“I have a lot of compassion for the people who are here.”
That’s evident by the way Terry Fulton lights up as he talks about the residents he watches over, whether it be acting as a 24/7 repairman and landlord or working on grant applications to land funding for programs in his capacity as manager of Forde House.
For the past 14 years, Fulton has been a guiding light at the 40-suite residential living complex on Larwood Road. The facility is run by the Willow Point Supportive Living Society and caters to seniors who cannot afford costly rents.
“We try to keep rents down,” Fulton says, which can sometimes be a challenge. “We’re not subsidized. It’s all by blood, sweat and tears.
“These people have earned the right,” he adamantly adds. “They built our country, they’ve built our roads and often for no reason of their own they don’t have the money to live in the Berwicks and you hear the hard stories. We cater to those people.”
Forde House currently has 58 tenants, who are all over the age of 55. The average age is 80. Seven people are over the age of 90. Impressive, considering tenants have to be totally functionally independent and cook their own meals and do their own laundry.
But while it may be considered independent living, tenants at Forde House are all treated like family. Residents can cook and eat together in the common room, and there’s a large social contingent who gather for afternoon tea on a daily basis. Soon, the tenants will even be able to garden together after a long-time dream of Fulton’s recently came true.
The Willow Point Supportive Living Society, which is a not-for-profit, recently received word that it is the recipient of an $11,170 federal New Horizons for Seniors grant to put a concrete excercise trail around the perimeter of the building to provide those with mobility challenges access to the back of the building where there are raised garden beds for planting.
“For 12 years I’ve wanted to put in the trail but the money just wasn’t there to do the nice-to-do things,” Fulton says.
Which has been an ongoing challenge for the Willow Point Supportive Living Society.
Dale Blackburn, society board member, says as the building ages, maintenance projects are on the rise.
“There are two big projects we’re considering this year,” he says. “Replacing the roof and the other project we’re going to undertake is putting in a water meter because right now we’re paying a flat rate per unit. If we put in a meter system, we’re looking at saving $30 per unit per month. So it will re-pay itself back in three-and-a-half years.”
Fulton and Blackburn says it would be ideal if the society could find support from an independent organization as, between the two projects, it’s facing costs in the neighbourhood of $150,000.
Last year, for example, the society board replaced the fence that separates Forde House and the Adult Care Society which is sited on the same Larwood Road property. The project was funded by a Community Foundation Grant, as well as through donations from The Home Depot and C & L Supply Rentals.
“We want to make sure the society continues to function well so we welcome any support we can get,” Blackburn says. “The society has carried on and will carry on but the need is so great and we could do so much more with added support from the community.
“We’re passionate about what we do and we’re compassionate towards the people who live here,” Blackburn adds. “A lot of them who come have had a long and difficult life.
“We support them, this is where the word ‘supportive’ comes in,” Blackburn adds, referring to the society’s name.
To that end, the society advocates for its seniors however it can, whether that be helping them apply for rental housing assistance from the government or bringing in people to help the seniors file their income taxes come tax time.
“We’re always on the lookout to help the tenants however we can,” Blackburn says.
In other words, a small community within a community supporting each other.
After all, Fulton says, he believes seniors have earned the right to affordable, comfortable housing and Forde House fills that role.
“I very strongly believe in what we’re doing.”
For more information or to contact Fulton, visit www.wpsls.com