After years of occupying temporary locations all over town, important social service will soon have a permanent home to call its own

When local lawyer Brian Stamp read the headline in the October 3, 2013 Campbell River Mirror that read, “Time running out for Campbell River Hospice,” he knew he needed to help however he could.

It was a perfect pairing. The Campbell River Hospice Society has helped thousands of area residents – free of charge – for almost three decades. It has done so while operating out of various temporary locations around town, providing grief/loss counselling, relaxation therapies, respite care and palliative services to those in need. Stamp has a long association with various healthcare services in one way or another for over 30 years, serving on various boards of health and committees, including the Vancouver Island Health Authority (now Island Health).

“I’ve always felt that hospice provides a very important service within a community,” Stamp says, “and I knew that I could help.”

Faced with eviction from their landlord at the time, who needed the space they were renting in order to expand their own services, Stamp called upon a few of his business associates and proposed the idea of building a permanent Hospice House. Many options were considered, but it was determined a brand-new, purpose built facility would best provide enough space to accommodate current operations and also provide an expanded service delivery in the future.

“They were concerned about being able to continue operations,” Stamp says, “and were looking at maybe trying to buy a house and renovate it, and I said, ‘Just hold on a second here. Let’s see what we can come up with.'”

The Hospice House Build Team was formed, determined to make the CR Hospice House a reality.

The process began with an extensive search for a suitable site, as well as studying what other like-sized communities have in place for their Hospice Societies. With the help of then city councillor – now mayor – Andy Adams, the City of Campbell River committed to donate the Hospice House land at 402 Evergreen Road. The site was ideal, being located next to both the Campbell River Hospital and Yucalta Lodge. Once built and in use, there will be pathways that will connect the Hospice House to both the hospital and Yucalta, so it will be easier for people who need hospice services to get access to the facility, because they’ll be essentially incorporated right into the “health block,” of services in that area.

For the next six months after the location was determined, the five build team members met regularly and designed the new Hospice House with the help of Giesbrecht Designs. The design includes an outdoor courtyard, multiple counselling and administrative offices, a large group meeting/training room and a resource library, and was designed to be able to expand and house actual hospice beds when they get the go ahead to do that in the future.

Once they had the design, a capital fundraising campaign team was formed – expanding the Build Team from five to about 15 – and they got to work raising money for the project.

“In the first three months, we raised over $500,000. All from within the community,” Stamp says, and that’s not including in-kind commitments such as donated labour from local contractors once the project gets going and building supplies from local retailers.

“Campbell River is amazing like that. It’s a really great community for coming together when things need to get done,” says Jacqueline Spies, director of programs and operations for the Campbell River Hospice Society.

So what will the new home mean to the organization?    

“For us it means there’s a future,” Spies says. “We don’t need to worry about where we’re going to be a year from now. As a non-profit, especially in today’s world, you want to have stability. You don’t want to have to be worrying about having the right place to rent or that the place you find can accommodate you.”

Their current home on Dogwood Street is a temporary lease, for example. As was their space before that. They’ve been going about their business for years by signing hospice-house-blue-printon in a location for six months at a time and hoping their lease is renewed, and moving when it’s not.

“Evergreen (Seniors Home, which owns the Dogwood Street property they currently occupy) has been awesome to us,” Spies says. “But they want to repurpose this space as a daycare for their workers, which is awesome, and we don’t want to be put in a situation where they say we can only renew for another six months, and we don’t want them to be put in that situation, either.”

The advantage of the new location isn’t just in its proximity to other health services – making their own more accessible for their clients and families – or in the fact that they won’t be paying the additional overhead cost of rent every month and the stability that comes with having a permanent home.

With only one office in their current location, and the group meeting room also serving as their resource library and entryway, planning, scheduling and then offering programming can be challenging.

“Right now we can’t have anything else going on when there’s somebody in here for counselling,” Spies says, citing privacy concerns. “And that counselling room is also our eco-therapy room, our relaxation room… and so we have to be really careful with booking our programming.” The new facility, however, will break everything into dedicated spaces so many more things can be offered simultaneously, enabling more people to access more of their offerings more often.

“We’re growing and expanding, and this new facility will allow for even further expansion, as well,” Spies says.

“We’re working to bring all sorts of programs into the community that are desperately needed,” Spies says. “When I came on board I brought new programs with me, to try and fill the gaps, and the more I talk to people, the more I see that we’re still missing. It’s going to be a busy hub of activity once we get in there.

“We’ll be able to run it like a hospice should be run.”

Head over to crhospicehouse.ca to watch the project take shape, or go have a peek at the build site on Evergreen and see how it’s coming along.