a hospital bed was brought in. We were getting close. As the signs became more visible, a palliative doctor visited us at home. The CCAC committed as much nursing, medical and comfort support as possible, but it was not available on a 24-hour cycle.

“There was a great deal of thinking, planning and scheduling on my part.”

Still, she could see her husband took comfort in the familiarity of home and the presence of loved ones.

“It was a beautiful – I would even say spiritual – experience. It was an exhausting experience, and it was anchored in the power of my belief that it was the right thing to do. I could never have done it alone.”

It's a different community now than it was in 2013, she acknowledged. She has become an avid hospice supporter, and has even taken the training to become a volunteer.

“All of us know we have an end date – may your path be gentle,” she wished.

With the establishment of the foundation, Gord Ley said, fundraising will continue to ensure the on-going success and operation of Ed's House. It is estimated they will need $500,000 to $650,000 annually in operating costs, and most of it will have to be raised locally.

Following an amazingly successful Smile Cookie campaign last year, he said, Cobourg Tim Hortons owner John Meeusen has committed to another two years of Smile Cookie campaigns (as well as a Tim Hortons coffee maker and a free monthly shipment of Tim Hortons coffee for the hospice).

A brick campaign will let you buy a brick for $250 and engrave it with a message or the name of a loved one.

A new fundraiser that they hope will be an annual event is something called Handbags For Hospice Jan. 23 at the Best Western in Cobourg.

And last fall's Touch A Truck fundraiser will also return to Port Hope in September.

“We have been in awe of the support this project has received,” Community Care Northumberland board chair Ray Lobban said.

“Without it, this dream would not have become a reality. What an amazing, generous, supportive community we have.

“In about a year, the doors of Ed's House will open, and we will be able to support people and their families throughout their whole journey, from the time of diagnosis of a life-threatening disease to the end of life.

“The operating committee is in place to develop a plan to make this the best residential hospice in the province. We will soon hire a caring, compassionate staff. And the foundation will be tasked with raising funds to support ongoing operational costs.”

Though the room was packed with dignitaries of all kinds, the Leys wanted to single out a few who typically keep a lower profile.

Patti Ley pointed out Dr. Bob Scott and his wife Ann, who were key players in bringing hospice care to the community with their work in helping to establish the Northumberland Lakeshore Hospice group a quarter-century ago.

And Gord Ley acknowledged Diane Lorenz. It was 25 years ago, he recalled, that she was chair of the Cobourg Hospital board of directors at a time when the Cobourg Hospital Foundation was established (with himself one of the key players in that particular effort). Now, he said, it's a quarter-century later and both are involved in the establishment of a new foundation.