Seniors fund oh so close

By Geoff Lee

February 14, 2018 1:47 PM

The sloped roofing and the second floor windows are now complete as Phase 2 reconstruction of 16 Vermilion Valley Lodge continues. The Living Well Capital Campaign has almost reached its $1.5 million goal less than a year after the funding was launched. Photo submitted

Vermilion & District Housing Foundation CAO Sheri Heller is ready for a wine and cheese party.
Invitations will go out to donors of the Living Well Capital Campaign to tour the first rebuilt phase of the Vermilion Valley Lodge for seniors shortly after the $1.5 million funding goal tops out.
“We are getting there; we’re about $75,000 away,” said Heller last week.
Meanwhile, various trades are working on both floors and the basement of the phase one wing, which will create 16 new rooms, a new kitchen and dining room, and social areas.
Phase two will demolish the remaining wings that date back to 1960 and reconstruct 36 more rooms.
Heller expects phase one will be move-in ready by May instead of March as previously targeted, due to hiccups coordinating all of the trades.
“They unloaded a semi load of drywall on Monday for the second floor, so they’re busy at it,” she said.
The work is part of a $14.1 million renovation of the lodge with $13.25 million secured through federal/provincial grants, and debentures from the Town of Vermilion and the County of Vermilion River.
The $1.5 million from the capital campaign will complete the required funding to be used for furnishings and landscaping and cover lost operating capital during the construction period.
“We won’t have to raise the rent on anybody,” said Heller with a laugh.
Heller said the real story of the project to date is the extent of community buy-in for the capital campaign that started slowly last March with an information phase aimed at local businesses.
“We didn’t go in and ask for money,” she said.
“We went and talked about the project and the need for it in the community and then let them sort of think about what they wanted to come in at for their donation and that worked out really well.”
She said they’ve been getting donations from regular businesses at $10,000 a pop or more almost weekly for the past few months.
“I’m honoured to be working on a project that is creating such passion in the community,” she said, noting the Rotary club just increased their $75,000 donation to $100,000.
“This is the most amazing community that has stepped up and has determined this is important—our seniors are valuable; they need to be looked after well.”
Heller said the capital campaign also provides businesses with the opportunity to help look after local seniors along with a donor recognition wall and available naming rights.
“We’re really fortunate because it’s the only facility in the community,” she said.
“So most of the people who are donating know this is where they’ll likely end up if they need the service when they’re elderly as well.”
Individuals also jumped on the funding bandwagon and responded to a public bulk mail out campaign in the fall by contributing about $88,000 to the total.
“That was a tremendous uptake —usually bulk mail is junk, but they really took it seriously and it’s helped us out,” said Heller.
The capital campaign has also raised the profile of the VDHF and the Vermilion Valley Lodge as a significant contributor to the community.
“We’ve got a $4 million budget we operate on; we have 65 staff members—this is a big employer for the community and we haven’t tooted our own horn,” said Heller.
“Now we are coming out into the light and saying we are here; we are significant infrastructure in the community, and we need the community as much as they need us.”
She said it’s been fun to talk to people and raise the profile of seniors’ needs in the community.
About that party, Heller said, “We are talking about doing a sneak peak tour and have a wine and cheese for donors to check it out before we move people in.”
A soft opening is also in the works when phase one is complete, while a grand opening celebration will take place when the phase two renovation is complete.

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