In May of 2017, I was asked by a coworker to cover a garage sale.
Garage sales aren’t usually news.
My coworker though insisted this was important. That, if nothing else, I had to at least take a picture. I begrudgingly trekked out to the house on Riverside Drive. I snapped a photo and did an interview. Everything they sold had been donated. It was pure profit. They were so proud of the $1,000 they raised.
They told me they were going to build a hospice. They’d already had a donation of the land.
They seemed enthusiastic. But it would take a lot more than a $1,000 garage sale to build a hospice.
They were grateful for the coverage. I smiled, nodded and went on my way.
I forgot about the hospice.
Later that year, I covered an event put on by the Toastmasters Club. Groups from across Western Canada came for a big Toastmasters conference. The guest speaker was Malcolm Jenkins.
Malcolm talked about how Prince Albert is a community of builders. He spoke of the campaigns to build the Rawlinson Centre and the fieldhouse.
Then he turned to his newest project, a hospice.
I remembered the garage sale. And, I thought, maybe there was more to this hospice thing. That November night was the first of many times I heard Malcolm’s hospice speech.
“Prince Albert needs a hospice,” Jenkins said.
“We don’t have a freestanding hospice in the province. In England, there are thousands of hospices. Before you build a hospital, you build a hospice.”
Jenkins said one of the benefits of building a hospice is it helps open long-term beds in the hospital, allowing more patients to receive care.
“If you have a hospice, in our case it will start with 10 beds, that’s 10 folks that can be in a wonderful environment and it frees up 10 beds that can do two surgeries a week, 10 surgeries a week – whatever – it shortens waiting times,” he explained.
“The cost of a hospice is about 500 bucks a bed per night. In a hospital, it’s about $1,200. It pays for itself. We’re a little behind the times on this one.”
Like previous community projects, Jenkins believes Prince Albert will once again come together to make the project happen.
“Every time we’ve said here’s something, you make a case, you get the kids involved and you see the enthusiasm and fun they have,” he said.
“All of a sudden you say charge and you look around and there are hundreds of people charging with you.”
As 2018 went on, I began hearing more about this hospice project. There were more fundraisers, a walk, and an early sponsorship with the Daily Herald. Still, a lot of work needed to be done to bring this project to fruition.
Then came February 19, 2019.
In a joint press conference, MLA Joe Hargrave announced the province would fund up to $2 million in operating costs beginning in 2021 while Malcolm Jenkins announced a $500,000 donation to the campaign to raise an estimated $4 million to build the project.
With the $100,000 that had already been collected, it meant there was only $3.4 million to go.
Donations started to roll in. Individuals, businesses and organizations began to do their part to help build the hospice. Malcolm stepped up again, matching ticket sales from Broadway North and Spark Theatre shows in the form of more donations for the hospice.
While some people signed big cheques, others, such as the staff of St. John Community School, pooled resources, donating what they could to the project.
All of the donations, no matter the size, were appreciated.
The fundraising is approaching the halfway point. Ten months in, the hospice has raised $1.6 million.
“We are so excited and happy with the amount that we’ve raised to date,” said Marina Mitchell, one of the board members leading the project.
“We’re excited to hopefully start something in the spring in regards to building.”
For Mitchell, the project has personal significance. Her mother was Rose Daschuk, for whom the project is named.
“We had the experience of her dying. We were at home and back and forth from the hospital. We tried to stay at home as long as we could and it wasn’t possible,” Mitchell said.
‘When we were in the hospital, I had a one-year-old. It was hard to be there with a young daughter and all of our family together. It wasn’t ideal.”
After Rose passed, someone mentioned the idea of a hospice.
“My dad, us, nobody knew what it was,” Mitchell said.
“That started the ball rolling. Why we don’t have them is beyond us at this point. We’re going to have better palliative care in Prince Albert.”
Once completed, the hospice will have a non-denominational chapel for contemplation, prayer, quiet gatherings and celebrations. The facility will have 10 beds in a 10,000 square foot building.
Operations will include expert care providers such as health practitioners, therapists, a social worker, spiritual care providers and others committed to personalizing and humanizing end of life care.
“We are well on our way,” Mitchell said.
Of course, the hospice couldn’t have come as far as it has without a lot of help.
“Especially in the community,” Mitchell said.
“Not only bigger events but smaller events too, which we’re really grateful for.”
The board is also grateful for the backing of their biggest cheerleader — Malcolm Jenkins.
“To have Malcolm behind us and support us, words cannot describe how grateful we are for him and him supporting us,” Mitchell said.
“He’s just been our number one supporter to date and we’re so grateful and humbled by him. He’s just wonderful.”
The plan for next year is to just keep pushing. To keep fundraising and get construction going sooner rather than later.
They’ll have some help. On Thursday the Prince Albert Winter Festival announced they will partner with the project, donating all of the proceeds from the Tux ‘N Touques Gala to the hospice campaign. That partnership is intended to bring awareness, as well as revenue, to the project.
“We’re so thankful,” Mitchell said.
“The community support is unbelievable. We’re so grateful. We’re going to keep at it, keep fundraising. We’re almost halfway there. We want to get the full amount by the spring, but if not, we’re going to keep plugging away and we’re going to keep at it. It will become a reality really soon.
“It really is a dream come true to see this become a reality.”