Just over five years ago, the land at 440 Evergreen Road that now houses the Campbell River Hospice Society was a treed lot with a few trails running through it.
In fact, if you look the property up on Google Street View, that’s still what shows up. If you walk by the Hospice Care Centre, you’ll see that things look a lot different these days.
Now — and for the past five years — there is a beautiful welcoming and peaceful building that has greatly increased Hospice’s capacity in the city. The society is celebrating the fifth anniversary of the building’s opening this month, and original build team member Brian Stamp and society Executive Director Louise Daviduck looked back at just how far they’ve come in that time.
“The six or seven of us (on the build team) recognized that hospice, at that point, was struggling,” Stamp said. “The struggle was mainly the prospect of having essentially no decent place to provide the services, even at the little capacity we had then.”
“When I got involved, the hospice society was operating out of the building that is beside the curling club,” he said. “I don’t know how long they’d been there, but the owner of the building… indicated to Hospice that they needed the space that Hospice was occupying for their use… There was an article in the local paper indicating that they were looking for a new home. I figured I’d help.”
As a temporary set up, hospice opened up at the corner of Willowcrest and Dogwood, in the basement of a house. The build team was then working hard at finding a permanent home for the facility. Stamp worked with Mayor Andy Adams and Island Health to secure the Evergreen Road location.
“It wasn’t a simple transaction. The land was owned by Island Health. Through a very complicated series of events… it was originally owned by the Campbell River Hospital, then the hospital ended up going to Island Health, then this was a remnant of a bunch of land assembly that the hospital was involved with,” Stamp said. “There was a lot of three-way conversations: me, Andy and the chair of VIHA. All I was doing was being on everybody. I had no decision making capacity. Finally the mayor convinced VIHA that they would part with the property. They provided the property to the hospice people free of charge, fully serviced with water, sewer and hydro.
“I reckon there was something on the order of a million bucks just for the land,” he said. “It would have been a really steep hill to climb if we’d had had to raise the money for the land and the building.”
From there the build team was left to raise money — which they did rather quickly, bringing in $650,000 in about three months, Stamp said — and design the building.
Hospice is more than just end-of-life care. Daviduck explained that at Campbell River Hospice Society, they “do so much more than that.
“We provide a lot of bereavement support at no cost to people who are affected by grief. Since COVID, we’ve increased our services by 81 per cent. It’s 63 per cent of those clients who are affected by drug overdose or suicide,” she said. “We have a crisis in our community when it comes to the toxic drugs. For some reason, I have no idea why, but we see a ton of people affected by suicide. Those services are essential because one of the stats of a person who has a sibling who died by suicide, that person has a 50 per cent chance to suicide themselves. It’s a terrible ripple effect. It’s a crisis in the community and that’s one of those services that we offer: clinical counselling around grief.”
Some of that grief support includes things like a walking group, yoga meditation and therapies that take place within the Hospice Care Centre itself.
“For the majority of these services, we also do healing therapy — that’s Reiki, healing touch, virtual reality relaxation therapy, pet therapy — a lot of it happens here within the building. The counselling happens here. We have art therapy for children, because we support children four years old and up,” Daviduck said.
“The building is utilized to the max at this point.”
“Often when something traumatic happens, people will walk in, they’re confused, they’re distraught and it’s extremely difficult,” she said. “They need to come into a place where it’s safe and people aren’t treating you like nothing happened. You’re not walking in to a store with people are asking how you are. It’s a completely different approach when they come in.”
Now, hospice and the services offered by the society are on a whole other level in Campbell River, thanks in large part to their facility.
“We haven’t measured it, but it’s just obvious that in five years the change has been incredible,” said Stamp. “There’s been a very very big change, and the service delivery within the community has gone way up. I don’t think it would have happened without some sort of facility like this.”
For more information on the services offered, visit www.crhospice.ca.