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Home for Hope

First-of-its-kind centre addresses a vital need

Budget, timeline and quality are key factors in any new home. But when you’re building the first rural cancer support centre in Ontario, all three of those factors become absolutely critical.

The Georgian Bay Cancer Centre’s Home for Hope in Penetanguishine provides emotional, physical, social, and spiritual support, as well as education and information for people affected by cancer and their loved ones. It serves as an essential complement to the medical system.

It’s a vital project, but time and funds were tight. The initial consultation and orientation with Royal Homes left the Centre’s committee feeling hopeful. Once they sat down for their first design meeting, they knew they made the right choice.

“Working with Royal Homes was such a great experience because they met the trifecta: quality, timing and price,” says Sandra Baldwin, chair of the facility management committee for the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre. “We could tell they were listening to us. They were very thoughtful about the services we provided and mindful that the design needed to meet our needs for our programming, our consulting and our administrative spaces.”

The Home for Hope
To meet the Support Centre’s mission and vision, it was essential that the 4,300 sq ft building feel more like a home than an institution.

A warm and welcoming reception area with a vaulted ceiling and plenty of natural light was the first step to achieving the desired result.

“When our members enter the reception area, they comment that it feels like a home,” says Sandra. “It feels very warm and embracing. Including as much natural light as possible has worked very well for our building.”

The Home for Hope is also entirely wheelchair accessible throughout, from the parking lot through to the washrooms and kitchen. Larger entrances, a single-storey layout, and wider spaces – including the program, consultation, and staff rooms – make it easy for everyone to feel comfortable.

Four consulting rooms allow the Home for Hope’s members to have private spaces. A program room is a perfect gathering place while the spacious kitchen is home to weekly get-togethers (when COVID restrictions allow) to share soups and share stories.

Royal Homes also understood the importance of members’ privacy in the building. Their team suggested soundproofing the partition walls to increase the comfort level of those who need things a little quieter or who are having personal meetings.

“Some of our program rooms can get really noisy, depending on what’s happening,” says Sandra. “There can be a lot of laughing, it could be a drum circle or a yoga class going on. Royal Homes has achieved privacy in the building through the soundproofing. That was a really, really nice consideration.”

Firm budget, good timing
Royal Homes was able to incorporate everything needed for the Home for Hope to be successful, and they did it at the budget quoted.

This was an absolute necessity for the Georgian Bay Cancer Support Centre team. As a not-for-profit that does not receive financial assistance from the government, the Centre raises all their funds through community donations. The town donated an acre of land for the building site.

“It was essential that whomever we selected to build the Home for Hope would not change their quoted price,” explains Sandra. “Their price on their contract was a firm number. We had no flexibility at all, so it was important to trust that wouldn’t change.”

The other challenge for both Royal Homes and the Home for Hope team was the tight timeframe for the build. It had to be ready by spring 2020 and they were starting the design process in the fall of 2019; meaning the build had to be done through the winter.

No problem for the Royal Homes team. While one crew was busy on-site preparing the foundation and services, the home itself was being prefabricated indoors at their plant. Once the building was complete, it was trucked to the site and lifted into place by crane. The on-site crew then completed all the necessary final steps to prepare for the opening.

“They met the timeline bang on,” recalls Sandra. “We took a little entourage to their factory and we saw how our building was being put together. It was a great experience.”

This is the first rural cancer support centre in Ontario and is a much-needed space for the community, says Sandra. Royal Homes understood everything that was required, and then translated those needs into a superb building.

“Many people in our rural communities aren’t able to travel to Barrie for these kinds of supports, but here they can come by several times a week,” she says. “Royal Homes really understood the importance of this project. We felt their support from the beginning and all the way through … We really benefitted from it and are happy to have worked with them.”

TEXT CHRIS OCCHIUZZI | PHOTOS ANDREW FEARMAN

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