Shelley Howard filled walls with her “blood, sweat and tears.”
The walls are those of the Campbell River Head Injury Support Society’s (CRHISS) new home in the Hillcrest House on the corner of Dogwood Street and 9th Avenue. And Howard, the society’s executive director, said that while it took a huge effort to complete the project, it was worth it in the end.
“Really, blood, sweat and tears went into this place, so now that it’s done we’re very happy,” Howard said with an enormous grin.
Originally located down the hill on Fir Street, the society bought the old Hillcrest Store early this year, renovated it, and moved in on Nov. 1.
The new facility opens into a welcoming reception area with a bank of computers, a large meeting room, a couple offices and a kitchen.
Upstairs, there are four suites for people with brain injuries to live in. Howard said the rent is income-based, and a carer is on-site 24 hours a day to provide support to the tenants, however, the suites are designed as temporary homes.
“The rooms are for people to come in and work on things that they want to get stronger in,” explained Howard, adding that building emotional strength, improving cooking skills or going to school are some examples of ways tenants are improving their lives.
Howard plans to set-up a respite suite off the kitchen in the future, which will allow a safe place for carers to bring their loved ones with head injuries when they need to have a break.
“A lot of times when you’re looking after somebody with a brain injury or illness, it gets really tiring and it drains the family,” said Howard. “To bring somebody with a brain injury here and have care for them it’s going to be a welcome relief for them (the family).
“That’s one of our main reasons why we’ve been fundraising and created this spot, it’s because that was a high need.”
She said the respite suite will be available for two to 72 hour bookings. But she is unsure when it will be up and running because CRHISS doesn’t have the funds to hire a nurse, which is necessary to keep the suite open consistently.
The society is on a limited budget from the Vancouver Island Health Authority and receives most of its funding from grants and community fundraising. Thus, cost efficiency was key during renovations, according to Howard.
“I remember one time we had the sewer pipes, and I’m in there with the screwdriver scraping them out to see if we can save them to save money so that we didn’t have to buy new ones,” explained Howard with a laugh. “Things like that to save us some money and get this place done.”
Even with cost cutting, CRHISS ended up about $200,000 in the red, and will have to do more fundraising. It bought the building early this year, and Howard said at first the project seemed within budget, but extra costs kept cropping up, including a surprise roof replacement.
Among other things, the centre offers support sessions, life skills and anger management classes and a social club to people with head injuries, and is open from Mon.-Thurs., 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Howard said at first some people in the community doubted the project could be done, but numerous clubs, organizations, businesses and individuals got behind the society and helped the project succeed.
“It was a dream three years ago and some people looked at me like I was crazy,” said Howard.
The community “saw the passion that we had for the building and they kind of just all joined in.”